Rape: How Parents Can Help

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Families have been found to play significant roles in the recovery of a daughter or son who has been raped. Many parents are reluctant to seek help because they might believe it is a sign of weakness, but most especially in our own part of the world, many may not know what difference seeking immediate help could make in the recovery of their child who has been raped. While it is difficult for some to be open with their emotions, parents need to understand that getting help is not a symbol of weakness or an admission that they just “couldn’t take it.” Rather, it is a realization that there are those with the training in positions to offer useful advice, and referring to these helpers is no “weaker” on their part than choosing the needed tool from a toolbox during a car repair….please seek help from professionals, not religious leaders! If a daughter or a son is depending on you to help them, then you owe it to them to put aside your own hesitation and become educated and supportive. But first, it is important to have a close, open and supportive relationship with your child in order for them to come to you first should something like that ever happen. This will be a series on rape, from what it means, to the myths surrounding it, the immediate and long term effects, and how you can help them.

Rape is an act of violence which occurs when someone takes control over another by the use of physical threats or force, or by exploiting another person’s inability to give or withhold consent for sex. While it is true that both women and men can be raped, it is most commonly done to females by males. Sexual assault (and attempted rape) is the fastest-growing crime in the world, yet receives little helpful attention by media, educators, or politicians. Since rapes are usually unreported, nobody knows exactly how many actually happen each year; but according to research, around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. By far the most common perpetrators of sexual violence against women are current or former husbands, partners or boyfriends.

There are five types of rape. The over-all definition is Rape – unlawful sexual intercourse, achieved through force and without consent. The second is Forcible Rape – unlawful sexual intercourse with a female by force and against her will, or without her legal consent. Next is Date Rape also known as Acquaintance Rape – unlawful sexual intercourse that occurs in the context of a dating relationship or by someone the victim knows. The fourth is Marital Rape – forcible sex between two people who are legally married. The Final is Gang Rape – which is when a group of men attack a defenseless or inebriated victim and force sexual intercourse against her/his will.

Even though there is little public attention to rape, there are many scientific studies about rape, rapists, and effective forms of helping survivors. As a result, public awareness is improving, rape myths are being challenged, and survivors are finding better help today than in years past.  As you might expect, most resources to help rape survivors come from crisis centers, advocacy groups/organisations, and specialized counselling programs. However, rape does not only affect the victim, but also their family, friends, and other loved ones.  Because of this, people in relationships with rape survivors are called secondary survivors, for more information on secondary survivors click here

 The Role of Men

Males can have some of the greatest effects on a victim’s recovery, especially when the victim is female. Depending on how you approach your role as helpers, you can either make their experience worse or better; you can either react badly and devastate them, or you can be one “key” in their recovery and healing. Since half of raped victims turn to a male as their first source of help and advice, you play a crucial role in both the short-term and long-term experiences they have after the rape.

Although fathers often want to help the victim/survivor, they are often unprepared to be effective.  If the victim is female, they might think of the rape as a “woman’s problem,” or assume that it’s something they can just “get over.” Or they may assume they’ll never “get over” it; that she will always be impure or “dirty” because of what someone else did. Maybe they realize they’re even angry at her, being critical of her decisions (“you put yourself in that situation!”) or wanting violent revenge against her attacker. As a result, a lot of poor decisions are made by well-meaning helpers. If your wife, daughter, son or friend is raped, this series will give you ways to help her recover. You will learn what you should and should not do. You will learn what emotions s/he may be experiencing, and how to talk to them about it. You will also learn how to handle your own emotions about what’s happened.       

The Role of Women

Mothers are important in the healing process because mothers can reflect back to a victim how loved and valued the they are. A mother can demonstrate to a daughter how a strong woman handles a rape experience by being honest about her pain and grief, and yet resisting the pressure to just “give up,” ignore the rape, or turn to self-destructive behaviours after the rape. A lot of rape survivors have said that it was their mother’s emotional strength or weakness that most influenced their choice whether to tell anyone about the rape or not. That doesn’t mean that if your child has hidden their rape from you for a long time that they don’t have faith in you; hiding a rape incident is more common than talking about it and it may be that your child lacks confidence to be able to deal with it.

Also, many young men and women have found that they are most helped (or most hurt) by how their mothers handle the knowledge of their rape. A mother who is sensitive, supportive, and willing to talk and listen is obviously more helpful to her child than a mother who blames or scolds the individual, gives the message that the mother is ashamed of the person, or avoids the topic altogether.

As Parents, You play a major role in helping your loved one recover from rape. There are no miracle cures and it is not likely that you’ll know everything it takes to “make it all right” again. But by being patient, supportive, and non-judgmental you will be communicating the most important message: your unconditional love. Trust that they are strong enough to do the rest on their own.


Adapted from: www.ressurectionafterrape.org



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