Trigger warning: repeated references to physical and emotional rape, sexual violence and mental health issues.
The hashtag #MeToo recently became a vociferous stir against rape, sexual assault, harassment, bullying, among other things by women all over the world. The movement is part of a string of hashtags mostly by women to highlight harassment. With the whole #MeToo hashtag floating around social media, I would like to draw the attention of my readers towards a different kind of rape, harassment and assault. It is called Emotional Rape.
What is Emotional Rape?
Though this kind of rape is not much talked about or discussed, or it may not be recognized by this terminology, but it is faced and experienced by almost all of us. Sexual Rape is a violation of someone’s body – Emotional Rape is a defilement of emotions, feelings and above all, the human soul.
Similarities with sexual/physical rape
As a counselor, I often come across people who have undergone this underrated trauma. I have found many similarities between emotional rape and physical rape. Like sexual rape, this assault also happens without consent. But a point to note here is that in the case of emotional rape the lack of consent is contained in what the perpetrator doesn’t say anything about his or her hidden agenda. Both forms of rape can be very devastating and specialized programs for rehabilitation are required.
When it comes to physical rape, trust is completely shattered. The survivor is never able to love or trust anyone again. Obstacles to recovery are also similar. There are possibilities of re-victimization of the survivor by friends, family, and society. There is a common tendency towards self-blame and silence about what had happened.
Like sexual rape, this assault also happens without consent.
Emotional rape is a conscious and meticulously designed act of violence on a person’s emotions. Though calling such a deed as emotional rape is an extremely vulgar term, but it is a painful reality. The survivor’s psyche is inhumanly attacked, and the person is psychologically made captive.
One may not even be aware of what’s going on because the emotional abuse starts off slowly and deftly. Moreover, emotional manipulation operates under the level of survivor’s conscious awareness and the person is held psychologically captive.
Though men have equal chances of being victimized, here I am using ‘he’ as the rapist and ‘she’ as the survivor since women/girls are more emotionally vulnerable. The ‘rapist’ is alluring and extraordinarily caring. He shows so much admiration and tells ‘her’ how awesome, how understanding, how dazzling she is, making her feel alive, sexy, and euphoric. ‘She’ feels safe and cherished. There is a sense of gratification which ‘she’ has never felt before in her life.
‘He’ is fully equipped with the knowledge of the words to use and acts charismatically to manipulate the survivor into a relationship. And ‘she’ gets turned on even before ‘she’ could figure out what is happening. Now ‘she’ is ready to do anything for this prince charming.
Right from her hairstyle to her eating habits, she can go to any extent for ‘him’.
A man can chase a woman for years by setting the stage for her susceptibility by creating circumstances so that ‘she’ feels completely helpless and surrenders. ‘He’ doesn’t even hesitate to use her anxiousness to enslave her mentally with fake concerns and well-rehearsed dialogues.
Also Read: The Silence We Carry: Childhood Sexual Abuse and Mental Health
Such people set this kind of stage for their personal gains or an un-objected supply of sex. The hidden motive can be of taking power and control and getting what they desire, such as sex, money or influence, destroying the survivor emotionally, psychologically, spiritually or physically in the process. They are not bothered about the destruction of the relationship, or the emotional damage they inflict.
They also are immune to accountability. When the ‘rapist’ wants to leave ‘her’, he would not mind telling her that he can’t cope with her anymore, that she is now just boring him, and not the person he thought she was and he is done with her. The magical soul-mate relationship goes from heaven straight into hell.
During emotional rape, the survivors are already vulnerable. Coping with a whole lot of dependence and addiction, they want to believe what they are being told or what all is being done to them. While the survivor puts lots of energy into building relationships, the assaulter uses his energy to build a false persona of himself. He rapes the positive out of that relationship.
The survivor’s self-respect and self-image gets shattered and thus becomes vulnerable to more abuse. Self-esteem and self-worth are stripped away. There can be an intense range of emotions – from fear to anger, from anxiety to shame, and from guilt to humiliation. One may not be able to trust one’s own thoughts or perceptions.
The survivor’s psyche is inhumanly attacked, and the person is psychologically made captive.
The survivor can have extreme difficulty making decisions. Survivors suffer from conflicting emotions, experiencing all the traumatic after effects of both rape and loss. These emotional responses are like that experienced by survivors of sexual rape. It’s a pattern commonly identified as post-traumatic rape syndrome, although survivors of emotional rape are unaware that this is what is happening to them.
There can be:
- Isolation and loneliness
- Feeling ‘Had’ or ‘Used’
- Suicidal tendency
- Rage and Obsession
- Inability to Love or Trust
- Loss of Self-Esteem
- Erratic Behavior
- Hidden and Delayed Reactions
- Fear and Anxiety
Identifying, preventing and healing emotional rape is the most important thing to do. The survivors must be repeatedly convinced that they didn’t do anything morally wrong – that they are not to blame for what happened to the and that recovery is possible. The survivors must learn how they can recover to become survivors.
Only after this underrated trauma is properly identified can survivors begin to heal their wounds. The assault has to be discussed honestly and openly as individuals and as a society to prevent the spread of this destructive behavior. Unfortunately, judicial system doesn’t have provisions for this crime.
Also Read: How To Help A Survivor Of Abuse Or Violence?
Featured Image Credit: Flickr