It is my opinion that a person does not need to have had sex to have been raped. Legally the term rape involves coercion and penetration. Although I am not sure the term “emotional rape” actually exists in the world of psychology, I believe it perfectly describes a common occurrence.
If I were to define “emotional rape” I would describe it this way: when a man/woman is manipulated into believing they are loved and once trust has been gained it is stripped from them using tactics such as control and humiliation. I also believe “emotional rape” can happen when two strangers meet and one person uses his/her position to harass, dominate, and humiliate the unsuspecting victim. I know from experience that the emotional scars are often much worse than the physical ones, probably because the wounds can’t be seen making treating them harder.
Instead of emotional rape the world uses the term emotional abuse BUT I prefer emotional rape because it speaks to the damage done to a person after the occurrence. I feel emotional abuse is something that happens over long periods of time whereas the term rape implies a rather abrupt occurrence.
When someone is physically raped I think one the most important catalyst for healing is having a safe place to confess and talk. Just as it is important for physical rape it is important for anyone who has gone through a traumatic emotional episode. If you are a friend and someone comes to you with a bad experience it is important to have compassion. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and try to empathize. By being kind and selfless for a small chunk of time you could help replace a person’s shame with a healing peace. Do the opposite and you could be adding insult to injury making it much more difficult for the victim to heal.
Today my personal friend, Sarah Bale, has put into words her experience with what I call “emotional rape”. She had tears in her eyes as she recounted her experience to me in the middle of a busy restaurant. My heart ached that she felt shame, that she – for even one minute – believed some of the things she was told, or that she felt that she had no right to feel violated since she had not actually been physically raped. My contention is that she was put in a position that made her feel afraid and because the word “no” wasn’t penetrating her perpetrators mind (and if it was it was causing him pleasure to see her squirm) she was violated.
She sought comfort and found little in those around her. I am sad to say I was one of those people that offered little comfort.
Sarah, I love you and I am sorry I was not a better friend the night you texted me. I hope this post finds others who have had the same experience who will find strength in your confession, and I hope you find some comfort among them.
SHAMED By Sarah Bale
One of the worst things I could ever imagine happened to me about a year ago. The Incident (as I call it) left me feeling hurt, scared, dirty, and disgusted…with myself and with others around me. I was physically okay for the most part, but the emotional side has killed me. My mind has truly been my worst enemy as I’ve tried to move on.
I have random moments when I see a guy who looks like THE GUY and my heart pounds to the point I can’t breathe. I shake. I want to vomit. I can’t think. All I can do is freeze and silently scream. Then I realize it’s not the same person and the tension slowly leaves my body. But the feelings don’t.
The strange thing is when I TRY to think about THE GUY – what he looks like- I can’t remember anything other than he had a shaved head and tattoos, which I can’t even describe. So it’s strange to me that when I see someone who reminds me of him that I have such a strong reaction. I guess somewhere inside my mind I DO remember.
Trying to deal with what happened hasn’t been easy. I’ve wondered the normal things. Why me? Did I look like an easy target? Why didn’t my friends come check on me? How could they still want to stay when I was upset? Why did they leave me alone afterward? (I know I said I was okay but they should have all seen I wasn’t). Why didn’t I call the cops?
There are a few things that stand out about that night. The way he smelled (Not in a good way). The way he walked me back to the table like nothing happened. A few of my friends trying to rally around me to protect me even though the damage was done. The wild fear I felt. Scrubbing my chest and face in a one-stall bathroom that was so dirty it made me vomit. And even putting Dial Soap in my nose to get rid of HIM.
Then there was the aftermath.
In my darkest moment I turned to those I thought I could count on. And I heard things over a period of time I thought I would never hear.
“What did you expect at a place like that?”
“I don’t know why you’re so upset… it’s not like you had to go to the hospital.”
“Thing went further than you were comfortable with and maybe you overacted.”
“You’re upset because of other deep rooted issues.”
These were actual things said to me… by people who are supposed to have my back. It hurt more than I thought possible. I changed because of those comments.
The biggest thing I’ve learned from this is to listen to your gut. If I had THE INCIDENT would’ve never happened. I wouldn’t feel such shame. I wouldn’t be leery of men and their motives.
I can honestly say I’m better now…almost a year later. I still have my bad moments. But that’s okay because now I know who I can turn to and who I can trust. I know the ones who have my back and will fight for me. And most importantly I know it’s okay to be broken… because you can also be healing at the same time.