It’s the sad truth that, in today’s society, rape and sexual assault are a common occurrence with the victims being women, children, and even men. This is a horrendous act that is defined as any type of forcible sexual activity, but the worst part is that the pain doesn’t end with the act itself. Victims can suffer the impact for years’ afterword and that’s only the beginning.
No one ever asks to be raped or sexually assaulted. It’s a terrible thing that we all wish could never happen to anyone. However, when it does, the victimization of the victim doesn’t end with just the act itself. There could be years of emotional trauma that come along with it. This may include post-traumatic stress disorder or rape trauma syndrome. These two disorders manifest with all different symptoms and can pop up at anytime, effecting the victim’s life dramatically. Very important symptoms include intrusive symptoms, which happen when memories of the traumatic even are triggered. A great example of this would be nightmares. There are also avoidance phenomena symptoms, which surface when the victim continues to distance themselves from loved ones and people they care about so they don’t have any emotional ties to others. Lastly, there are hyperarousal symptoms, where the victim feels they are always being threatened by their triggering even. All of this can result in tangible and intangible losses, but can also completely destroy the victim’s personal life. They will most likely have to seek counseling and it could take years to recover, as mentioned previously.
Personal relationships are greatly effected, as well. Here, we’re talking about relationships with family, friends, and even intimate relationships. Such a traumatic events and the disorders that come along with them have a good chance of leading to depression. This is, in no way, the victims fault. It may lead to the victim pushing away loved ones because they feel they will become victimized again and are scared, which can also be defined as avoidance phenomena symptoms. It can also lead to a lack of intimacy with romantic partners due to an ongoing fear of being taken advantage of or lack of romantic partners altogether. According to Rape Victim Advocates, a non profit organization based in Chicago, “The most immediate person affected by sexual violence is the victim/survivor, but the effects of sexual violence also go far beyond individual survivors, impacting their closest relationships as well as impacting communities and our society at large.”
In the 1940’s Hentig tried to explain why people are victimized by using personal factors. He created twelve categories with biological, social, and psychological characteristics. In relation to rape and sexual assault, the first was young people. In this case, it would be children, and he believed they are more likely to be victimized because of their immaturity and vulnerability. Females are his next category. Here, he states that they are generally weaker than men, so they are vulnerable to sexual assault. Other group that aren’t specified as vulnerable to sexual assault, but rather vulnerable to most crimes in general include mentally defective individuals, immigrants, minorities, normal individuals, depressed individuals, and lonesome and heartbroken individuals.
Another theory of victimology that can be applied to rape and sexual assault cases is Sellin and Wolfgang’s typology of victimization. Their victimization is based on the situations victims and perpetrators are in, rather than their relationship to each other. The most useful one here would be primary victimization. Primary victimization is when a person is directly victimized, so, for a certain reason. In most rape and sexual assault cases, someone is targeted. They may be targeted because they are a woman, child, man, or because they are easily accessible. Either way, they are directly victimized, so Sellin and Wolfgang’s typology would apply here.
So, what more could be done to help these victims? Well, we could definitely have a better response system in order to make people feel safe and believed. In my personal experience, I have met three people who have not reported their sexual assaults due to the fear of not being believed. This is an increasing problem, especially with females. The only way to combat it is to open up safe spaces around the United States and other countries to make women, men, and children feel safe and valid in reporting their sexual assault. This, combined with the right therapy and the right medical treatment to get them back on their feet should not be a difficult process and shouldn’t be a question. It’s the least we can do.
Women, men, and even children are victims of sexual abuse and rape every day, all over the country. In fact, rape is actually legal in some countries. Victims of sexual assault have to deal with years of trauma and, sometimes, it doesn’t stop there. With the right treatment, we can begin to help these victims and hopefully change the way we look at sexual assault for good.