The ramifications of rape and sexual assault: a first-hand account

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The ramifications of rape and sexual assault: a first-hand account

"1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault at some time in their lives and in 70% of cases the offender is known." (Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia)[1]

The 1 in 5 women mentioned in these statistics of sexual assault are our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, aunts, sisters, friends and work colleagues. It is likely these women are in our circle already; women who have endured horrendous experiences, and others too who have not yet broken the silence and shared their story.

How does rape and sexual assault affect women and change the way they live? What does it teach women? ... And what about men?

I ask these questions because when I see such alarming statistics affecting so many women, I can’t help but ask what this is really all about? What are the real ramifications of these assaults?

From my own experiences I can say that rape and sexual assault forcefully persuaded me to live in fear, to hide myself away and stop shining: it demanded I be quiet and not speak up about abuse, injustices and disharmony and, most devastatingly, it thwarted trust in myself and in human beings.

As a young girl I could see with clarity that often people spoke and behaved in a way that was incongruent with what was really going on. I observed that people weren’t always being true or truthful to themselves and others, and I had a strong sense of what was love and what was not. At times when I would speak up and share my feelings, I would be hushed, told to be quiet, dismissed or scolded for being rude.

Instead of staying steady, I gradually began to dismiss my feelings, convincing myself to blindly trust human beings without discerning energetically what was really going on. I overrode the truth with a picture of what I wanted to believe or what another wanted me to believe. Self-doubt became my new way and I gave my power away in relationships by assuming that I was always ‘wrong’ and that others had my wellbeing at heart.

The rape was the final straw. Its harshness cemented in me the need to keep myself small, and to be quiet and subdued, despite being unable to stop myself feeling the realities of the world around me. I no longer trusted people, I was angry at the way they behaved, and a wave of hopelessness and helplessness continued to overshadow my life.

After the rape I felt particularly repulsed by my body and internalised the violence, allowing it to dominate my life. In many ways I could say from this point forward I became my own abuser, lashing out at myself with an intense self-loathing. I did not want to be seen as sexy – a natural part of being a woman – and so I dressed myself in baggy clothes in a way that disguised my body. At times I would put on excess weight, and I found it difficult to look at myself in the mirror or to have photographs taken.

I did not feel beautiful. I did not feel worthy. I did not feel lovable.

The overriding fear of further abuse continued to linger well after the rape, and further situations of sexual assault or violence in the years that followed served as a reminder to stay contracted, always threatening that there would be repercussions if I was to choose to be me in full again.

The fear that hindered my ability to stand strong permeated through all aspects of my life. I felt an unrelenting craving to feel safe, in a world that did not feel safe at all. I found it difficult to let down my guard and just be me and instead resorted to people pleasing in an attempt to keep another’s emotions at bay. This craving for safety amongst people stayed with me, and can be felt at times in its subtle ways, still playing out today.

The ramifications of rape and sexual assault

I dare say that many women who have been through abuse of this kind can relate to experiencing this level of fear, anxiety and harsh self-criticism, and whilst not all women can directly relate to the experience, many certainly look on in horror and trepidation that it could one day be them, for sexual violence sends a clear message to all women that they should be concerned for their safety and wellbeing, and in this women are held to ransom.

Indeed this fear is not confined to women alone, for men too feel the devastation of the behaviour of other men. Men are known in society to be the dominant perpetrators of sexual assault and rape[2], and in that a seed of shame is planted. Men can find themselves treated, perhaps unconsciously so, as being all the same, and in this they can struggle as they feel both the sadness and cruelty from a world that asks them to prove that they are not as they have been judged. When their loved ones are harmed in this way, men can feel a sense of failure that they have not done all they can to keep their women safe, and they begin to own that which they are not responsible to own. As men take on such beliefs and feel the harshness of the behaviour of other men, they can step away from the gorgeousness of their natural ways, to be open, tender, gentle and to honour their sensitivities and the love that they feel within.

You see, rape and sexual assault affects us all, both women and men – and although the statistics in this article relate to women, we know that men too are exposed to the same trauma of rape and sexual assault[3], and here we can begin to open ourselves to explore the real ramifications of sexual abuse which plays out in such a personal and intentional way.

The truth about rape and sexual assault

I do not view myself as a ‘victim’ of sexual assault nor a ‘survivor’, for there is great power to be had by relinquishing all labels and to instead desire to understand on a deeper level the circumstances around the experience. This is not to play down the experience of the assault nor an act of being harsh on oneself, neither is it to discount or condone the behaviour of the perpetrators, for they are accountable for the choices that they make, but being able to regain my own power and to feel safe in life again has come from allowing myself to become more aware of the Truth and in that I have truly healed.

I remember the day clearly when I came to realise that whilst sexual assault violated my physical body, what remained untouched was my inner essence – that part of me that is simply me. No matter how much we are physically or emotionally abused by another, the essence of our soul remains; for the soul is love, our inner essence is love, and it is this part of us that remains pure, so completely divine.

Coming to this understanding lifted many a burden from my shoulders and provided the space to really begin to change my life. I didn’t realise until that moment how the false belief that I was ‘contaminated’ and ‘worthless’ affected how I felt about myself, and the ongoing choices I made as a result. Coming to know and connect more with my soul, I felt an inner impulse to again stand tall and express the true me as I once did as a young child.

