It is generally assumed that women are largely incapable of dealing with danger or physical violence. Thus, there are the onset and severity of physical illness relationship between the life and human behavior change experienced by an individual. Since rape is a crime against women primarily; given this assumption, it would follow that most rape victims would be more traumatized than victims of other violent crimes.
Secondly, women are traditionally viewed primarily in connection with concerns, which center on their sexuality in terms of their roles as lovers, wives and mothers. Because women are seen in this way, it is commonly assumed that they have a greater stake in matters concerning sexuality in the broadest sense than men do. So, for example, all issues concerning reproduction are thought of as “women's issues”, despite the recognition by all, but the most primitive peoples, that men play an essential role in the reproductive process. Indeed, it is often assumed that women have more of a stake in sexual matters than they do in any other concerns.
Most women take strong exception to being regarded as “sex objects”. What is often thought to be objectionable about this role is the suggestion of passivity; the implication that one is an object, which is used for sexual purposes rather than a subject of sexual experience. But “there is something even more objectionable about the idea of being a “sex object”, namely the suggestion that one is primarily a sexual being” (Burt et al.,1987), a person whose most important interests are connected to the genital area and the reproductive system and with roles that are tied up to one's sexuality.
If these are, indeed, the reasons why rape is seen as supremely harmful to women, then it follows that the suggestion, that rape is the worst harm that can befall a woman, is a consequence of sexist assumptions about the character and interests of women. Rape, like all other crimes of violence, constitutes a serious harm to the victim. Nevertheless, to consider it the most serious of all harms is no less sexist than to consider it no harm at all.
Anyway, there is a necessity to emphasize the need for assessment of potential psychological damage to the victim in all cases. Some of the first calls which rape crisis centres receive when they become operational are from women raped 20 years before, who have never had any counseling help but who exhibit proved psycho sexual difficulties (Griffin, 1991). The question of where to refer a rape victim for counseling is indeed difficult; perhaps, the doctors with psychosexual training might see this as a way of extending their present valuable work. The majority have not reported their rape to the police and express horror at the court proceedings as one reason for non-reporting. Many had never visited a doctor and some victims had never told their families or husbands about the attack.
The victims of crime have traditionally been considered to be no more than evidence that, all too often, ruined a perfectly good case for prosecution by being uncooperative, too afraid, or bothersome with their requests for information or assistance. Indeed, practitioners, psychologists have ignored the trauma of crime victims until very recently. Even now the greatest amount of research on victimization concerns victims of rape with almost no attention being paid to victims of other types of crime.
There are no important differences in psychological behavior of women, who have been raped by strangers versus those, who have been raped by acquaintances. Women, who have been raped by acquaintances, exhibit as much fear and depression as those, who have been raped by strangers. It should be noted though, that the assessment battery does not include measures of self-blame or problems with trust; problems that might occur in a different way in victims of stranger or acquaintance rape. However, there is a very high rate of self-blame in rape victims overall (Burt et al., 1987). Miller and Porter (Miller et al., 1983) have pointed out that rape victims are not blaming themselves for the assailants' actions, but rather for being victims, for being an "occasion" for rape. In an acquaintance situation, the victim may question her own judgment and trust in people. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that women who are raped by someone they know are traumatized no less than stranger-rape victims.
But primarily, the rape victims have much more problems with fear and anxiety than non victims. Many researchers have found the long-term sexual dysfunctions of sexually-assaulted women. For instance, 57% of rape victims have reported sexual dysfunctions compared to only 11 % of non-assaulted women. Also chronic marital problems among the majority of 43 married rape victims have been found. Maladjusted relationships have reported in 72 % of these couples (Brownmiller, 1995).
Women who are raped can endure serious psychological trauma. Nevertheless, the trauma experienced by women varies, and there is evidence as to which variables correlate with the degree of deleterious impact, such as the disposition of the victim to blame herself for the attack and the severity of the assault.
If, for instance, a rape victim has certain sensibilities which make non-consensual sex, or some particular sexual act, especially horrifying or abhorrent to her, then she suffers a contingent harm which others without those sensibilities do not suffer. Or again, if the society to which a rape victim belongs attaches a certain significance to a woman’s loss of honor, then she may suffer contingent harms, such as social ostracism and exclusion, which women outside that society would not.
When a person is attacked, she/he has a physical emergency reaction. This “fight-or-flight” reaction includes increased heart rate and respiration. Blood leaves nonemergency organs (e.g., stomach, intestines, liver), and travels to the arms and legs to get ready to fight or flee (Williams, 1988). The person may actually experience a strong physical sensation as the blood leaves the brain and stomach. Normally, if someone actually fights or runs, she would not be aware of her heart pounding, the rapid breathing and so forth. However, in a crime situation the victim is normally unable to fight or flee because of the use of weapons or greater physical strength. Therefore, the victim feels the impact of adrenaline which is not used. The pounding heart, feeling faint, and hyperventilation add to the experience of terror and helplessness. Many victims also describe feelings of unreality or de-personalization (the feeling that they are outside of themselves watching the event). Apparently, when emotions become too intense, the mind is able to shut them down to some extent. This state of emotional shock is what medical personnel often witnesses in the first few hours after the incident. The victim acts perfectly calm as though nothing traumatic had happened. The victim may not experience the flood of emotions until she feels safe again.
Classical conditioning, another survival mechanism, appears to occur more easily when someone is experiencing the fight-or-flight emergency reaction. Classical conditioning is the pairing of previously neutral cues with reflexes and emotions. For example, if someone becomes sick after eating some food, the sight, smell or even thought of that food may elicit nausea in the future. In a life threatening and terrifying event such as rape, all of the cues that are present during the assault may become automatically paired to the feelings of terror and imminent danger (Griffin, 1991). Common cues in sexual assault situations are being alone, darkness, being indoors or outdoors, or the sight of a weapon. Some cues may be idiosyncratic to a particular crime, e.g., smell of gin, ski masks or blue pickup trucks. Conditioned cues may be auditory (the sound of the assailant's voice), tactile (being touched), olfactory (body odors), or even temporal (Fridays or awakening at 4:00 a.m.) as well as visual.
