Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ezinne Akudo, Miss Nigeria 2013, Writes on How to Stop Rape and Help Victims Become Survivors

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About a year ago, I watched my friend go through the harrowing ordeal of trying to recover from rape; it was an experience that changed her life....and mine as well. Its easier to shrug off certain painful experiences when they happen to faceless names you neither know nor have a relationship with. Most of us don't really understand how horrific such things could be until it strikes close to home; a friend, a loved one, a family member.

One thing I haven't yet understood, despite my numerous pondering, is what the average rapist gains from inflicting such violence on another human being. How can a human being gain pleasure in debasing a lady while watching her go through hell in the process? I know there are all kinds of psychological, sociological and even spiritual explanations for why the mind of a man could be so warped as to engage in such dastardly acts. However, in the face of the reality of the effects on the victim, I must admit that my mind still has great difficulty in grasping any kind of explanation to justify such behaviour.

Everyday I see headlines of rape cases and I'm seriously grieved. Not just for the victims but also for our nation because it seems to me that this phenomenom has become an insatiable monster eating away at the fabric of our society and little is being done to curb its rampage. If you aren't fed up, I definitely am. Which brings me to the most important question of all: How do we stop this madness and help those who have been affected by it?

The key to dealing effectively with any issue is to first of all see it for what it is. Rape is one of if not the most brutal and atrocious gender-based form of violence that can be committed against women. Women are violated not just physically but also psychologically and apart from that, the devastating effects on rape survivors leave behind a complicated tangle of problems that make dealing with it a whole lot harder.

One of the major problems associated with rape cases is that victims who have survived rape ordeals are usually reluctant to speak about it for reasons such as the stigma attached to having been raped, the difficulties faced in obtaining a conviction, fear of being rejected by loved ones and family members, fear of public humiliation and the difficulty of giving a positive or accurate identification of the perpetrator. (It is important to know that in cases where the victim and perpetrator previously had a sexual relationship, the victim's chances of obtaining a conviction is diminished).

Despite these hurdles to openness, there are cases where the victim sometimes confides in another to ease the burden and often their first contact automatically takes upon the role of a counsellor. This may be a family member, friend, police officer, doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist. The way this 'counsellor' reacts will, more often than not, determine how quickly the healing proccess is triggered to help victims recover and get over their injuries and trauma.

Now here is a fact; most times, these pseudo- counselors are, more-often-than-not, ordinary people who have no form of experience or professional training whatsoever to provide the proper response needed. Sometimes, washed over by feelings of inadequacy, futility, shock and a vast plethora of human emotions, such people resort to what they think is the best response which usually turns out to be not what the victim needs at that moment. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having to comfort/encourage some friends who were raped or abused, and I can assure you it is not an easy thing.

It was almost as painful for me as it was for them. This is not always a matter of empathy, as those feelings of inadequacy strike, no matter how sympathetic you feel. In instances where that much needed comfort and assurance is lacking, the victim usually withdraws, having failed to get the initial desired response and its usually harder for them to open up beyond that point, stifling the healing process.

One of the ways I think we can help in our own little way is to become aware that this is a real threat and that there is a possibility that we might come across at least one rape victim in our life time, judging from the frequency of its occurence. How we respond to these suvivors can set them on the path to recovery.While we work to eliminate rape and abuse, let us see ourselves as part of those who will take responsibility for helping rape survivors.That means that we must prepare ourselves for the eventuality of handling such cases because a task this sensitive should not be taken for granted.

I would advise everyone reading this to do a little research on how exactly to deal with a rape victim. Thanks to the 21st century, you don't have to take a 1 year course to learn the basics as most of these information are at our fingertips. I stumbled upon an interesting resource material on the web that would prove extremely helpful to anyone interested in knowing the basics.

I urge you to take out some time and check out this link, as well as other sites that have helpful material on the subject. Let us remember that to cause a change, someone must decide to take responsibility. However, there is one person in this world whose decisions you have the most control over and that person is YOU. When 'someone' becomes YOU, then YOU become the change you want to see. May God give us all the grace we need as we make a personal commitment to making a difference and rebuilding broken lives.

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