Rape is a severe crime that involves a person engaging in sexual intercourse without the consent of another person (Oates, 2014). Previously, the term rape was only used in instances when a man forcefully had sex with a woman. However, today the definition has been broadened to relate to both female and male victims. It also involves incidences during which the therapist applied deception or threats, instead of physical coercion, to have the person to give in. Cases of rape are exposed to the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, becoming pregnant, getting severe injuries, or even death.
Every person who has gone through rape has their own experience and perspective. How they react to sexual assault depends on many factors such as support system, life experience, nature of attack, maturity, and individual’s age (Oates, 2014). Nonetheless, just like there are common forms of sexual assault, perceptions of rape are also common. The majority of victims will voice these viewpoints at a particular time. Sexual assault is a traumatic encounter; full effects are felt by not only the directly affected person but also the indirectly affected persons, such as family and close friends. This paper discusses common standpoints of the victim of rape on both primary and secondary casualties.
Common Standpoints of Rape Victims
The first widespread viewpoint by a rape survivor is usually about self-concept. Before their ordeal, most people believe that victims of abuse “asked for it” (Singh, 2017). However, it is difficult to prove this standpoint since it can still lead to a feeling of guilt. Often, the injured person persistently questions themselves if they could have prevented their attack. Coupled with compounded opinions of sex by society, these people are bound to feel more contaminated than if they would be victims of a different form of assault. Due to a lot of personal doubt, they perceive themselves as unclean and believe that others feel the same about them. The victims may become doubtful of their associations and refrain from social contact that might have been previously normal. When an individual has been predisposed to the will of another person, his or her sense of personal authority is severely threatened (Singh, 2017). The victim is likely to lose confidence to make sound decisions.
Many survivors of rape do not want to be blamed for what happened to them (Spohn et al., 2014). Regrettably, many of them are subjected to a lot of doubt by investigating officers and medical practitioners. They often have to protect themselves from the general public that is expected to assist them. Also, they always have to confront an uphill fight that the battery has taken their self-respect, as they reflect all the actions that preceded the attack. The anxiety of being doubted and subjected to an investigation of very private and violent matters causes many sufferers to avoid taking any action. Despite their constant self-examination and blame, victims of rape believe that nothing gives the perpetrator the right to take advantage of them (Van Wormer & Bartollas, 2011). The circumstances during which the attack happened do not matter since rape takes place only when the perpetrators decide to ignore the idea of respect, taking away what is not theirs. Victims of sexual assault feel that they face more blame compared to victims of other cases. It is said that they are judged by people who do not fully comprehend their experience. Even when the perpetrator is punished, the victims are often blamed during court processes. This issue frequently forces them to relive their experiences; hence they are unable to move on. Sometimes, it makes them feel as if they are sharing the sentence with the perpetrator. The victim’s standpoint on this is that observers should lay blame on the right person instead of search for ways to blame them (Singh, 2017).
Victims of sexual assault are expecting respect other than sympathy (Carman, 2013). People who have been assaulted sexually believe that it is the responsibility of the society to provide them with rehabilitation and justice and assist them in suppressing embarrassment and accepting the situation. The psychological trauma suffered by victims of rape is more in-depth than the physical pain following the repercussions of them being subjected to brutality. The greatest agony of rape survivors felt during the criminal justice system starts in a hospital or at the police station due to the insensitivity and callousness by those charged with assisting the harmed person’s attempt for rehabilitation and justice. These persons express their distress while passing through the insensitive process. Most of them are of low economic status, and their families cannot demand that the procedure is followed through. Others do not understand the legal process.
In spite of the court process making them face their perpetrator and reliving their trauma, rape victims believe it a way of taking back their power (Mennicke et al., 2014). For them, it is a chance to find justice and stop the perpetrator from attacking again. A victim reasonably feels this way when appearing in court. However, the victims also suffer further abuses from the system of criminal justice. When they choose to file criminal cases, they are coerced into reliving their ordeals by narrating their incidences at various stages of the process. Multiple agencies involved in the system require the victim to repeatedly explain themselves to validate their facts for a typical rape case. To rape survivor, this process is just as torturers as the rape itself. Eventually, it is the choice of the survivor to proceed with the matter in court, and there is no problem when the case fails. The affected person expects emotional protection and well-being during the process. Furthermore, they need complete support from the court, especially in cases where victims are vulnerable, and not only in cases of children. They would prefer if extraordinary measures were adopted to safeguard them in court. Such actions would involve giving testimony via the TV link or behind curtains (Mennicke et al., 2014).
Female survivors suggest that rape should be perceived as a political problem because it denies women power and support in a society dominated by males (Carman, 2013). Considerable progress has been made within the legal acknowledgment of sexual assaults. Nonetheless, the focus should be shifted to eliminating the blaming of the victims and placing responsibility on the offenders. It is suggested that systems of the court become simplified to make parole hearings more convenient for the survivors. Women feel that they should obtain more authority against possible abusers as society shifts towards gender equality.
Most victims of sexual assault find sexual harassment that is usually accompanied by sexual harassment to be financially and emotionally damaging to them (Singh, 2017). When it occurs in the environment of work, the affected persons are incredibly offended and disturbed because they feel that perpetrators employ the attacks to control them. Survivors may hesitate to report the incident because of fear of losing their jobs or missing promotions.
