Ensuring Better Mental Health of Rape Survivors

Dr. Semra Salik, CEO PsychCare is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Hypnotherapist working in the field of mental health. With her expertise, we dive deep into the issue of rape in Pakistan and find ways to facilitate mental well-being of rape survivors.

As a mental health professional, tell us who are offenders and what causes them to commit rape?
An offender or a rapist can be any person but this declaration is not intended to make everybody scared of every other person. Rather, it just infers that there isn’t a specific type of person who commits such violations. They maybe people we live with, they can be individuals with certain underlying or apparent issues or people with a specific mental health condition.
What causes these acts of violence has different perspectives. The tendency to commit such crimes can lie in the childhood of a rapist. Strict parenting, sexual assault, bullying and hatred towards women are the most prominent factors. Some features that make them different from the rest and can help us understand their motives better are lack of empathy, narcissistic behaviors and hostile feelings towards women.
How does rape affect survivors?
Rape is the most painful thing for a victim. Daily functioning of the survivor immediately gets disturbed. He or she can suffer emotional, psychological and physical consequences following an incident, which is usually seen to stay with them as trauma.
They feel shame, guilt, anger and can experience flashbacks of the event. There is a high probability that they may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression in the future. They may also be stigmatized by others for the choices they made or for not protecting themselves well.
ll in all, one event can turn their life upside down. Such events not only affect survivors but the people around them suffer too. Even feelings of anger, resentment, fear and shock can increase in a society. As with any form of violence, sexual violence and rape tears the fabric of a society’s well-being. For victims, forgetting is difficult, remembering is worse!
Following rape incidents, the hype is more about what happened, not what needs to be done for the survivors. Is there anything that can be done for the comfort of the survivors other than investigating the crime?
Indeed, it is very unfortunate that we hardly see people talk or make efforts to protect, support or rehabilitate the victim. Rather, it is all about what happened, what led to it, who did it and who is to be blamed.
Yes, I agree that a set of protocols are required by the system but in addition to all the formalities, providing psychological and emotional well-being to the victims is equally important. Actively listen to the victim and be patient with them. Believe in them when they confide in you and acknowledge their courage. Respect the choices they make in order for them to heal and make them feel like they are in control of their life. Don’t blame the victims or judge them for the incidents.
How can our society contribute and make a difference?
As a society, we all need to work towards eradicating the deep-rooted rape culture in our society. We normalize sexual violence based on gender inequalities and victim-blaming. Our society should create a culture of active consent, speaking out against public harassment, redefining masculinity, listening and investing in survivors and educating the next generation properly. In public, everyone should become an active bystander to demotivate abuse and practice zero tolerance against rapist and harassers.



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