Sex After Rape -- Victims' Coping Tactics
The question: Do rape victims become promiscuous in response to the trauma?
The answer: Let's just say running out and having retribution sex is hardly the first thing on their minds. This hub is written primarily from my own experience, with some generally accepted guidelines thrown in. If you read through the many comments, you will see that some women do react to the trauma of rape by becoming sexually indiscriminate.
Whatever your own (or your loved one's) reaction in the aftermath of rape, I hope you will find some solidarity and healing here.
My Favorite Book By a Rape Victim
One Rape Does Not Fit All
First of all, rape is an equal opportunity crime. Women of all ages, races, builds, income levels, education levels, and temperaments get raped. They might be sleeping in their bed, or walking home from work, or partying in a fraternity when the rape occurs. They may or may not know their attacker(s).
In short, you can't easily classify all victims pre-rape. In addition to the above, some women who get raped are virgins. Some are married. Some are sexually active, but within normal limits. Some "promiscuous" women do end up getting raped, too. But the victim's sexual history is not the issue. You see, rape is not -- despite what popular opinion, movies and courtroom dramas would have you believe -- a sexaul crime. It's a crime of RAGE and POWER. It's an overpowering of a woman using sexual force as the weapon.
A rape victim may be sexually active before her rape. She will probably, at some point, be sexually after the rape. The fact is, however, the rape itself will cause a major -- if temporary -- disruption in her sexual functioning. Because it will cause a major -- if temporary -- disruption in her functioning period.
Rape Recovery Resources
Jody Foster as Rape Victim
Paralyzed by Fear
My particular rape was perpetrated by a total stranger who cut the screen of my girlfriend's second floor apartment. I was spending the night with her after a fun evening hearing live music. This was before the era of cell phones. He did make sure we understood he would cut our throats and the phone line if we didn't cooperate.
The specifics of what he demanded and how we finally got him out of the apartment are irrelevant. Well, not irrelevant, but irrelevant to this hub. The important thing is he left, we ran upstairs to safety and called the police, and (blessedly) they sent both a male and a female officer.
I remember the police drilling into us (in prep for the grand jury hearing) the mantra "paralyzed with fear." As in, "Yhy didn't you go and check on your friend in the other room?" "I was paralyzed with fear." "Why didn't you rush him and run out?" "We were paralyzed with fear." Etc.
Surely we were paralyzed with something similar to fear for about 3 days following the rape. We retreated to my apartment where we alternately slept, drank copious amounts of wine, and chain smoked cigarettes. When we finally got up the courage to go back over to her apartment we were shivering. Irrational as we knew it was, we expected to find "him" waiting for us there.
Near-Term Coping Mechanisms
In the hours and days following a rape (and trust me, the rape does not have to involve vaginal penetration for this to be the case) pretty much the last thing you will feel like having is sex.
You feel dirty, fouled, crushed and bruised (emotionally if not physically). The sense of vulnerability is overwhelming. You may want to sit down in a scalding shower and scrub your skin to remove the feeling of filth.
There's also the rape kit to contend with. Imagine your body and clothing being culled as evidence. Yeah. CSI My crotch. Even more intrusive (for me) was getting jabbed in the buttocks with a tetanus shot and being forced to take the morning-after pill. Merely routine, they told me. Not for me, it wasn't.
A resource for abuse and rape victims
FREE Rape Counseling from a Hubber
- anjegirl on HubPages
Anjegirl is a hubber trained as a rape counselor. As you will read in several comments, she has helped others and would love to hear from you. Check her out. MM
But the Trauma Is Universal
Although the circumstances surrounding rape are virtually unlimited, it is a universally traumatizing crime for its victims. Women who live through rape go through the familiar stages of grieving: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally, if they're "lucky"(see book above), Acceptance. Another categorization of the grief of rape victims that rings quite true in my experience is this:
1. Numbness (mechanical functioning and social insulation)
2. Disorganization (intensely painful feelings of loss)
3. Reorganization (re-entry into a more 'normal' social life.)
Ideally, the reorganization and re-entry into a more normal social life will include normal sexual functioning. The sexual partners of rape victims are essentially victims, too. Through no fault of their own, they end up having to help their partner pick up the pieces of her life.
Chat with other survivors here
- Rape & Sexual Abuse Survivor Message Board, Online Support & Chat Room
Online support group, message board & chat room for rape, sexual assault & sexual abuse survivors / victims. Join the message board for help after rape and sexual abuse. Also includes articles on sexual violence.
Rape: The Aftermath
Our case had a happy ending. Our rapist went to prison. Notwithstanding, my friend insisted the landlord install metal bars on her windows. She never felt completely at ease in her apartment again.
We both received rape counseling. I don't remember it being particularly effective. But then again, I had a pretty strong denial system working for me in those days.
So how did this experience affect my sex life? For me, I'd have to say it didn't. But my friend was traumatized for a long time.
All Purpose Rape Crisis Links
A helpful resource suggested by gmwilliams
Is your rapist a SOCIOPATH?
Rape vs. Abuse
Now it is true that women who endure systematic sexual (or even emotional or physical) abuse from men can become hyper-sexual as a result. It's not uncommon for exotic dancers and prostitutes (for example) to report being abused in their pasts. Turning the tables on men, so to speak, is a way to regain their sexual power.
Promiscuity is also a common response to abuse. Girls who grow up equating their self-esteem with allowing men to "have them" sexually often repeat this pattern as adults. It's what they know.
But these examples represent responses to established patterns. Rape is different. Rape is a one-time shock to the system. Yes, it's horrible. It's violent. And it does involve sex -- unwanted, unbidden sex. But does it alter the victim's basic view of her sexuality? Short term, absolutely. Long term, I'd argue that rape does not make women promiscuous. If anything, it may make us more circumspect and reserved about our sexuality.
A Sad Response All Around
Rape and Self-Esteem
As I said above, my rape was in many ways "best case scenario." I didn't get beat up, I didn't get pregnant. I didn't have to worry for more than about 5 seconds if or what I might have done to bring this on myself.
But most rape victims don't get away so easy. The rape itself is degrading enough. Too often the victim gets dragged through the mud all over again. Her reputation may become tarnished (think college campus). Her sexual history may be put on trial by the defense (think Kobe Bryant). Even family and friends may come at her with surprisingly caustic "analyses" of what she must have done "wrong" or even why doesn't she just get "over it" and "move on."
There's no doubt self-esteem takes a hit. Whatever you were before the rape, you now have a new identity: RAPE VICTIM. The key is whether you allow this new label to define you long-term or if you do everything in your power to heal and move on.
If you are in a sexual relationship when the rape occurs, it may take time for you and your partner to re-establish pre-rape intimacy. Don't be surprised if your first time back in the saddle brings up a range of emotions. Be gentle with yourself.
If you are not in a partnership, you have the choice to tell or not tell future partners about your rape -- including full vs. partial disclosure of the gory details.
Rape Crisis Resources for Partners
The Opposite Reaction = Promiscuity
Although it was not my personal reaction, promiscuity can be a reaction to a brutal rape. Several commentors have noted this, so I am hereby amending my hub to include it.
Last night I watched a disturbing movie called "The General's Daughter" based on a book by Nelson DeMille. I don't wish to give away the twisty ending, but suffice to say, it involves a gang rape and the victim's subsequent response. It's a bit over-the-top in terms of the Freudian aspects, but does raise an interesting point about how others' reactions to the victim's experience can make or break her recovery. Boyfriends, husbands, family members, counselors and clergy -- take note!