Common Standpoints of Secondary Victims of Rape
Indirect victims of rape are individuals who are closely related to the direct victims of abuse. These people include close friends, family members, and children born out of violence. Most often, people affected indirectly by rape are burdened with much responsibility for the attack. Just as the direct victims, they too have their perspectives towards sexual assault, as they protect and support their loved ones.
Children born to survivors of sexual assault, particularly in regions of war, want to be acknowledged as lawful victims of terrorism and conflict, and not be shamed, stigmatized, and blamed. Stigma and shame are essential to the thinking of sexual brutality being used as a way of terrorism or war. Aggressors know that this form of crime can change victims to outcasts, hence separating the kinship and family ties that unite communities. Rape survivors call on the community, religious, and traditional leaders to deal with social norms and ensure that the perpetrators suffer the stigma of rape instead of the injured persons. Otherwise, the victims are afraid of facing indigence, economic exclusion, unsafe abortion, untreated diseases, suicides, and deadly retaliation. Of significant concern are the children, born out of rape, who are always marginalized through their lives due to uncertain legal status and stigma. Such indirect victims feel that the best way to prevent their mothers and themselves from becoming vulnerable to recruitment and exploitation is to reintegrate them into economies and societies. They, therefore, call for national policy and legal structures to make sure those survivors of dispute-associated sexual brutality can gain from redress and reparations. They also want to access crucial services and support, like reproductive health management, including regulations for terminating unwanted pregnancies.
A survey done on indirect victims of sexual assault revealed that they felt relieved when a perpetrator admitted their guilt. However, an even more significant concern for them was their disappointment with religious groups and other agencies that conceal such crimes. Most of them think that anyone who was aware of a rapist or pedophile and remained silent allowed the actions of the criminals.
Other secondary victims display anger and are ready to contribute towards doing anything to hold the victim’s perpetrator to account. However, it is vital that the survivor is left in control over the next plan of action. Few studies have been conducted on the perspectives of persons affected indirectly by sexual assault (Carman, 2013). To the level that indirect victims are reviewed in literature, the attention is often on the way their reaction to the experiences of the survivor hinders or assists their recovery. It is a significant concern because greater extents of unsupportive conduct by relatives have been seen to happen more for cases of rape than for other forms of assault. However, very limited research has investigated the views of family members of those who have undergone a rape ordeal. Carman (2013) suggests a comprehensive study program to review the standpoints of indirect victims because there is a particular form of freedom that accompanies the coming forward and presenting views by family members and significant others.
Some family members or partners of survivors find it difficult to express themselves towards the victim. However, they believe that the most important thing is usually to show care and protection. Sadly, there are no easy or quick fixes for handling sexual assault. Hence most of the time, they remain patient, as they support the victim in the best way they can. These families are aware that they need to maintain their well-being during such times because they may feel alarmed by intense feelings of devastation, anger, and shock, which is normal. They also think that they need support from outside to ease the impact.
Other family members have come out strongly to protest and demand justice rather than vigilante justice (Carman, 2013). Such protests have emerged following some activist bodies threatening to take action against some cases in which authorities are slow to carry out prosecution of rape perpetrators. Some relatives of survivors have identified persistent gaps in implementing guidelines, relevant policies, and enforcing laws for justice of victims. They recommend that authorities should make sure that the system of criminal justice handles survivors and families with dignity, sensitivity, and without discrimination.
Rape is usually an extremely traumatic experience that impacts not only the affected person but also those close to them. The exposure can cause long-lasting and significant effects on both categories of victims. Experiences and standpoints regarding rape differ for every case based on many factors, such as support system, life experience, nature of attack, maturity, and survivors’ age. Some of these viewpoints presented by the victims and their families should be treated as useful information for those concerned with the issue. These concerned parties should act by providing the necessary assistance to individuals who may be suffering following their experience with rape. The government should initiate programs that can adequately assist people aged over 15 who may need special counseling for survivors of rape. Women who may have been sexually abused by their partners should be offered safe accommodation. Medical clinics should be established at strategic places to provide confidential services that should be free to any person who may have been sexually assaulted. Everyone in the society is obligated to support survivors of rape by believing in them unconditionally without judging. It is never the victim’s fault to be sexually assaulted.
Carman, C. (2013). Male partners of rape survivors. University of Hartford.
Mennicke, A., Anderson, D., Oehme, K., & Kennedy, S. (2014). Law enforcement officers’ perception of rape and rape victims: A multimethod study. Violence and Victims, 29(5), 814-827. http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/0886-6708.vv-d-13-00017
Oates, J. (2014). Rape. Atlantic Books.
Singh, T. (2017). Young adults’ attitudes towards rape and rape victims: Effects of gender and social category. Journal of Psychology & Clinical Psychiatry, 7(4). http://dx.doi.org/10.15406/jpcpy.2017.07.00447
Spohn, C., White, C., & Tellis, K. (2014). Unfounding sexual assault: Examining the decision to unfound and identifying false reports. Law & Society Review, 48(1), 161-192. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/lasr.12060
Van Wormer, K., & Bartollas, C. (2011). Women and the criminal justice system. Prentice Hall.