A guy I barely knew raped me at a party. What should I do, and how do I heal from this emotionally?
I am so sorry to hear what you have been through. I have several friends who have been through the same thing, and I have learned from them that there are a number of things you can do.
1. Some secrets aren’t worth keeping. Find an adult you can talk to about what happened. Ideally, you want to be able to talk to your parents. As difficult as this may seem, you need their comfort and consolation during this difficult time. When a woman suffers any form of sexual abuse, part of her healing process involves showing her wounded heart and receiving validation. Without this she may come to blame herself or simply grieve in silence.
If you feel that it is impossible to tell your parents, at least work on improving your relationship with them, so that you will be able to open up to them one day. In the meantime, find some adult with whom you can speak about this, such as a teacher, relative, counselor, or youth leader. You are not alone in this, and they are there to give you the help that I cannot. Among the things you need to talk about are the possibilities of getting counseling and pressing charges; after all, the guy may do the same thing to someone else. By standing up to him, you have the opportunity to protect others from him.
Speaking of date rape, Wendy Shalit said, “A man who did not respect female modesty wasn’t more manly—he was less of a man. . . . [He] wasn’t displaying his masculinity, only his immaturity. He was announcing, in effect, that he didn’t understand what it meant to be a man.” So if you can press charges against this guy, you’ll not only be bringing him to justice; you’ll also give him a much-needed lesson on how not to treat a lady.
2. Don’t blame yourself. Rape is 100% the fault of the rapist. Period. Unfortunately, victims often mentally torture themselves by thinking of all the ways they could have avoided the situation: “If I just didn’t go to that party, If I just didn’t have that drink, If I just didn’t go into that room with him…” While some of these thoughts may be useful in the future for avoiding dangerous situations, they’re not helpful at all when it comes to what has already happened. Don’t beat yourself up. Even if you can think of 100 ways you would have done things differently to avoid this abuse, the fact remains that there was only one thing he needed to do, and that was to respect you. It’s his fault he failed at that. Don’t take the blame.
3. Don’t think you’re less worthy of love. As the healing process begins, do not think that no guy will ever love you. This man took from you, but you still have yourself to give. Remember, you did not give yourself to him. You are not worthless or even worth less because of this. You deserve love, and no good man would ever love you any less because you went through this experience. If anything, he would want to love you more, to make up for how this other man failed to love you.
4. Forgive. In order to find peace in your suffering, you will need to learn to let go of any hatred, so that bitterness will not take root in your heart. When painful memories come back to you, try to transform that pain into something positive. For example, perhaps one day you’ll be able to reach out to other young women who are suffering in this way and comfort them. It is natural to feel anger and disgust toward him because of what he did to you. Who could blame you for that? But do not allow him lead you down the path of hatred. The more wrath you feel toward him, the more you will need to conquer that hatred—for your sake. Forgiveness does not mean that you ignore what he did to you or that you do not press charges. It means that you refuse to allow pain and anger to determine your attitude toward this man. This isn’t an easy process, and it is one that is usually facilitated by a good counselor. Don’t hesitate to find one.
When painful memories come back to you, learn to transform that pain into prayer. Since Jesus said to pray even for our enemies, pray for the man who hurt you. Do not allow his sins to lead you down the path of hatred. Pray that he may encounter Christ and that he may realize what it means to be a man. By praying for him as Jesus prayed for those who put him to death, you will be practicing the essence of forgiveness: namely, continuing to will the other person’s good.
Increase your prayer time as well, since God is a healer of wounds seen and unseen. Also, know that being raped is not a sin. Where there is no consent, there is no sin. Finally, take a look at your social group and see if this is the best bunch for you. Check out church youth groups in your area, because solid friends are priceless. In the words of Sirach, “A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter: he that has found one has found a treasure” (6:14).
Lastly, make sure to check out the videos at WomenMadeNew.com.
. Wendy Shalit, A Return to Modesty (New York: Touchstone, 1999), 150.