In the previous article, I have spoken about the basic steps to help a rape victim. The first step is to seek medical attention, for treating injuries,and to test for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. The second step is to carefully seal the clothes they were wearing in plastic, for future evidence. Ad then comes the hardest step- helping them emotionally.
If they are having a particularly hard time, suggest seeing a counsellor who can deal with this. But only ‘suggest’, never force. Let them know that it is okay to be vulnerable at times, it is okay to ask for help. They do not have to fight this fight alone.
You can even ask them to write about their pain, to write about all the pent up feelings inside them. Writing a journal is a great source of release, and this might help them feel lighter. Afterwards, you can burn the pages with them, an act to show that whatever happened is over, and gone, they will never have to deal with this again. They are safe now.
Something else which I have read about is, ‘help groups’. Ask them to join help groups, or organizations which deal with victims of sexual abuse and rape. Knowing that they are not alone in this, and meeting and talking to people who have felt the very same pain, and have come out of it, is very very helpful. That shows them a ray of hope, that they too will be able to come out of this successfully
Also, as a trusted person, it is your responsibility to stand up for them. Even today, our society does blame the victim for the rape. They feel it was their fault, and they keep reminding the victims about whatever happened. They question their clothes, their character, their upbringing. You must stand up for your loved one, and you must help them get rid of such people. They do not need people to make them feel worse, than what they are already feeling. Help them to stay away from people, who come with so much of garbage in their thoughts.
To help them rebuild that self confidence, you might have to accompany them whenever they decide to step out, do it as much as you can, and when you can not, make sure someone else is there to do the job. If they do not have people to go out with initially, they might go into a shell, and might not want to come out ever again.
A very important point for you to remember is that you must NEVER force them , or pressurize them into doing anything they do not want to. They have already been forced into doing something they did not want to, by their rapist. And they do not need you, to do the same. Be kind, compassionate, and helpful. Do not criticize, comment or be irritable. You have no idea how it feels, and the least you can do is to help them through one of the worst nightmares they have faced.
Tell them that you are always available to them, as a support. And if not physically, you are just a phone call away. You might have to keep telling them time and again that they did not “deserve” it, that no-one can ever deserves something like this. That they must fight back, they must fight for a better life, and that you are there beside them, in this fight.
There is no particular way to feel after a rape. They might ask you why they are feeling a particular emotion, why they are not being able to get out of it. You have to tell them that it is okay. There is no right or wrong emotion related to such things. And you have to give them time. Like I said in my previous article, at times even an entire lifetime is not enough to get out of it mentally, the hurt, the fear, the trauma. Rape victims have been known to even sleep with weapons, because they do not want to take a risk. Give them the time. Do not judge, or tell them they are wallowing in self-pity. They are not. No-one wants to get out of it, as much as they do.
Another thing which I must mention is that men are raped too. As unbelievable as it may sound to you, men can be raped, and physically abused too. So if ever, any male friend, brother, or anyone else comes to you for help, do not tell them you do not believe them. It is not a common happening, but it does happen. I have read that “one out of every six women, and one out of every thirty three men have been the victim of a rape.” So never doubt that someone would lie about physical abuse, just because he is a man.
Lastly help them to get their life back on track. Proper eating, sleeping and exercise timings are very important. Suggest a change of air, help them to re-invent themselves. Tell them you are there for them whenever they need you.
As long as it takes, never try to hurry their healing process. Never judge them, never scare them (even as a joke), never taunt them, don’t offend them. Even if it years have passed, never bring the topic up unless they want to talk about it. And never ever ask them if they were drunk, whether they led the rapist on, or what they were wearing!