Surviving the psychological effects of rape and sexual trauma.

“Thoughts of death quickly came to mind after I finally accepted that my lovely uncle had raped me. All I cared for was justice for my shattered dignity”. These are the thoughts of a raped girl wondering in her subconscious mind how she can recover from the trauma of rape and sexual abuse.

It is highly impossible to gain your lost pride after it has been defiled says one rape victim, but it is possible to come out of the trauma. Furthermore, you can gain your self-worth and learn to heal from the trauma of sexual abuse.

One of the common phenomena that is so widespread in our society is rape and sexual abuse. Coming out of this debilitating psychological state is very difficult and takes much efforts. On a daily basis, about 10 women are experience rape and some sort of sexual trauma; however, the biggest question is can they recover from them?

For instance, in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nearly 1 in 5 women are reported to be raped or sexually abused at some points in their life. In Africa, our cultural system and reliance on religion make very few people report cases of sexual abuse or rape because they may be blamed for causing their own downfall.

The trauma of being raped or sexually abused doesn’t only come in the form of the introductory statement from a former victim. A plethora of psychological disorders, among many experiences including nightmares, flashbacks, constant pains, medical conditions and other unpleasant memories are among a few very popular experiences women who have been raped experience.

To some extent, even though you may be going through rehab or a therapeutic process or simply put trying to recover from rape and sexual trauma, you are bound to question your own judgements about yourself and your choices.

Secondly, you may even have estranged relationships with people and feel some sort of self-induced social stigma, being scared to take part in discourse relating to sexual pleasure. These are the many signs that prove that indeed trying to recover from the trauma of rape and sexual abuse is difficult.

Myths about trauma or rape, sexual abuse and trying to recover from its consequences.

First among a mammoth of myth or excuse is that you caused the rape yourself, hence you must blame yourself.

Generally, most women or people who are raped are made to believe that they caused the rape themselves says Jennifer* (name has been changed). As a result of this situation, many rape victims are unable to report especially if they are expressive in their dressing.

However, this idea of detrimental slavery should not be allowed to cripple one into fear. This is because regardless of the fact that people blame persons who are expressive in their garbs for being the architects of their own doom, there are countless cases of rape and sexual, abuse case where the victims were moralistic in their costume.

Others were babies and toddlers who knew nothing about fashion yet they were raped or sexually abused. Especially among children, they are unable to report such cases because either a close relative threatened him or her of death if they report the case.

However, a lot of studies have revealed that rapists choose their victims based on how vulnerable they are and not how suggestive their actions or dressing is.

Furthermore, another myth, especially about rape, is that it occurs with persons who are mostly strangers. This is obviously one of the most simply believed myths that put most victims especially young ones into a state of vulnerability. In a lot of cases, a lot of close relatives including husbands have even raped their wives and yet even though it is enshrined in the constitution as a criminal act, people perpetrate this act.

For instance, Ghanaian law criminalizes incest, sexual harassment, child sexual abuse, and rape as sexual offences that attract firm punishment. The Ghana Criminal Act 1960 (Act 29) makes these engagements criminal and punishable by imprisonment. Section 98 of the Act restrictively defines rape as ‘the carnal knowledge of a female of sixteen years or above without her consent.’ it goes on to state that, ‘A person who commits rape commits a first-degree felony and is liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than twenty-five years’.

Regardless of the law above, it has become increasingly difficult for people to report cases of rape and sexual abuse which comes with its attendant trauma. The myth hidden beneath this law is that it is very difficult to prove rape especially during your narration at court and if there was no wear tear at the vagina or any forceful entry into the vagina.

Of course, for a very successful conviction, the law requires the victim to prove carnal knowledge or unnatural carnal knowledge upon trial. Proof of carnal knowledge or unnatural carnal knowledge is deemed complete upon proof of the least degree of penetration.

Sometimes, it is difficult to get lawyers to fight for your course if you are poor. This is a myth because there are a lot of NGOs that promote the fight against violence against women including the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit.

Attaining the freedom from rape and sexual trauma amidst a plethora of stumbling blocks.

As earlier intimated, recovering from the menace of sexual abuse and trauma could be a herculean task, but certainly not impossible.

One of the things to do gain your freedom, reclaim your self-worth is to be open-hearted and seek help from a trusted source. Of course, this wouldn’t mean broadcasting your traumatic experience to the whole world or any other person you deemed fit.

Especially in Ghana where there is a strong believe in religious men, one must be quite careful with whom to approach. However, the best person to likely* (based on your judgements) open up to is a profession or a caring and well-meaning experienced fellow who can help you restore your confidence.

surviving sexual abuse rape and trauma

Sometimes, the experience may be very painful to recount or even draw you to a member of the opposite sex, but there is no harm in opening up to a professional who can handle your emotional imbalances.

Never entertain the thoughts that being mute or silent about your sexual abuse would help you heal faster. It would rather cripple you says one research work published on how the brain responds to emotional injury.

Secondly, learn to deal with or endure feelings and thoughts of guilt and shame.

Because we are living in a depraved world, you are likely to be blamed for allowing yourself or causing your own rape situation. These are thoughts that would overwhelm you one way or the other.

As a result, you do not have to overburden yourself with the thought of guilt thinking you were the cause of the rape or sexual abuse leading to your trauma.

Of course, humans make mistakes. You may have trusted the wrong person because of his social status or affiliation but it doesn’t make you less of a human after an unplanned act. Even in religious circles, David slept with Bath-she-ba and gave birth to Solomon later on. David was still regarded as a friend of God. How more so you who didn’t commit any crime?

All in all, your abuser should be the one to feel guilty for being less of an animal since animals engage in sexual activities without notification.

Flashbacks and memories are inevitable; learn to anticipate them and avoid if possible.

When you go through something stressful, your body temporarily goes into “fight-or-flight” mode. When the threat has passed, your body calms down. But traumatic experiences such as rape can cause your nervous system to become stuck in a state of high alert. You’re hypersensitive to the smallest of stimuli. This is the case for many rape survivors. Flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive memories are extremely common, especially in the first few months following the assault.

These are things that obviously you can’t run away from because they are psychological and inherent or natural. However, to a certain degree, you can control some or a majority of them. One main way of relieving yourself from this situation is to try to avoid any memory triggers or things that could stir up those negative emotions you felt on that day you were abused.

This could be a smell, place, music or a particular sound that triggers those images from the subconscious into your conscious mind where you are in a state of awareness. Sometimes, these triggers may make you act strangely, in times like these, observe yourself and come to terms with your psychological and learn from each episode of fear or shrink as you may go into that painful mood and relive that monstrous period again.

Finally, regardless of your belief or state of spiritual acceptance, learn to pray to a divine force or Supreme force higher than to you to aid you to calm yourself in these troubled times.

BY: ONESIPHORUS OBUOBI

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