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by Dr. Amy Menna, Gift From Within
Part 2 of a 6 part series. Click here to read Part 1.
DEFINING YOUR RAPE EXPERIENCE
Many survivors, like Hannah, fear that they will not be believed if they say they were raped. In Hannah’s case, there was prior sexual contact. However, she had put up the boundary and said “no” numerous times. Sexual violation of boundaries beyond the word “no” is rape. Many survivors believe that they are at fault for going somewhere with the assailant or being intoxicated. All these thoughts clutter the survivor’s mind and can ultimately influence her view as to whether or not she had been raped.
Each sexual assault is unique. This is also true about how rape or sexual assault is defined. There are many differences among survivors and their definition of rape. This leaves many individuals to deny their experience. Many do not “count it” as rape because it did not fit certain predetermined definitions.
Rape has been defined primarily by lack of consent. However, there are numerous other aspects in defining rape. Some individuals focus on the physical aspect or violation, others focus on the mental anguish that goes along with it. Words associated with it may be different (i.e. power, control, anger, aggression), yet the idea behind them is the same. Rape is an intrusive act upon one’s physical and sexual boundaries. Therefore, any sexual contact without consent is rape.
Rape is portrayed on television that most sexual assaults involve a great deal of violence. Some survivors believe that their experience was not rape because it excluded some perceived key elements such as a weapon or further physical abuse. Rape may not include physical violence, a weapon, or a stranger. In fact, many of them do not.
MYTHS ABOUT ACQUAINTANCE RAPE
Hannah had her doubts as to whether or not it was really rape because she had a few drinks, went with him voluntarily, and kissed him. These thoughts lead her away from calling her experience rape and instead just blamed herself for “putting herself” in a dangerous situation.
There are certain myths about acquaintance rape that perpetuate the blame being placed on the survivor. Hannah denied her experience because she believed myths about rape such as she was responsible because she went with him to his room. In addition, she believed that because she kissed him, she must have “led him on.” In many cases, to move from victim to survivor one must debunk these myths and attribute the blame where it belongs.
Below are some additional myths about rape.
1. A woman who was raped by an acquaintance should have known better than to agree to go to some secluded place.
FACT: Many rapists portray a “gentleman’s demeanor.” They may be charming and attentive. As such, rape is unpredictable
2. If a woman or man is under the influence of alcohol, she or he can still give consent.
FACT: If you are under the influence of any drug or alcohol, you are not able to give consent. Alcohol and drug use are never an excuse for someone violating boundaries.
3. Certain behaviors such as dressing a certain way makes someone partially responsible.
FACT: It does not matter what an individual wears or what their behavior was prior to the assault. Lack of consent is lack of consent no matter what someone is doing or wearing.
4. Rape is only committed by strangers in dark alleys and parking lots.
FACT: More than 80 percent of women are raped by someone they know including friends, family, or an acquaintance.
5. It’s not rape if you have had sex with the individual before.
FACT: Prior sexual contact is not a substitute for consent. This is often seen in marital rape. Just because there was consent in the past, does not mean there is consent in the present.
6. If an individual agree to “make out” with someone they contributed to the rape.
FACT: At any time, an individual can withdraw from sexual contact and retract consent.
7. Only women are raped.
FACT: About 10% of survivors are male. Males can be raped by either men or woman.
Next installment – Date Rape Drugs
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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