Helpline: 1800 234 900

Recent Rape and Sexual Assault

Safety

The first thing to do if you have just been raped or sexually assaulted is to make sure that you are in a safe place.  You are probably still in shock so try to remain calm.Secondly, remember that however you feel, you are not to blame. Understand that this was not your fault. There was nothing you could have done to prevent the assault.  Nothing you did gave anyone the right to do this.  The fault lies entirely with the person who raped sexually assaulted you.

Your Well-Being

Try to keep warm and drink plenty of fluids, if you are in danger of going into shock.
If you are physically injured, go to your GP or your nearest A&E, depending on the urgency. 
If you are concerned about sexually transmitted infections (STIs),contact General Hospital, Castlebar, Co. Mayo,   094 90 21733 (Extension 3076 - Tues am only and Ext 3501 – Mon, Wed, Thurs, Friday)
If you want to prevent any possible pregnancy, you can use emergency contraception. The morning-after pill, available at pharmacies, is effective up to 72 hours later. 

Talk

Talk to someone about what has happened.  You can call the helpline (1800 234 900), or contact your nearest Rape Crisis Centre. 
Or talk to a friend or family member, someone you trust to support you. 

Reporting 

If you want to report the assault, contact the Gardai so they can arrange a forensic examination as soon as possible. They will want to get as much evidence as possible. So, don’t wash, eat or drink.
If you change your clothes, put them in a bag to give to the Gardai.
Tell the Gardai if you think you may have been drugged or your drink ‘spiked’. They will arrange for blood and urine tests.
You might not feel like reporting now, but you might in time. So keep the clothes you were wearing at the time of the assault, don’t wash them and put them in a plastic bag.
If you wash yourself, use safe products, not household cleaning products as they can be harmful.

Group Rape

Group rape (also known as gang rape) is the rape of a woman by more than one man at the same time.  

Group rapes are often very carefully planned by the attackers and can be extremely violent.  The woman is usually intimidated during and after the rape with humiliating language and threats. Threats of further violence are also commonly used to persuade you not to tell anyone about the attack. The attackers may be relatives, friends, acquaintances or complete strangers.
Sometimes women feel pressurised to do sexual things they don't want by their partner. If he or anyone tries to persuade you to carry out sexual acts on them or their friends, or do anything you dont feel comfortable with, this is not ok.  
If you need information, counselling or support of any kind to help you deal with a rape or sexual assault, please contact us 1800 234 900

Emotional reactions

There is no such thing as a 'typical reaction'. Everyone reacts differently. Some initial feelings that callers have described to us include:

Calm and detached
Disbelief or denial
Distressed and crying
Shock
Withdrawal
Confusion or panic
Fear
Feeling dirty or ashamed

When physical concerns have been taken care of, emotional pain will probably still be there. Everyone deals with the effects of sexual violence differently, but it often takes time. Our helpline is available if you would like emotional support.
If you can, confide in someone you trust; talking about your feelings can help you to deal with them. However, never feel pressured to describe or disclose anything you feel uncomfortable about. Reliving the experience may or may not be helpful – trust your instincts.

Some of the emotional impacts of Rape incude:

Powerlessness and loss of control

"I feel so helpless. Will I ever be in control again?"

Because all forms of sexual violation involve a wrestling of power from the victim, Talking about what happened can facilitate the empowerment of the victim. By someone listening and respecting their decisions and  choices, the survivor can begin to regain a sense of control in the ongoing process of their life.

Emotional numbness

"I feel so numb. Why am I so calm? Why can't I cry?"

After an assault has occurred, many victims experience periods of emotional numbness which is a shock response. This response is often misinterpreted by those around them. For example, it may be taken as an indication that they are in control of the situation, are calm and relatively unharmed, or even that they are fabricating their experience of the assault. However, emotional numbness is not an uncommon reaction to severe trauma. It should be interpreted as a victim's 'front line' defence against the overwhelming reality that they have been sexually assaulted.

Denial

"Was it really sexual assault? I'm okay. I'll be alright."

Following the initial shock of the assault, or even months later, a victim may deny to others or to themselves that they have been assaulted. They try to suppress the memory of what has happened in an attempt to regain the previous stability of their lives. Denial also plays a part in the ranking of types of sexual assault. For instance, some victims may feel that if the offender did not penetrate them they were not sexually assaulted, or alternatively, if the offender did not ejaculate then it was not as bad etc. It must be remembered that sexual assault exists on a continuum and that all forms of sexual harassment and violation are experienced as threatening and can have devastating consequences for the victim.

Disturbed sleep

Survivors of sexual assault often experience sleepless nights and/or nightmares. The nightmare may involve reliving the assault/s which indicates that they have unresolved issues pertaining to the assault. It is the counsellor's role to support the victim in the process of sifting through these issues. It is also important to affirm that as the healing process continues, the nightmares or sleepless nights will become less frequent.

Flashbacks

Memories of the assault often return without warning. Sometimes these flashbacks will be so vivid that the victim feels as if they have re-lived the experience of assault. As a counsellor you need to reassure the survivor that flashbacks are not the result of irreversible psychological damage or an indicator of insanity. They represent a trauma response which, like nightmares, will decrease as issues are resolved and the healing process progresses.

Guilt/self blame

"I feel as if I did something to make this happen. If only I hadn't..."

Victims of sexual assault may feel that they could have avoided it by acting differently. These types of reactions are often strongly linked to the myths about sexual assault that prevail in the community, which frequently blame the victim rather than the offender. The behaviour and reactions of friends, family, police, lawyers and social workers may reinforce the victim's own feeling that s/he 'asked for it'. The victim may also feel guilty that they have brought shame on their family and themselves by talking about it or reporting it to the police. Similarly, if they believe they could have resisted more forcefully they may also feel at fault. This is particularly true for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse who tend to see themselves as they are now, as adults, rather than as they were at the time of the abuse.

Embarrassment/shame

"I feel so dirty, like there is something wrong with me now. Can you tell that I've been raped? What will people think?"

Many people who have been sexually assaulted feel intensely ashamed and embarrassed. They often feel dirty and in some way 'marked for life'. This reaction may prevent victims from speaking out about the assault. Cultural background factors can intensify such feelings. Underpinning these reactions is the internalisation of the myths pertaining to sexual assault. Working through these assumptions can ensure appropriate relocation of responsibility for the assault to the offender.

Loss of confidence

"I feel I can't do anything any more....even the simplest things."

The experience of assault exposes the victim to the stark reality that they cannot always protect themselves no matter how hard they try. The assault is not only an invasion of the victim's physical self but also the intellectual, social and emotional self. The experience of assault brings vulnerability issues to the fore which can devastate self confidence and destroy assumptions about the world and your place within it. 

Low self-esteem

"I'm disgusted by myself, by the memories. I'm just worthless."

Given that sexual assault disempowers, humiliates and degrades victims, it is not surprising that victims often experience low self esteem. Again, by exploring the reality of what happened the victim can begin to reframe their own part in it and to release themselves from self-blame and other entrenched responses which may contribute to a sense of low self-esteem.

 

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Mayo Rape Crisis Centre