Rape is defined as forced sexual intercourse (meaning vaginal, anal, or oral penetration by the offender), which may include psychological coercion as well as physical force (BJS, 2012). Women disproportionaltely account for a majority of all completed and attempted rape victimizations relative to men. Female college students in particular have been noted as a group with the highest risk factor for rape; with a victimization rate of about 1 in 4 (26%) and 29.4% of women victims’ aged 18-24 years at time of first rape.
Despite the fact that service utilization (formal help-seeking a counselor, mental health professional, rape crisis centre, and police reporting) has been shown to deter the negative symptoms following rape, few victims of rape receive assistance from a victim service agency or report the incident to the police. Instead, rape victims are more likely to disclose the event and seek help from an informal source such as a family member, a spouse/romantic partner, friend, or acquaintance.
Though traditionally seen to have a positive impact on victims’ mental health, informal social support may play a different role in rape victims with high levels of alcohol involvement or among those who have experienced an alcohol-involved rape.
In this regard, current measures of social support fail to examine the factors that prompt victims to utilize their social support system and the role that alcohol use may play in victim’s disclosure and recovery process.
Does social support act as a barrier to help-seeking behavior? Is help seeking behavior with regards to formal treatment only barred in individuals with alcohol involvement?
Several studies utilizing a mixed approach of data collection and analysis have established that the perceptions surrounding social support during disclosure of a rape are often very different between supporters and victims. Victims themselves more often report feeling uncomfortable or guilty because of their own acceptance of rape myths, which often appears to hinder them from further help-seeking.
However, victims appear to be prompted to disclose to an informal social support when they feel ready to talk and are provided with a comfortable environment, but both victims and supporters feel that supporters are unprepared to provide sufficient aid and that the support provided during the disclosure may be inadequate.
Public health professionals have emphasized the importance of offering treatment and victim services for rape victims due to the documented prevalence and incidence of mental health problems within this particular population. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are the most common mental health issues experienced by rape victims. Rape victims report experiencing and average of five pr more poor mental health days than those who have not been victimized. Problem drinking has also been found to be highly correlated with rape and mental health problems among rape victims.
How then does one proceed- especially when there are complicating factors such as alcohol involvement?
Seeking professional help (a counselor/a psychologist) goes a long way towards dealing with the core issues and events surrounding the rape. Additionally, seeking professional help provides one with a chance of proper diagnosis and proper intervention for any mental health issues that may arise from the rape (MDD, Anxiety and PTSD). Finally, professionally run support groups introduces such individuals to others who have gone through similar experiences and can relate to the struggles surrounding navigating the challenges of day-to-day life after the rape. In the end, individuals get to work positively through their thoughts and emotions, while building networks that in the end become a strong part of their support system.
Are you seeking professional help? Are you looking to join a support group? Haven C&M Services has a team of experienced psychologists looking to walk you through your journey from being a victim of rape, towards becoming a survivor of rape.
For more information, visit our website at www.havenservices.co.ke