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The media can be a great tool for increasing public awareness about sexual violence, but it can also pose challenges for some survivors. Portrayals of sexual violence in movies, television shows, the news, and social media can prompt negative reactions, from flashbacks and anxiety to feelings of sadness or irritability. Below are a few ways to help limit your exposure to media that could prompt these uncomfortable experiences. Movies and TV Shows Movies and television programs that depict sexual violence can be part of dramatic plots, contain graphic scenes, or emphasize trauma over healing. Keep the following tips in mind to help navigate your viewing experience in a safe way. You are in control. You never have to watch something to prove you can handle it. If you go to a movie and find it upsetting, feel free to leave. If your favorite weekly television show includes a scene you find upsetting, it is ok to…

My rapist was my ex-girlfriend. I’m a man. We weren’t together at the time. Actually we broke up due to her being quite abusive. She took advantage of me while I was drunk. She then kept messaging me and saying how she was pregnant and now we get to spend our lives together. I was depressed for months. “A small gesture can turn somebody’s situation around, support survivors by ONLY leaving a kind and thoughtful comment.”

“What was she doing out so late?” “Why was she wearing such tight, revealing clothes?” “If she visited him at his house she can’t say she didn’t want it to happen.” If you are one of those who says one or more of the above statements, then you are promoting rape culture. If the term “rape culture” sounds alien to you, allow me to explain. Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting or society in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, slut shaming, sexual objectification, trivializing or outright denial of rape or refusal to acknowledge the harm caused by rape. A very basic study of the Nigerian society will reveal the existence of rape culture which cuts across all facets of society regardless of gender, social class, education, background or exposure.…

The time immediately after a rape ordeal is confusing, emotional, and charged with anxiety –for the victim and their loved one(s). It is also a time of physical discomfort and high risk for them, high risk because they are most likely thinking about their experience in relation to how their loved ones will feel about it/about them and how they would react, this contributes a lot to what choices they would make in how to handle the experience. Not only have they been terrorized and totally violated, but they fear that their closest companions may not be supportive or believe them. One of the most frightening experiences for a victim is having the courage to talk to anyone and wondering how the person will react. Your reaction can set the tone for their recovery in years to come. They will wonder, “Will I need medical care?” “Should I tell my…

I was in 300 level in the university of Lagos and for all my outgoing persona and loud talk, I was still a Virgin. It was internship period and there was a break that year, so students were few in school. This guy had been hitting on me for a while and one evening when everyone had gone out I decided to finally take his offer for lunch. Later, he asked to get something from his flat and looking back I blame myself for being naive, trusting and not discerning. While in his house it began raining and I asked to go back to my hostel. We went out and he tried to start his car but told me that it couldn’t start and I believed him. He then called a mechanic,  when I told him that it was getting late and I would just get myself home, he said the…

Sexual assault is a seriously under-reported crime. Victims and survivors do not report their assault to law enforcement for several reasons; such as, fear of retaliation from perpetrators; feelings of shame and embarrassment; a belief that the rape, abuse or harassment was a minor incident and not a police matter; and a concern that police and prosecutors would question their veracity and credibility. Victims who report the crime and are willing to cooperate with police and prosecutors as the case moves forward may encounter criminal justice officials who are skeptical of their allegations and who question their credibility. Sadly, victims experience these negative outcomes all too often. There is much to be done, there is much that can be done if sexual assault is to be treated as the violent crime it is and if victims of sexual assault are to be treated with respect and dignity. We had a…

Stigma is a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something; a mark of disgrace or dishonor – Merriam Webster. Stigma—it’s an ugly word and it’s even uglier to experience. Yet a large number of survivors of sexual violence have endured the pain of stigma. It includes: Stereotypes: to believe unfairly that all people or things with particular characteristics are the same. Prejudice: a feeling of like or dislike for someone or something especially when it is not reasonable or logical. Discrimination: the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or group of people. Stigma often brings experiences and feelings of shame, blame, hopelessness, distress, misrepresentation, and reluctance to seek and/or accept necessary help. The impact of stigma is twofold. Public stigma is the reaction that the general population has toward victims and survivors…

The festive season or holiday can be a stressful time for many people and for survivors of sexual assault, it can feel particularly challenging. All of us have our unique set of strategies – usually on a spectrum between healthy and less healthy – which help us to cope with difficult times. This is a time when it might be helpful consciously to consider what existing coping strategies are going to serve you well, what you might adopt to get you through and what feels possible to you. Here are some thoughts of what might help: 1.   Being realistic: The myth of the perfect holiday always disappoints one way or another, there really is no such thing as the perfect holiday, unless you choose to see and experience it from that perspective. Setting realistic expectations of how things might be will protect you from feelings of disappointment and a sense of…

Secondary victimization is characterized by engagement in victim-blaming attitudes, behaviors, and practices, which result in additional trauma for sexual assault survivors. Secondary victimization minimizes the significance of a crime, which leads to apathetic and discriminative attitudes. Far-reaching political, legal, and social implications result from these attitudes, ranging from low conviction rates for sexual assault cases, to victims’ hindered psychological recovery. In order to combat secondary victimization, it is vital to understand and then challenge these prejudicial attitudes. Some of the elements that influence secondary victimization including hyper-masculinity, gender-traditionality (GRT), relationship closeness, the participant gender, level of belief in a just world, and religiosity on victim-blame attribution are explored below: Hyper-Masculinity. One factor that influences secondary victimization is attitudes around hyper-masculinity and gender-role traditionality. Research has found that males are more likely than females to blame a victim. An explanation is that females tend to empathize with victims, whereas males often…