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Violence against women

Sexual assault
Learn about rape trauma syndrome, date rape, and the impact of rape on relationships

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Sexual assault

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 of security.

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 a week.

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 appreciated gesture.

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 www.rapefacts.info.

Sexual assault

Web resources

These are third-party resources and links will open a new browser window. As these are third-party resources, Women's Web claims no responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the information provided.

Men Can Stop Rape
Men Can Stop rape mobilizes male youth to prevent men's violence against women. It does this by building males' capacity to challenge harmful aspects of traditional masculinity, to value alternative visions of male strength, and to embrace their vital role as allies with women and girls in fostering healthy relationships and gender equity.

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