Returning to Normalcy Post Trauma
For one of my master’s units this year I’m writing a thesis. I’ve chosen a creative one at that because well, it’s me. I write fiction and I love the creative freedom that comes with. Having said that, even though the thesis project is a creative one there is still very real research that goes with it.
The topic itself is “returning to normalcy post sexual trauma”.
When we think of rape we think of a dark alleyway or poorly lit park at night by a violent stranger. We think about a weapon wielding monster. We think of caring doctors or police officers reassuring the victim that it wasn’t their fault. Now here’s the thing. Only 11 per cent of the rapes that occur in Australia are by an unknown male. So that leaves a staggering 88 per cent of offenders listed as husbands, boyfriends, friends and other known males.
So how, if at all, does someone return to normalcy following an event which can still questioned by those first responders whom they turn to help for? In the research I’ve completed thus far, the main and quite frankly horrifying commonality is the notion that victims are still being questioned and, in some cases, blamed. Perhaps there was failure in communication, intoxication or mixed signals, some indication that the victim contributed to the event in some way.
Date Rape: A Hidden Crime by Laura Russo delves into the often-underreported crime.
Because of its ambiguity very few cases of this nature are reported and even less result in trial and/or conviction. “Date rape is a type of sexual assault where the victim and the offender are in, or have been in, some form of personal social relationship, ranging from a first date to an established relationship.” Russo explains and because of the often ‘non-violent’ nature of the attack, victims are left confused and often revert to self-blame. This mentality is ingrained into us from TV shows, movies and professionals in the field of medicine, law and law enforcement.
No dark alley and stranger = not rape.
Russo goes on to say, “the normalisation of sexual coercion in intimate relationships is one of the main reasons date rape is not recognised as a serious problem,” and in saying that we see where the real gap in our social setting lies. This mindset hasn’t really shifted for decades yet the numbers keep growing and the persecuted cases, diminishing.
The stigma associated with being a victim of sexual assault is what often driven victims into silence or, if they’ve confided in someone, recanting. The ridicule added pressure of a potential trial and risk of not being believed often outweigh the positive reasons for women coming forward. As Russo explains “The traditional police response to sexual assault in Australia included sometimes insensitive, inappropriate, or inadequate treatment of victims”. It paints an even clearer picture of the long and painful path a victim must navigate.
In conclusion, finding a sense of normalcy after surviving sexual assault can be almost impossible for many victims. The mindset of self-blame is the hardest one to shift however it’s the most important one to work on to ensure favourable outcomes for victims.