In the days and weeks that first follow the assault, whenever cues are present in the environment, the victim experiences flashbacks and terror reactions automatically. She begins to learn to avoid situations, where those cues are likely to be present. Therefore, the rape victim may avoid leaving her house after dark, may refuse to be at home alone, stop dating or avoid sex with her partner. Unfortunately, the avoidance prolongs the fears (Griffin, 1991). By avoiding what she perceives as danger (which are really reminders of the crime event), she does not learn that she will not always be raped again when she is in situations similar to the crime event (or in dissimilar situations in which cues are likely, such as having sex with her partner or being alone anywhere). The cues do not have the opportunity to fade, but instead crystallize into phobias over time. So while the depression and mood swings caused by the initial trauma and upheaval tend to fade and stabilize after a few months; the fear and anxiety continue unabated until the victim breaks up her avoidance patterns and confronts the feared cues by her own efforts, with the help of family and friends, or through therapy.
Another ordeal and behavior change following the rape are triggered by a sense of self-blame for what happened. Rape victims generally share an early individualistic reaction%u2015”Why me?” instead of “What made him to do it? (Brownmiller, 1995)” Even though the second question may later be asked, most women learn to turn blame inward against themselves and not outward toward others or against society.
In addition to the lasting fear and self-blame, there is a more diffused damage to victim’s ego (Griffin, 1991). According to the researches, victims of rape said that immediately after the rape they were overwhelmed with self-recrimination (Williams, 1988).
Although the majority of women cope in the end, some suffer a period of shock, confusion, nervousness and depression. Depending upon certain circumstances, the intensity of the victim’s feelings varies.
Hence, victims sometimes believe that by having been raped, they have disgraced themselves, their spouses, family, or friends. The feeling of having brought disgrace upon themselves and their loved ones can lead victims to having the desire to compensate those whom they believe they have dishonored. Such compensation can take the form of being especially nice, being a good girl, learning her lesson, proving her chastity and womanly virtue (Miller et al., 1983), or at any rate, proving she is not a slut. The desire to make it up to those who were disgraced or disappointed by the victim is the desire to compensate those, whom the victim believes were morally compromised or let down by her rape.
In many rapes the victim did not play a significant causal role in bringing about the incident. In these cases the victim unjustly blames herself, wrongly takes responsibility, and undergoes misplaced agent-regret because she is not responsible for the incident. Her attempted justification of self- blame amounts to an ex-post-facto rationalization. In these cases the victim falsely believes she is causally and morally responsible. She also believes, perhaps truly, that she could and should have prevented the rape by acting otherwise, for example, by not letting an acquaintance into her house to use the telephone (Miller et al., 1983). In her mind this belief, too, justifies the self-blame. These beliefs prevent her from blaming the truly responsible person or persons and keep her from recognizing her own moral status and emotional needs. Her attempts at restoration or restitution are deeply misdirected.
In addition to the conditioned component of the trauma reaction, there is a cognitive component based on the beliefs that the victim brings into the situation and beliefs she has concerning the manner in which other people react to her. Most people have certain beliefs about rape and those who get raped (Burt et al., 1987). If a woman believes that only provocative women are raped, then, when she is raped, she may wonder what she could have done (perhaps unconsciously) to provoke such an attack. Many people believe in the “just world hypothesis,” that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people (Brownmiller, 1995). Victims find it preferable to accept blame (and therefore, guilt) than to believe that events may occur just by chance. Other people prefer to blame the victim for the event than admit that such a catastrophe could and might happen to them. If events are random then the world appears less predictable and more dangerous. No one wants to believe that their life may be entirely beyond their control.
The effects of the blame-the-victim attitude are far reaching. Not only does it affect the victim's self-esteem and self-evaluation directly but affects everyone who encounters the victim; the police, medical personnel, court officials, and jurors. The people she encounters may reinforce the idea that she was somehow to blame for the attack by the way they treat her and how they phrase their questions. Such self-blame may initially help the victim to regain a sense of control over confusing world. However, too much self-blame or blame imposed by others may cause permanent problems with guilt, self-esteem, and trust.
Therefore, a life-change event is conceptualized as an occurrence that induces or is associated with a modification in the individual's accustomed way of life. The explanation is that changing life situations, which require adaptive behavior on the part of the individual, evoke significant alterations in the psychophysiological system of the person, which in turn lower resistance to illness. Although other researchers have disputed their view, especially with regard to mental illness that the critical factor in predicting health change is the degree to which the life event requires the individual to change and adapt; whether the person evaluates the life change as positive (as in the case of marriage, receiving a promotion or raise, going on vacation) or negative (as in divorce, death in the family, going to jail) is not important if the magnitude of change evoked is similar.
To conclude, the level of rape impact is defined as the degree to which the person is affected by victimization. Some victims may be extremely affected by the assault and related events; others experience only a relatively mild response. Although a gradual decrease in the level of rape impact might be predicted over time, some victims have a relatively low level of impact shortly after the attack and then later become acutely affected. To repeat, the concept of rape impact refers to the effects of the assault on the victim's life. The victim's concerns may be physiological (e.g., about medical injury, venereal disease) or social-psychological (e.g., depression, phobias, interpersonal problems). The concept of rape impact includes both the crisis, and immediate reaction to the rape, and also the long-term effects of the assault on the victim. It refers both to relatively direct effects of the rape and to more indirect consequences.