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Guest post by: Dr. Amy Menna & Gift From Within
Rape. It is a powerful word for a power hungry act. It breeds fear and in many cases, it breeds silence. It is important that this silence be broken, and survivors be heard. By doing so, we break the grasp that rape has upon so many. The aftermath can be immense. The journey to heal may be terrifying; the steps, long and tedious. By building a bridge of awareness and empowerment, woman and men who have experienced rape can be healed and heard.
The journey to recovery starts with awareness. Awareness not only of what rape is, but the repercussions that grow deep into the soil of someone’s soul. Rape may have the roots of power, control, and fear. Yet cultivating the earth, empowerment grows. It is amazing what survivors can do under nurturing conditions. It is our responsibility to cultivate the innate wisdom that so many survivors have. It is equally important that we develop our own. Rape is not an issue solely for survivors. It is an issue for everyone.
When someone takes something without someone’s consent it is theft. When someone crosses sexual boundaries without consent, it is rape. Rape recovery starts with awareness of the problem including the nature of the definition. In defining rape, we can deepen our awareness of what is happening in our community and around the world. The definition of rape is the beginning of healing; and the beginning of the definition is consent.
Sexual contact without consent is rape. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, wearing, or what has happened in the past. It is rape when someone disregards your will and violates your sexual and physical boundaries. It is about assault, it is about power, and it needs to be spoken about.
The term Date Rape was coined to describe non-consensual sexual contact between two or more people on a “date.” This term, however, does not encompass what many women and men experience. In fact, over 80% of survivors know their assailant and may or may not be on a date. As such, this article will not only refer to date rape, but will also include acquaintance rape. Doing so broadens the scope of violence and more adequately portrays the problem.
Hannah was a freshman in college when she joined a sorority. Being in a sorority meant she went to parties at the fraternities. One night, the fraternity had a party with her sorority. She had a couple drinks but was certainly not drunk as she was careful to not “let loose” in front of such a big audience.
Chris was a junior and belonged to the fraternity. He and Hannah have known each other for a while and even flirted on some occasions. That night, he was paying her a great deal of attention. She thought nothing of it. Although he was a nice guy, she wasn’t that attracted to him. Around midnight the party was still going and Chris had asked Hannah if she would come back to his room because he wanted to “show her something.” Out of curiosity, Hannah agreed.
As they entered the room, Chris leaned over to kiss her. At first she was surprised, and tentatively responded. For a brief moment she kissed him before pulling away and suggesting that they go back to the party. At that point he tried to kiss her again. She said “no” but he pushed her on the bed anyway. He then proceeded to rape her.
The next day, Hannah contemplated telling someone but was afraid no one would believe her or they would blame her because she had a couple drinks. Chris was well known and liked as he was the president of the fraternity. It would be her word against his.
After a few days, she began to wonder about “her part” in what happened. She started to tell herself that it wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t gone with him. Nor did she think it would have happened if she hadn’t entertained his kisses, even if only a few seconds. She then rationalized to herself that it wasn’t “that bad” and maybe she was over reacting.
This series will run on the final Friday of the month for the next 6 months. In part 2 we’ll read about ”Defining your experience and the myths of acquaintance rape”.
Amy Menna has a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, and Certified Addictions Professional. She has over 10 years of experience treating survivors of sexual assault and has published on the topic of Rape Trauma Syndrome, resiliency, and childhood sexual abuse. She is in private practice and lives in Tampa, Florida. She is available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gift From Within, (www.giftfromwithin.org) is a non-profit organization dedicated to those who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), those at risk for PTSD, and those who care for traumatized individuals.
The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. To contribute to ‘Professional Perspective’ contact Michele.
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