With comments in the media about “legitimate rape” and surrounding myths, it becomes clear that more information needs to be spread about the actual definition of rape, how women truly suffer when they are raped, and the recovery methods available.
Sheela Raja, an assistant professor and clinical psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in an email that there are a few ways to define rape.
“The FBI defines rape as ‘any kind of penetration of another person, regardless of gender, without the victim's consent,’” Raja said.
“Rape is non-consensual, the victim is in discomfort, fear or feels intimidated (if they are conscious). As with any traumatic event, their bodily integrity is threatened by the very nature of the crime.”
There can be multiple mental health consequences from rape.
“Some consequences of rape include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and difficulty forming close relationships,” Raja said.
“Some survivors may cope with these painful feelings by smoking, overeating, drinking and other negative health behaviors, which of course take a toll on their short term and long term physical health.”
Rape victims do have a chance to heal through treatment and coping methods.
“Cognitive-behavioral treatments have a great deal of promise for women who are struggling with anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms,” Raja said.
“Treatments that are based on mindfulness techniques (that help you focus on the present moment) are very good in helping women re-build interpersonal relationships and manage difficult emotions. Finally, many women report that activism and community involvement can also help them heal from the trauma of rape.”
Tina B. Tessina, an author and psychotherapist, said in an email that rape victims can suffer from mental health consequences after experiencing such a violent act.
“They display the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) including nightmares, anger, grief, difficulty in future relationships and sexual connections, loss of self-esteem, Battered Women's Syndrome and other common leftovers of violence,” Tessina said.