Coping with rape: a husband's journey
When a husband deals with rape, the pain manifests differently
than it does in his wife. Husbands deal with a staggering amount
of fear, shame, denial, anger, aggression, and, often, rage. All
of these are normal for a person in your position. If you are
the husband of a rape victim, there are some very basic steps
that will not only help you, but your partner as well.
It is important to remember recovery varies from one person to
the next. Some victims may take longer to heal than others. Expressing
yourself with a comment such as, “Why can’t you just
get over it?” only tells your wife that you think she is
weak. Such comments will inadvertently contribute to her depression,
lack of self-respect, and lowered self-confidence.
It is also very important to not spout out “I’ll
kill him”, although this is a common feeling in men whose
wives have been violated in such a horrific manner. Trying to
punish violence with violence can only lessen your wife's feelings
The recovery process is the longest, most nerve-racking, and
most frightful time a victim will endure: she needs to feel protected
and secure, and this security and protection must be offered in
a respectful and peaceful manner.
The aftermath of the rape will be a very trying time for you
both. You will need to seek out support and counseling to be able
to deal with your emotions and concerns over this violation. You
have also been violated, so your emotions are normal. Talking
through those emotions with a counselor will help tremendously.
You can also call a rape crisis center in your area and ask about
classes for spouses of rape victims. Husbands can also benefit
from hotlines and rape crisis lines. (See our Resources
page for numbers and Web sites.)
Never disclose your feelings about the rape to your wife; it
is best to talk to a friend or relative about aggressive feelings
toward the rapist. Unless your spouse has asked you how you are
feeling, don’t volunteer this. When you are speaking with
your wife about the assault, keep the aggressiveness subdued and
allow your words and your answers to be addressed as gently as
possible. Your job, for the time being, is to be a wonderful listener.
Remember that because your wife has been raped, she may not want
to have sexual contact for some time. It is imperative for you
to wait until she is ready. When the time comes and your wife
is once again comfortable with sexual relations, keep them as
gentle and loving as you possibly can.
During lovemaking, remind your wife of the reasons you love her
so much. Embrace her lovingly as you make love with her. It is
also important to talk to her. Any sexual contact after a rape
will cause her to have flashbacks. Keep talking to her or whispering
softly in her ear. This way, she will hear your voice and know
it is her husband with whom she is having intercourse.
Flashbacks may occur during the first few times you are intimate.
Your wife may cry out in the middle of intercourse. If she does,
remember this is not a reflection on what you are doing. If she
becomes hysterical, gently cease the lovemaking and let her know
that whenever she is ready, you will be there for her. Be sure
to let her know it doesn’t matter how much time it takes.
Remind her that you will always be there for her and that you
will be there ready for her when the time comes.
While caressing your wife at night, be sure she is made aware
of where your arms and hands will be located, such as “Can
I put my left arm around you and hold you?” It will be very
tough to remember; be understanding of her full emotional problems,
remembering that one quick move from you on a certain part of
her body may set off a flashback.
It is also important that you never assume that you could have
stopped the rape or that you should have stopped it. There is
no possible way to be around your wife 24 hours a day, 7 days
When speaking with your wife, you can share with her life experiences
you once had. Think back in your life to a crisis or a time at
which you felt vulnerable or violated; remember what helped you
the most. Share the experience with your wife and share the ways
that you got through the hardship.
For the time being and throughout the recovery process, you should
assist with routine tasks you do not normally perform. The extra
assistance with your wife's daily routines will be a helpful and
It is also important for spouses to get educated on the issue
of rape. It is an agonizing assault, and the more you know about
rape, the better you will be able to assist your wife through
the healing process.
If you want to feel like you are a part of the solution, get
involved in charities in support of victims of rape. This will
also empower you on your journey of recovery. It is a positive
way to show your wife the depth of your love.
Sometimes, a short getaway out of town will give you a much-needed
break from the depression, and it will help both of you to reconnect
to a sense of security.
About the Author:
Rachel McNair is a survivor of rape and is an advocate for rape awareness
nationwide. Her articles are aimed towards educating men, women, and young
women about the crisis of rape. For more information and articles, or for
no-obligation, confidential email counseling, visit