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How Rape Myths Affect Mental Health

By HERWriter
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rape myths have an effect on rape victims' mental health PS Productions/Photospin

By telling women that what they have experienced is not ‘legitimate’ rape, it is highly likely we will be increasing their levels of guilt, self-blame and depression. We are also making it less likely that women will report rape, fearing they will be judged and stigmatized.”

Tina B. Tessina, an author and psychotherapist, said in an email that the myth of the inability to conceive after rape promotes the idea that if a woman does give birth after a rape, then “she wanted it,” and it’s not really rape.

“Aside from the effect of making us angry because it's so stupid, these unfounded ideas are demeaning and belittling to women and their experience of being violated,” Tessina said. “They are designed to infuse women with doubt and guilt, which rape victims are already struggling with.”

Jonathan Miller, a master’s-level therapist, said in an email that rape victims already question how they could have prevented the rape, and have discordant emotions about the rape itself, so any myths only increase this internal conflict.

He added that research suggests that sometimes during rape, a woman’s body will lubricate and she may experience some physical pleasure, which only adds to the shame and guilt rape victims endure.

With comments about legitimate rape, women who suffer through rape might start to think that they actually did want the rape to happen, despite the emotional distress, because their bodies reacted in a normal way to penetration.

David Johnson, a marriage and family therapist and social worker, said in an email that introducing the concept of “legitimate rape” complicates the seemingly simple notion of what rape is.

“To introduce the word ‘legitimate’ as a qualifier of rape is to suggest there are different kinds of rape or different degrees of rape,” Johnson said. “I've known women and children who were raped by objects, a male organ never touching them. Is that a ‘non-sexual’ rape?

"I've known women who were raped after having something put into their drink and being rendered unconscious. Is that ‘unconscious’ rape?

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EmpowHER Guest

great writing until that last sentence...."put themselves into abusive situations over and over" seems to blame the victim again

September 6, 2012 - 6:57pm
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