As I reflect back to the time of the rape, I realise that I was offered a choice to bring to myself the tenderness of love, and to nurture myself and seek support; to know without any doubt that this would not change ME, would not change the loveliness, the inner beauty, preciousness and sacredness that were qualities of me; and that despite this incident, I did not need to hide away. But I did not make this choice.

Instead I chose to play into the hands of the energy that asked me to be less, to withdraw from life and, in that, I chose to stay silent, to ignore or override all that I felt around me. I chose to live in fear of further repercussions. I chose self-loathing. And I chose to hold myself in deep disregard.

None of this is said in self-blame and this is not self-vilification. This is said with an awareness that we must bring to ourselves love no matter what happens, and to honour our fragility and vulnerability throughout the horrors that can occur in life. Knowing the extent of how much I sold out on myself was a hard lesson, but a lesson now worthy of sharing.

When the offender is known

We are often far more comfortable believing that it is a stranger, some horrible person ‘out there’ that would do such things and not those that know us personally. And yet as the statistics show, in 70% of cases the offender is known.

So what happens when we discover that the person ‘out there’ is really the person in your home, who attends your BBQ, who is looking after your children, who is asking you out for dinner, and who is a family member or friend? What happens when we realize that we know the perpetrator well, and that they have been right under our noses all along?

The answer here is simply – we lose trust in ourselves and in humanity, perhaps the greatest hurt of all.

In my circumstance, knowing the perpetrator of sexual assault and rape was probably the most difficult aspect of the ordeal to digest because it was hard to understand why a person who I knew and trusted chose to dishonour me and my body in such a grotesque and cruel way – for didn’t they feel my loveliness and sensitivity? Often I would run through my mind all the decisions I made leading up to the situation, the moments where there was a chance that the wrong impression was given, or where I placed myself in an unsafe position, and I blamed myself harshly. These self-sabotaging thoughts were possibly more destructive than the acts of violence as they lingered for a lifetime, ultimately undermining my ability to feel safe, let down my guard and trust my feelings as to what was really going on at any given time. Instead of seeing the situation exactly for what it is, I lived with feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness.

When we lose trust, we live in a state of fear and we become hardened to others. We live in protection, contracted away from who we truly are, not allowing ourselves to surrender, to be ourselves or let another into our hearts. The energy behind sexual assault and rape induces a fear so grand that we hold back our light and suppress our love, and in this, abuses of all kinds are never exposed for the love-less acts that they are.

When women live in separation to their true selves, contracted away from that part of us that allows our natural grace and inner beauty to emanate, we hold back and distance ourselves from others, suppressing the natural intimacy and care we hold and are born to express. In this, the whole world misses out, men and women alike, on feeling the depth of the innate wisdom, beauty and delicateness of women, instead settling for something that is far less than the gorgeousness of women in their fullness.

Whilst ever this division between human beings remains, whilst we fear another, whilst we live suppressed or contracted away from our love, we add to the disharmony in the world, we allow the evil of separation to permeate within our homes, communities and relationships, and in that we become a part of the loveless-ness that abounds.

This is the greater evil that affects not just those who have been raped or sexually assaulted – it affects us all.

Why are women targeted?

Women are raped in war, and are seen as ‘the enemy’. Women are raped in marriages, and are seen as ‘possessions’. Women are raped ‘to be taught a lesson’. Women are raped to be taught ‘not to step out of line’. Women are raped and are told ‘you wanted it’.

Sexual assault and rape of women is documented throughout history and it has been this way for thousands of years, but perhaps we need to stop and ask why women are targeted in such a way.

Is it just because women are not as physically strong, or is there more to it than that? What is it that women bring through and offer the world, something so very powerful that it must be stopped in such a vile and vicious way?

I have felt for myself that women, when expressing from their true essence, are very powerful indeed.

Our true strength and power as women will always be found in our connection to our sacredness and when we choose to not live from this, no matter what experiences present to us in life, we in effect give permission for all others to treat us with the same ‘lack’ – the same disregard with which we treat ourselves.

When a woman allows herself to surrender and be truly loving, tender, delicate, sensitive, sexy, firm, honouring, sacred and wise, she clearly brings to the light ALL that is not of such quality. This is very exposing indeed to those who have not chosen this quality for themselves; it is a quality of expression that can engender from others intense jealousy and reactions.

Certainly then our true power as women is to return to who we truly are despite the atrocities in life, and to allow ourselves, the wonderful and glorious beings that we are, to live life in this quality, to parent from this quality, to work in this quality, and be a friend, family or community member in this quality.

Indeed, the fear of stepping into the limelight again and living a true and fulfilling life where we are free to be ourselves and to speak our truth may be met with resistance, but with a steadiness, a solidarity in our bodies, an openness to read, respond and cut abuse at the early stage of its inception, we are in a position to see life as it truly is and not what we are wanting it to be.

As women we must together come to understand that the energy that wants to squash all that is precious and sacred about us as human beings, is because we are much more powerful than we really know. We bring a power that comes from love, a power and wisdom that comes from our soul, a power that we must again reclaim.


  • [1]

    Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, 2014, Factsheet: Myths and Facts of sexual assault. [Accessed from: http://www.rape-dvservices.org.au/Portals/0/Users/003/03/3/Factsheets%20and%20Brochures/Factsheet%20-%20Myths%20of%20sexual%20assault%20-%202014.pdf]

  • [2]

    http://www.casa.org.au/casa_pdf.php?document=statistics

  • [3]

    http://www.casa.org.au/survivors-and-friends/male-survivors/

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