Why We Must Learn How To Support Rape Survivors

Posted by Reeti Singh in Sexism And Patriarchy, Society
January 8, 2017

Amidst all this violence against women, where is the conversation regarding rehabilitation of survivors? While it is wonderful to clarify that #NotAllMen rape, do our men know how to cope with assaults that women face in terms of providing support?

We do not know and are never told how to cope with rape. Neither are we ever taught how to respond to rape in terms of providing support. We try, we all do. But with time, persons supporting women survivors do give up. More often than not, survivors of sexual assault wallow not in the trauma caused by the assault but end up suffering the trauma of feeling abandoned by their loved ones, because perhaps apart from family, others rarely have any obligation or conscience to provide long-term support.

I wonder when will all the men who do not rape learn to provide long-term support to the victims. Men need to understand women, our symbols, our anxieties, our ties with the other sex. While #NotAllMenRape, #NotAllMenKnow how to provide sustainable and unflinching support either.

The fault is not perhaps with the men themselves. It is probably a problem because since we were young, rape has always remained a taboo topic. Something not talked about and something women are not taught to respond to. If rape is so rampant in the world out there, your children need to be familiar with the horrors of its aftermath as a reality, not as a Bollywood heroine story of recovery. They need to see it as their duty to help out survivors of rape. It is not only in newspapers and television news flashes that people should hear about sexual assault.

My indication is not towards very young children, but older children. Perhaps before you send your children out to face the world, maybe when they are old enough to go to college, do teach your children how to respond to and support women who are bearing the aftermath of sexual assault of any kind. And there are numerous such women everywhere. Or at least teach them how to support those suffering trauma of any kind.

In a day and age, where personal interaction is quickly getting reduced to almost nothing on an everyday basis, women are often left with the option of resorting to textual support or can post their feelings on social media sites. When all the hashtagging stops, the protests stop, supportive persons keep their phones down and carry on with their daily lives. As it is inevitable for people lending support to live their own lives. When the protesters go home and the people who hashtag focus on the importance of keeping hashtags going (I do not deny that this is important since it definitely opens up consciousness as well as awareness), what is left with women who have been subjected to sexual violation? They have nobody to talk to. On some occassions, they are not able to do anything about it.

I am currently pursuing a PhD in the area of sexual violations, and from the experience of it so far, I find that survivors almost always crave for someone to talk to. Survivors do want their perpetrators either dead or in jails, but survivors don’t often go home and go to sleep and wake up the next day and start on a completely new page.

Trauma memories are vicious and repetitive. As a population, we need to learn how to respond in supportive ways to the survivors. When the issue of women’s safety is a national crisis, rehabilitation also needs to quickly become a national concern.


Image source: Sodanie Chea/ Flickr