You were violated and nobody can understand the agony that makes you sick to your stomach. It’s true. Only you know what happened to you and how it makes you feel; and when someone says “it’s going to be alright”, they don’t know what they are talking about.
If you’ve decided to pursue justice by taking the legal route, more power to you! It takes a lot of courage to come out into the world and say that I was raped and I’m willing to tell you all about it if it brings my rapists to justice. But legal proceedings take time. The trials, the apprehension and arrest, establishment of proof, testimonies and final judgment – can take months or even years. During this time there are concrete steps you can take to heal your body and mind.
I’ve tried to list here a few things you can do on your own to diminish the pain and recover from your traumatic experience. You’re not supposed to forget the pain. You have to go through it and past it.
Start a dossier.
Record each detail of the incident as and when it comes to you. You can even include information about the perpetrators in it, if you come across any, like occupation, place of residence, any prior convictions or criminal record etc. The emotional impact of the rape will cloud your memory and recall for a while so it is possible that at a later point you remember some details you forgot earlier. You can jot them down in this dossier. This serves a two-fold purpose. This dossier will be very useful to your lawyer in your trial because it will have minute details that you both might have overlooked while filing the case. Secondly, it will be cathartic in itself. By writing the whole incident and other details down, you are actually releasing the pent up emotions and pain on to the paper. This lets you feel a little lighter without having to share your most intimate thoughts with anyone.
Record physical evidence.
If you sustained any injuries during the rape, ask a friend to take pictures of them and store them in print and digital format. Because wounds will heal and the scars will fade till the time your trial comes through. So you will have a concrete proof of the damage done to you.
Do not blame yourself.
‘It happened’. Just leave the thought there. IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT. No woman ever invites rape. So contrary to what you might feel like telling yourself over and over again ( I shouldn’t have gone to that parking lot; I shouldn’t have been wearing that skirt; I shouldn’t have trusted that guy; I shouldn’t have taken that drink) , it really wasn’t your fault. You were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. The more you beat yourself up about it, the more you will prolong your trauma.
It wasn’t sex.
A rape is almost always about a power trip. That man attacked you because it made him feel in control. You could have been covered from head to toe and still enticed him. So it had nothing to do with how you were dressed or how you might have given him the wrong signals. Somehow you appealed to the control-monster inside him and he wanted to conquer you. That’s all.
Channel your anger.
It’s no doubt that anger is seething inside of you and you are writhing to do something about it. Two perfect channels to vent it – Art and Self Defense. Let your emotions pour out on paper or canvas. Don’t think about the form. Just let the colors fly to vent your pain. Alternatively, join a martial arts class. The rigorous training will exhaust your body and purge your heart and mind of the rage inside you. The more your rage, the better you will fight and learn. Gradually, this will also give you the courage to face the world again. Knowing that you now have the skills to tackle an attacker, you will not be afraid to get out alone which often becomes difficult after rape.
Keep realistic emotional defenses.
After rape, it is almost impossible to trust a man or let him touch you. And it is alright if you feel like you never want to date again. But DO NOT shut yourself out from relationships. The more you shy away from human contact, the more time you will take to heal. Be wary of new acquaintances but don’t flinch just because someone touched you to shake your hand.
See a therapist.
No matter what you tell yourself or what you feel, this is one knot you will not be able to unravel alone however you try. You need a confidant and a guide who can help you work through your feelings and pain because it is simply too difficult to do it alone and break the circle of guilt-anger-helplessness. A therapist is the only one who can view the incident objectively and can help you work with your emotions. And they do understand…they really do. Nothing can replace professional psychological advice and therapy. Counseling can give you a whole new perspective on your experience.If you cannot afford one, contact your regional women’s center or NGO and they will surely put you in touch with someone who can help.
These are just small pointers that can show you the way. The journey is yours to complete.
Has someone ever violated you? Any attack on modesty is as traumatic as rape. If there’s anyone out there who would like to share a similar experience(in anonymity if you prefer), you’re welcome in this circle of trust.
In India you can report a rape or molestation at the Crime Against Women Cell under Delhi Police. You will find the numbers here.