Sat | Jun 15, 2019

Garth Rattray | Rape: Way beyond physical trauma

Published:Monday | April 15, 2019 | 12:09 AM

My curiosity was piqued by The Gleaner article that read ‘Rapist has 40-year sentence slashed’. A partially masked, 44-year-old, shirtless rapist invaded the sanctity of his victim’s bedroom. He held her hostage for three “terrifying” hours while raping her, in various positions, three times and then he stole $3,000 from her.

Court records showed that he told her that he raped her because he chose her. During the ordeal he said, “I know what I am doing is wrong, but is just suh it guh in Jamaica.” He demanded good loving like she gives her boyfriend, commanded her to request rough sex loudly, asked if she wanted him to impregnate her, asked if anyone had ever performed oral sex on her and if she wanted him to do so. He tried to force his tongue into her mouth.

The charges against him were burglary, rape, and indecent assault arising from the attack. The jury verdict was unanimous. He was found guilty of all three offences and sentenced to 10 years in prison for burglary, 40 years for rape, and three years at hard labour for indecent assault.

He appealed the sentence and the Court of Appeal slashed his prison time from 40 to 23 years and 10 months. The appeal alleged that 40 years was “manifestly excessive” and that the presiding judge erred in directing the jury on the procedural fairness of the ID parade.

I know nothing about legal matters, and I have the utmost respect for the judiciary, but this statement raised my antennae: “It is not unreasonable to infer that the whole experience must have caused the virtual complainant severe psychological trauma, although not much physical violence was used in this case.”

This is the problem: rape involves sexual intercourse, but it is really about power, dominance and cruelty. It scars the soul far more than it scars the body. People have consensual sexual intercourse in varied and sometimes weird ways. Some become aroused when they are physically abused during sexual intercourse (masochism), and some even want to be choked during the sex act (erotic asphyxiation). Some have such rough sex that they tear and bleed. In other words, consensual, fulfilling sex can be extremely violent, yet it is not psychologically traumatic to either partner.

MOST HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE

But rape, the defilement of our private parts, needn’t be physically violent in any way or cause any physical trauma to be the most horrible experience that anyone can have. The horror of rape is the invasion of the body temple by an unwanted person or thing. It is the taking away of all control and the stripping of all dignity.

This lady’s worst nightmare began when the monster invaded her bedroom. His appearance, partially naked and partially masked, was terror enough. Taking her body and subjecting her to his vile machinations and putrid sexual fantasies for three hours was pure torture. Fear of what he might or could do to her, should she resist, was as powerful as any weapon. She submitted in order to stay alive.

Unlike physical scars that heal, the psychological damage of rape is deep-rooted and permanent. Aside from the possible physical maladies and diseases (which may be severe), rape victims experience a plethora of psychological problems, including anger and blame, shock, numbness, loss of control, disorientation, helplessness, sense of vulnerability, fear, self-blame/guilt, self-harm, substance abuse, dissociation, eating disorders, sleep disorders, frigidity, promiscuity, sexual perversion, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety, severe depression and even suicide.

Prosecutors should highlight the harmful psychological effects of rape and present the findings of a psychologist or psychiatrist at every rape trial. Rape victims are forever imprisoned by their horrific experience, therefore rapists deserve very lengthy prison sentences.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.