There are no easy answers when discussing how to help a woman who has been raped to cope with the trauma she has experienced. Doctors may heal the physical wounds but the emotional scars may be less visible and more difficult to treat. But they must be acknowledged before they can be integrated.
Immediately following a rape, most women are in a state of shock. They may or may not be physically injured but all have been through a life threatening situation and will need time and support to recover. Women may react differently to an assault. Some women may become hysterical while others go through a denial stage and appear calm and in control. The circumstances surrounding the rape may vary as well, but all victims feel varying degrees of fear, guilt, embarrassment and anger. These emotions will not surface all at once but will effect the woman for a long time after the attack. It is important for all those close to her, especially the men to understand her feelings and support her through the crisis.
The fear a woman feels may weave through all aspects of her life. More than likely she was attacked going about her business, feeling safe in her world. Once that security is invaded the woman may be fearful about the once routine activities of her daily life. She may approach strangers and even friends and acquaintances with a new caution.
A woman may feel guilt, wondering why she was the victim. She may question whether she really did “ask for it” or lead someone to the wrong impression. She may also be embarrassed about what other people think of her. These feelings may cause her to avoid sexual relationships for a time. And finally the anger that her personal freedom was violated and the man is walking around free takes over. Anger may take different forms but most psychologists feel that it is the emotion that can lead to a successful emotional recovery. It is at this stage that the woman wants to fight back and get her life in order. However there is the possibility this anger may be projected onto others not involved. Men need to be aware of the feelings a woman experiences. The woman who denies the event and says she’s OK needs the same kind of counseling and support as other women, perhaps more so as she is repressing her true feelings.
Men too react differently to the attack of a woman close to them. Some men are disgusted and repulsed by the thought of rape, while others are angry and may seek revenge. Still some men react with disinterest and view the rape as just another sexual event. They don’t see a need for a big fuss. All of these emotions must be recognized and discussed. A rape crisis center or counseling agency can often help people work through their feelings. Many centers have specific groups for adults, adolescents, and for parents of rape victims. These should be utilized to help ease and hasten the recovery of everyone involved.