Every survivor of rape experiences the trauma in her (or his) own unique way. Some common after-effects include fear, anger, guilt, shame, loss of trust, anxiety, insomnia, and even denial. Because of the element of shame associated with rape, many victims are reluctant to report the crime and /or seek the help they need.
Like child molestation, rape is an abhorrent and aberrant behavior, one that people are expected to realize is wrong without being told. They are expected to glean this from social cues as they grow from children to adults. As mature humans, they should ideally have no inclinations toward sexual abuse, or at the very least, perceive that such urges are considered deviant and are criminal. Perhaps this is expecting too much of some small minds. Perhaps it needs to be stated directly and without flinching that forcing sex on anyone against that person's will is worse than just a bad idea; it's deeply and unequivocally wrong. Would having this fact ingrained from an early age stop a perpetrator? Probably not. I suspect many rapists commit their first offense before the societal clue gets through their brains. It certainly couldn't hurt to add this information to any sex education program. Rape is wrong.
Stupidity is no excuse for rape. Ignorance of laws, societal mores, and moral standards is no excuse either. But you have to wonder how many people were ever told not to do it. Although experts claim rape is not about sexual gratification, but about power and control, a rape survivor might have difficulty accepting that. Victims can be rendered powerless or humiliated without sexual contact. While I will concede to the experts on that point, it's pretty damn hard to distance the intrusive sexual element from the crime and see it as strictly a domination/control offense. Rapists are much more than mere bullies who never learned to keep their hands to themselves. That they have chosen to exert their sadistic control via a sexual attack is significant.
When researching the subject of rape for our novel, Betrayed, we encountered sad statistics and shocking first-hand accounts. If this influenced our decision to grant the perpetrators in our tale less than well-rounded personalities, then so be it. They were undeserving of such, and frankly, we didn't care to give them that much respect. It's possible we will be criticized for this, but we shrug our shoulders. If someone else wants to portray rapists as misunderstood and maligned characters with full and complex personalities, then that's their business. They can pound away at their keyboards to their hearts' content. Maybe the future will change our minds; maybe we will be interested in that challenge someday. But not now.
We also learned that survivors have to take the time to heal and need the space to experience their anger and rage, feelings to which they have every right. Each individual that has endured rape must heal in her (or his) own way. Help is available. There are many excellent websites, hot-lines, books, articles, therapists, and groups ready and willing to step up and assist a survivor. For these caring resources, we say thank you.
Sexual violence is only part of the story in Betrayed. Survival and recovery have important places in the tale, as does love. Our character emerges on the other side of her devastating experience a different person. Though it does not happen overnight, she is able to overcome.
A partial list of resources: