Rape as a topical case has generated significant global audience in recent times, leaving its victims with traumatic and ripple effects. The attendant effects rooted in the psychological, physical, mental and spiritual well-being of victims cannot in any way be gainsaid.
All these put together is a firm reminder of the moral decadence in our society.
Rape, a subset of sexual assault, is defined as the penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth that involves threats or force against a person who is unwilling (non-consensual) or incapacitated (because of physical disability or intoxication). Any of such acts against a legal minor or child regardless of willingness or unwillingness is known as statutory rape.
Beyond the sexual perversion that shades the instincts of a rapist, rape has been proven to be about a need for an expression of power, laced with aggression, anger and obduracy. Injuries involving the genitals or other parts of the body occur in about 50% of cases.
Though females are more often raped than males, males who are victims are more likely to be physically injured than females and they are more unwilling to report the crime. The rapist is often times someone known to the victim. Hence, the unassuming ease with which the incident is conducted unsurprisingly put its victims to a tight corner.
These features can largely be grouped into the following classes
Many times, the injuries are relatively minor but some females can sustain serious injuries such as severe cuts to the upper parts of the birth canal/vagina. Other injuries could result from violent attacks by the assailant such as being struck, pushed, stabbed, or shot. New evidence shows that the lifetime of the experience of rape is also linked to long-term diseases. For example, risk of developing asthma (a disease characterized by excessive reactivity to seemingly non-harmful agents in the environment), irritable bowel syndrome (a disease that affects the large intestines causing diarrhea and constipation), long-standing pain and frequent headaches.
Also, following rape, there is a risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, chlamydial infection, syphilis, hepatitis B and C, bacterial vaginosis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A woman might also become pregnant.
These are often the most overt features. In short terms, most victims experience:
. Sleep problems and nightmares
. Shame/guilt or combination of the both
. Inability to remember important parts of the event (dissociative amnesia, which is a feature of post-traumatic stress disorder).
Immediately after the incident, patients’ behavior can range from being talkative, nervous, expressive, restless, to shock and disbelief with dispassion/emotional detachment, quiescence or pointless smiling. The display of the latter symptoms of detachment does not mean that the person is not concerned, rather they behave that way as a coping. Many of them do not only wonder where in particular they have gone wrong but also get physically exhausted. They seem to be expressionless and emotionally numb.
Consequently, the suppressed emotional outburst gets pent up as anger. The anger pent up by the victims might then get transferred to hospital officials or family members.
Friends and family members or law enforcement agents may respond apathetically. This manner of responses may slow down recovery after the assault.
Though most patients recover after the incident, long-term effects of rape linger especially in women including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD).
PTSD is a disorder that is linked with traumatic experiences and is characterized by symptoms such as:
– Re-experiencing the event, for instance in flashbacks (interruptive and upsetting images being up in the mind or thoughts),
– Avoidance (evading trauma-related events, thoughts, or feelings),
– Negative effects on the memory and mood. They begin to experience distorted images of self-worth, and some find it difficult to express any positive feelings.
The main aims in medical evaluation in victims are:
– A physical examination if victims consent to enable evidence to be collected.
– Medical assessment and treatment of injuries.
– Testing, treatment, and prevention of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
– A pregnancy test
– Checking their psychological state.
– Provision for psychological support.
– Victims of rape within the first few hours of the incident, before presenting to the hospital are usually advised not to throw out or change clothing, not to shower, not to douche, not to brush their teeth, not to to clip their fingernails, not to urinate nor use mouth wash as doing these might destroy the evidence.
Afterwards, they are referred to a rape center which is more often than not an emergency arm of a hospital equipped with specially trained health professionals. The services of law enforcement agents are also required.
– Also, tests for various infections are carried out. As some may not immediately be detected, follow-up visits may be needed.
For psychological support, family, friends and Non-Governmental organizations which provide support systems for survivors help in the recovery speed. One of which is the Girls’ Worlds Initiative, a Nigerian-based NGO that helps several victims in the journey of recovery and rehabilitation. They can be contacted on +2348169459154. Or at www.girlsworldinitiatives.blogspot.com
Above all, rape is a hideous crime against a fellow human. Its impacts are far-reaching. No human deserves to go through all these.
Dr Oluwafemi Toluwalase O. is a medical doctor who completed her medical degree from the College of Medicine, University of Lagos (MB;BS Lagos). She is also the medical team lead of The Girls’ World Initiative, an NGO focused on girl child empowerment, adolescent health, and sexual purity which has impacted a lot of young females since inception.
She also has a certificate from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine on COVID-19: tackling the novel coronavirus. She has a passion for medical literature and any form of digital healthcare as she believes a lot can still be done as regards technology in the healthcare space as well as in medical education. She is a Christian and hobbies range from reading, cooking, writing and editing.