Rape is the most painful experience that could happen to any woman. Rape victims are always the biggest losers. “According to a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 16,507 adults, nearly one in five women has been a victim of rape or attempted rape and one in 71 men reports having been raped or the target of attempted rape,” says Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP. Furthermore, she said, “Rape is a violent crime. It brutally assaults the victim’s core self and the physical, psychological, neurological, and cognitive systems that integrate functioning.”
Being a rape victim myself, I was hurt and felt betrayed not just by my assailant but everyone who looked at me with their judging eyes. I not only lost my dignity, but also the people whom I used to trust. They judged me, and they blamed me point-blank until I believed it myself that it was my fault. I came to hate myself and blame myself for allowing the assault to happen. For a time, I became a bit harsh on myself, not letting anyone get close to me. I isolated myself and confined in my own pain. “People with a tendency to self-blame often struggle with overwhelming or otherwise painful and intrusive emotions. The most common emotions and mental states are shame, guilt, and anxiety, but it can also be loneliness, confusion, lack of motivation, aimlessness, paralysis, overwhelm, or constant alertness,” according to Darius Cikanavicius, a psychological consultant and a certified life coach.
I know I am not alone. Many victims of rape went through the same ordeal of self-blaming that hindered their path to healing from the agony of the experience. We let society dictate to us how we should feel and how we should react.
I have come to understand that I have to reconcile with myself and let go of the shackles that are dragging me down. I went to a psychologist who explained to me that victims of assault tend to blame themselves for what happened although they are very much aware that it was not their fault. Self-blaming occurs because the victim has become so affected that she has started to internalize what society is repeatedly telling her, which is called internalized victim-blaming.
No matter how advanced and knowledgeable we have become, we are still in the culture of victim-blaming, and it presents itself in various ways that are sometimes subtly unconscious. It is said to be a natural psychological reaction when a crime is committed against a person. Victim blaming is a weakness in each one of us because it tends to be our defense mechanism for the tragedy that happened to us. We always want to believe that we are in control of everything and that if we only knew how to take precautions, it would never have happened and we could have protected ourselves.
Victims heal differently, but the hardship to get past through it is the same, especially when dealing with self-blame. But with self-love, focus, and much effort, you can beat that demon named self-blame in you.
- Acknowledge and understand the situation with rational thinking. When you listen to victim-blaming, you will end up protecting your perpetrator. Do not believe what others say because of your behavior, your words, or the way you dress is not the reason why you were raped. No one wants to be raped or assaulted, but anybody can be abused no matter how they conduct themselves.
- Be aware when you are having self-blaming thoughts and address them directly. Identify whether the ideas are specific or general and where they are coming from – are these your own thought or someone or something reminds you of these ideas? Avoid whatever these ideas are and are sure to be emotionally ready before you confront them.
- When you are having the thoughts, keep on telling yourself that it was wrong, it was not your fault, and you never wanted it to happen to you.
- Try to focus your mind on something else. Reiterate to yourself that you’re on your way to healing and you’re doing a good job. Tell yourself, again and again, all the good things that you love about yourself. Remind yourself how good and how strong you are.
- Be with people who support you and help you heal. If the people in your community are trying to ruin you and add insult to the injury, try to relocate if possible. People who genuinely love you and are supportive of your situation can help you heal faster and will sustain you whenever you are getting to the point where you cannot endure it any longer.
It is essential to be kind to yourself whenever you are starting to feel like blaming yourself again. Trying to forget those judging words is difficult, and you may not always do it right. When that happens, be gentle with yourself and get yourself back on track to healing.
Joining support groups can help you get past the pain. They are the people who will understand you more than anyone because they’ve been through the same. Make sure to regularly see your therapist so you can tell him how you feel and you can ask him things you can’t ask anyone else. Having a person by your side whom you can pour out all your emotions to will help you heal faster. “If you’re a survivor, your voice could be the most important tool in stopping child sexual abuse. Other survivors know the language of trauma and the pathways to healing. But anyone can help. Anyone be supportive. Anyone can stop abuse,” according to Sarah Newman, MA, MFA.
Reminding yourself always that it is not your fault and that you are a strong woman is enough to kick the feeling of victim-blaming in the butt. It is your happiness and wellbeing that is on the line, so keep up the energy, and have faith in yourself that you can do it because no one will do it for you.