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About Rape

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Why is Rape so Terrifying?

The fear that some deranged stranger, a criminal high on tik or booze, or even someone I know, could hurt me or my children – my daughters or my small son – in such an intimate way, that someone can choose to rob any child of her virginity, her dignity, her health and her life, is terrifying. As we research and build up answers to some of the questions we’re presenting on this blog, we’ll look at ways we can prevent rape – it won’t all be doom and gloom. But before we can tackle that range of questions we have to face the problem, the act, the aftermath, head on.

Not only is rape perpetrated by damaged criminals, but by our own educated sons, who may rape if they are brought up to “expect” sex, if they believe they can demand or “take” sex as their masculine right. We have to face the truth, that rape is terrifying – a psychological murder in a sense – and then mobilise ourselves as mothers, fathers, teachers, as neighbours, as a community, to take a stand against the accepted “culture of violence”. We have to face the fact that we may contribute in some way by ignoring fighting, bullying, the playing of violent games, or condoning the way we treat our daughters differently from our sons. A rapist could be the guy next door – why does he feel so inadequate, or even disempowered?

A large part of stopping rape lies in the responsibilities that we take on as we become parents – and the promise we make to nurture our children and to teach them right from wrong. We must make the concerted effort to teach our children that every person is born equal, whether male or female, and that every fellow human being is worthy of respect. Society at large, including government, must also take responsibility. If we insist on our right to safety and insist that we are protected by a functioning justice system, yes, we can empower ourselves and our children – the best way to remove rape from the equation.

What is Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS)? How will it make me feel?

Rape Trauma Syndrome is the medical term for the group of signs, symptoms and reactions of a rape survivor, first noted by medical practitioners in the USA during the 1970s. Rape is not only unwanted sex. It is a highly traumatic experience, an extreme violation of the person which can be life-threatening. This recognised Syndrome can be introduced as evidence in South African courts.

Like any other serious trauma, rape will have an affect on you. A long list of symptoms – normal reactions to abnormal stress – includes acute physical symptoms such as shock, nausea, vomiting, bleeding and infections from tears or cuts in the vagina and rectum, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection. The long-term effects of rape are similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and include a host of psychological and behavioural symptoms, such as crying, panic attacks, feelings of guilt, self-blame, humiliation and shame, but also anger, bouts of striking out, rage.


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