Recently, there has been a lot of buzz around the ‘Amanda Berry’ story. Ariel Castro maintained his home as a prison for three young women, Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Georgina "Gina" DeJesus, holding them in seclusion and sexually assaulting them for his own pleasure. The National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault (SCESA) wants to remind our communities those survivors, and family members of survivors, of incest and other forms of sexual abuse may have a complex range of emotions about this news story.
Today join with me and encourage survivors to take care of themselves and remind your family and friends to be sensitive to the fact that seeing the news reports, or even talking about it in some cases, could be traumatic for survivors. Although every survivor you encounter will be unique, many will have one thing in common: Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS). Human beings respond to trauma in different ways. Although many rape survivors suffer from the symptoms of Rape Trauma Syndrome, not all survivors respond to rape in the same way - some rape survivors may have none of these symptoms and others may suffer only a few.
It is important to treat each rape survivor as an individual and to try and understand what the rape means to that particular person. A person's religion, culture, class, race and gender may affect how they feel about being raped. The impact of a rape may be worse if the victim is physically or mentally handicapped, if they were raped by more than one person, or on more than one occasion; and/or if they were raped by someone they knew. Coping with being rape may also be more difficult if family, friends and colleagues are not supportive and/or blame the survivor.
Rape survivors seem to experience different symptoms of Rape Trauma Syndrome over time. In the first couple of days immediately after a rape, a survivor usually experiences a state of shock. After this shock has passed, some survivors try to act as if nothing has happened. This is their way of trying to block out the rape, because they feel that they won't be able to cope if they let themselves remember what happened to them. So, they may look as if they have not been affected by the rape. This has been called the stage of denial or pseudo-adjustment.
The effects of rape are long term. Rape survivors never forget being raped, but many learn how to deal with the memory. Studies have shown that the symptoms suffered by a rape survivor three months after a rape usually continue over the next three to four years, although they do seem to improve over time.
Below is the PSA for RAINN produced by Nancy Mancini. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE.
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