What is rape?
Rape is a crime in which a person is forced to have sexual intercourse without giving consent. It is not known if the number of rapes has increased or if more victims are now willing to report the crime. Shame, fear of revenge or rejection, and the trauma of a court trial are common reasons for failure to report a sexual offence.
Rape is most often motivated by extreme anger toward the victim or a need to overpower the victim. The motive is rarely sexual and violence is not always involved. Forced sex is intended to abuse, humiliate, and dehumanise the victim. Fifty percent of all rapists are under the age of 25 and most rapists average ten rapes before they are caught. Studies indicate that rape occurs most frequently with someone the victim already knows. Drug and alcohol abuse are frequently related to sexual offences.
What are the effects?
The effects of rape are both physical and psychological.
Physical effects on the victim may include:
- injuries from beating or choking, such as bruises, scratches, cuts, and broken bones
- swelling around the genital area
- bruising around the vagina
- injury to the rectal-vaginal area (for example, tearing of the tissue that bridges between the anus and the vagina)
- sexually transmitted diseases (such as, herpes, gonorrhoea, AIDS, and syphilis)
- possible pregnancy, in a regularly menstruating female
Psychological effects on the victim may include:
- severe anxiety
- difficulty concentrating or sleeping
- dreaming about what happened
- inappropriate guilt feelings
- emotional numbness or irritability
- extreme fear
How is it treated?
If there has been a assault, the police must be called to report the incident. The victim must be taken to a hospital. The doctor will conduct a thorough physical exam, including a pelvic exam, to determine the extent of the injuries. The doctor will make special note of any cuts, bruises, or other injuries, especially in the genital area and prepare a medico-legal report.
To collect potential evidence to use against the assailant, the doctor will look for specimens such as patches of torn clothing, blood, semen and strands of hair from the attacker. These specimens can be tested against body fluid or skin samples from suspects.
After the examination the doctor may recommend the following:
- Professional crisis counselling.
- antibiotics or other medicine for sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhoea, chlamydial infection, or pubic lice.
- Help the resources available to help the victim deal with the emotional and physical effects of sexual assault.
- A support group for rape victims.
- Medications to prevent pregnancy.
Child victims need to be evaluated by a doctor immediately. It is generally recommended that the child see a special counsellor trained to work with cases of abused children.
How long will the effects last?
The physical effects of rape may last from a day to a few months, depending on the extent of the injuries involved. The mental and emotional effects are less predictable. The effects may last a lifetime, but crisis counselling and rape support groups can help reduce long-term effects and help the victim cope with feelings of isolation, guilt, depression, or anxiety.
Children are especially vulnerable to long-lasting mental and emotional effects. They frequently need special counselling and care.
The victim must not isolate herself. She must allow family members to provide emotional support. There are family counselling programmes for family members who need help dealing with their concerns and increasing their ability to provide emotional support.
For child victims, find a counsellor who specializes in working with child abuse and incest cases.
What can be done to help prevent rape?
- Girls must learn about characteristics or typical behaviour patterns of potential attackers.
- Children must be taught what to do if approached by a stranger, what behaviour to look out for, and what places or situations to avoid.
- Educate oneself about aspects of one’s appearance and behaviour that might make one vulnerable to attack.
- Girls must learn self-defence techniques to help them defend against an attacker.