Inside The Mind of A Rape Victim| Mental Health Impact of Rape

By Arpita Adhya in Editor's Pick 04/02/2019

In India, rape is one of the most common crimes and just taking a quick look at the data will tell you, how quickly the number of rape cases being reported to the police is increasing every year.


Increased number of rape


According to Delhi Police Data, in the capital of the country, the reported number of rape cases against women have increased by 277% from 572 in 2011 to 2,155 in 2016, turning the city into one of the most dangerous places for women in India, News Click reported.


Yet the impact of rape in India or the general condition of the victims cannot be judged through the reported numbers of rapes every year or through the increasing awareness which makes its round in social media every now and then.


Psychological Impact


The impact of any kind of sexual assault is not just physical; in fact, the impact of a brutal sexual assault is much more excruciating on the mental health. According to The National Women’s Study, the aftermath of rape is most likely to cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), known as “an extremely debilitating disorder occurring after a highly disturbing traumatic event, such as military combat or violent crime.”


According to the study, PTSD is likely to occur in one in three of rape victims and for 11% victims, the effect remains for a lifetime, turning the trauma so severe that the victims can never get rid of it.


Apart from PTSD, rape victims are most likely to face depression which can also stay a lifetime, if not sought therapy and proper cure. The study reveals an alarming number of women, almost 21% of all rape victims face depression for their lifetime.




For a victim of rape, the turmoil of emotions occurs through different phases. Though for every individual, the timeline of the phases varies, we have broken down the phases from the most acute to the renewal phase to walk you through what happens in the inside of a mind of a rape victim.


Acute Phase


Generally, in the road to recovery, rape victims go through a number of phases. The first one is the acute phase where the impact is most severe as the victim can be numb, unwilling to make any human interaction, shocked and a myriad of other emotions like feeling guilty, afraid, powerless, ashamed, angry, depressed and non-responsive.


This phase can last until two weeks or a month, depending upon the individual’s circumstances. If the victim can’t communicate about the incident, the impact is likely to be more severe.


Adjustment Phase  


In the adjustment phase, the victim tries to cope with the incident in his/her own way and an effort to move past the incident can be seen. Often in this phase, victims overlook the need for therapy or counseling and show an unwillingness to talk about it.


Integration phase


The next phase can seem like a relapse as the victim would feel anxious and glimpses of the incident may return. Along with that, the numbness, an acute feeling of guilt and fear also overpower the victim. This is the time that a victim is advised to seek mental health support to help process it.


To understand the mental health impact of rape, we asked the professor of Psychology, Chandana Aditya to explain how the aftermath of a rape folds. She told Feministaa,

“For rape victims, the assault is not only physical. It also affects the self-esteem of the girl. Moreover, as there is a very strong social taboo regarding the issue, it is difficult to get social support and added humiliation and social isolation turns out to be the outcome. In that case, the girl should have to keep up her self esteem and confidence. Psychotherapy or counseling is very important at this point.”


The percussion of rape also depends upon the victim’s individual circumstances, for instance, if the perpetrator is a family member of someone that the victim previously trusted, the psychological effect can be a lifelong feeling of unsafety, even within the closed space of a home.


The Renewal Phase –


As every case of sexual assault is very sensitive, the therapy which is required for every case also differs. According to Professor Aditya, “

Since the incident of rape is a kind of trauma, therapeutic techniques based on behavior therapy and cognitive behavior therapy will be effective.”


The renewal phase is the last phase and it may take a year or several years to reach that stage. In this phase, you will start believing in life again, start living a healthier life and overcome the major impact of the assault.


Acknowledge Marital Rape


While talking about rape, we can not ignore the impact of marital rape. In India, marital rape is an issue known by everyone, but it has failed to be accepted as a criminal offense. Many believe, “marital rape” should not be considered “rape” at all. After all, in Indian dictionary of marriage, a wedding is taken as a license for a man to inflict lifelong sexual assault on the wife. According to National Family Health Survey, in India, 83% of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 have suffered sexual abuse by their current husband as the perpetrator, while 7% refers to a former spouse.


Owing to the complexities of the Indian legal system, in many cases, the victims of marital rape stay with the husband for their lifetime, enduring the unbearable agony for time immemorial.



So what happens to the victims who are not readily getting the access to therapy or unable to seek help? According to medical reports, a rape can turn a victim suicidal or causing the individual to source self-harm to their own body.


The road to recovery for any rape victim is prolonged and in many cases, depression and other mental health disorders keep coming back, making the tunnel even longer. But the most important thing to remember is to keep the faith in recovery and know it in the end, rape does not stain the pride of a victim. And it does not make the victim powerless. In most cases, rape is just a display of power and a victim of rape does not have to carry the “shame” of it all her/his life. It’s okay to fall back, to relapse, to experience all kinds of trauma. But at the same time, it is important to remember that only you can make an end to this. So soak up all the energy that you can to fight another day. After all the healing begins when you put your faith in it.

“And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.”


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