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Support them! Counselling therapist says family, friends should rally around rape victims

Published:Saturday | November 12, 2016 | 11:00 AMCecelia Campbell Livingston

"Rape is the only crime in which the victim is doubly violated, first by the attacker, and then by society. It is the only crime in which social, religious, and cultural core attitudes of society turn upon the victim. In rape, society tends to blame or accuse the women."

- Rape: The First Sourcebook for Women

When a woman has been raped, she, unfortunately, must deal with some harsh realities. For many of the victims, they find no solace in fellow females or even their own family members. They are made to feel as if 'they brought it on themselves' by the dress mode or somehow by their actions.

Many women who have been violated in this way sometimes take the easy but painful way out and do not report the crime as they fear being placed under society's microscope and being found wanting.

Guilt, feelings of being powerless, depression, and other emotions will prevent her from opening up to even those she trusts, making the act an even harder burden to carry.

It is even more difficult when the rape is carried out by a member of the family or someone close to the victim. It is sad, but some mothers and other family members prefer to keep the matter hush-hush, fearing 'shame and scandal' in the family, while for some mothers, the thought of losing out on the main breadwinner means shutting up the victim.

This forces many victims to suffer in silence and in the end doing more harm to themselves than good.

Family and Religion reached out to Kerrian Johnson of KJ Counselling Therapy, who stressed the importance of proper support for rape victims.

"The effects of rape can be long term. This all depends on the support given and the individual willingness to receive and accept help.

For her, the main task is getting the victim to love herself again as rape is not just a physical violation, but one that the mental aspect of the individual and must be dealt with carefully. "Areas affected are self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, trust, and, of course, the many "what if's" that follow. She will be able to love herself again but has to go through the healing process," said Johnson.

According to Johnson, family and friends can be supportive of a victim, but the last thing she will need is someone who passes judgment.

"Don't do the blame game, and allow the individual time and space to heal. Be supportive even if you think it could have been avoided. Give comfort, knowing she is going through a rough time. Encourage her to seek help - counselling," she points out.

Understanding

If the victim is not ready to do any of those things, Johnson said the key thing is not to get impatient with her but understand that it will take time for her to seek a solution.

"This is where patience and understanding are a must. It is not easy to get into a rape victim's mind unless she really allow you to," said Johnson.

"Rape victims develop a process called "mind blocking" to help cope and live a normal life after the act. However, if you can convince the victim that you understand what she has been through and sympathise and gain her trust, then she will open up to you," she said, adding that this is the route family members and friends should take.

If that victim is married, Johnson shared that the husband would be called on to

exercise a lot of understanding, especially if she shies away from the act of sex.

"Getting with your partner after being raped can prove to be a hard task, however, as time goes by and both parties give and receive support, it will get better," she said.

Johnson said no matter how hard it is, victims must get help or they could see their lives being ruined forever.

"You will never live to your true potential. You will be alive, but just existing, not living. Don't not allow rape to be your life. Seek help needed and use what was meant to break you to make you stronger and better. Not a victim but a victor."

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.com