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Mental Health Effects Of Rape On Victims And Strategies To Cope

What is Rape?

It is an unlawful, forceful, sexual activity taking place without the consent of

the victim who is incapable of giving legal consent due to various reasons including

intoxication, mental illness, minor status, etc.

It is a common societal notion that only women are victims of rape. However, some abusers

are women and have sexually assaulted men, even though a majority of the cases that are

reported are often about men abusing women. In addition to that, Rape can also occur in same-sex intercourse.

Victim Blaming

Imagine how would you feel if everybody were to blame you for some other person

inflicting harm on you. This is exactly what we call “victim-blaming,” where the person who

has been raped is blamed by society, family, or the judiciary for the mishappenings that

have occurred with the victim. This has various reasons including the social stigma revolving

around crime related to women, the patriarchal mindset of the society, a label of knowledge

related to gender and sexual orientation spectrum, trivializing sexual assault, scrutinizing

the situation and clothes of the victim, defining manhood as dominant and sexually

aggressive, etc.

Victim-blaming attitudes marginalize the victim/survivor and make it harder to come

forward and report the abuse. If the survivor knows that you or society will blame her/him

for the abuse, she/he will not feel safe or comfortable coming forward and talking to you

and bringing to light what has happened to them.

It is NOT the victim’s fault or responsibility in this situation; it is the abuser’s choice.

By engaging in victim-blaming attitudes, society allows the abuser to perpetrate relationship

abuse or sexual assault while avoiding accountability for his/her actions.

After Effects of Rape

The after-effects of rape include a cluster of physical and psychological effects on the

victims. Comprehensive care is required for the victims that take care of both long-term and

short-term effects. Treatment for Rape victims might be provided for the rest of their lives to the people who were victims of extremely violent rape or who were assaulted repeatedly at a very young


  • Physical Effects of Rape

Forced sexual intercourse usually causes visible bruising and bleeding around the vaginal

area and other parts of the body from violence. Sometimes, rape can end in pregnancy and

various sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis,

genital warts, et cetera. Victims of sexual violence also find it painful to have intercourse

with their significant other after the assault. In severe cases, there can be non-cancerous

tumors found in the muscle wall also called Uterine Fibroids.

  • Psychological Effects of Rape

One of the most common psychological effects is Self-blame, which is used as an avoidance-

based coping tool for the victims. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is also seen in many

of the victims, which includes severe feelings of stress and anxiety. The victim usually feels

powerless and feels that the rapist forcefully took control of their bodies.

The victim can also get flashbacks, nightmares, and memories of the incident as if it is taking

place again. The disintegration of any intimate relationship, that was present before the

assault can also cause affect the mental health of the victim. There are various therapies used for the treatment of sexual assault, which includes:

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy: in which the therapists may assist clients with recognising

and replacing the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their distress.

•Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR): is an interactive therapy used to

address trauma and reduce distress. It may involve tapping or moving the eyes from side to

side while discussing a difficult event.

Supportive Therapy: requires the therapists to help clients make sense of their emotions

and assist them in identifying the skills they can use to manage their symptoms.

There are times when the client is also facing other mental health issues like anxiety or

depression, for which the therapist can advise them to go to a psychiatrist who can provide

them with medication for the same.

Group Therapies: where people learn how to deal with trauma and grief are

also very helpful in such situations. Support groups are helpful too in such cases.

•Various other coping strategies and skills to calm one’s body include yoga, progressive

muscle relaxation, etc. These can help calm the body’s physiological responses (like a rapid


Many times, survivors of sexual assault often go to great lengths to escape from

remembering what happened. A therapist can help the client discover coping strategies

that will help them be able to face the situation. This can be a key component in managing

their fears and thoughts.

The victim needs to manage their intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and catastrophic

predictions. These are just a few ways by which a sexual assault may affect the daily thinking

of the victim. A therapist can help the discover coping skills to stop these thoughts or

address them so that they don’t take a toll on their psychological well-being.

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