GIVE SORROW WORDS; THE GRIEF THAT DOES NOT SPEAK
WHISPERS THE O’ER-FRAUGHT HEART AND BIDS IT BREAK.
____Macbeth Shakespeare (act 4, scene 3)
Give anger words; the anger that does not speak is a feeling buried alive that never dies.
The abortion of justice lodges in the hippocampus of the brain where it remains forever.
Justice was aborted for too many survivors of sexual assault, thus creating a second wound.
Judith Herman has devoted her life to helping victims of sexual trauma. She wrote: Trauma and Recovery. Bessel van Der Kolk is widely know for his extensive research on post traumatic stress syndrome, published in Psychological Trauma. Ann Burgess, a nurse, studied the reactions of rape victims and published her research on Rape Trauma Syndrome.
My books: Doctors Who Rape (Longwood Academic) 1991; The Search for Paul David (First printing 1995); and Doctors Who Rape: Malpractice and Misogyny (Revised and Expanded Edition 1997).
Doctors Who Rape was included in the FBI library. In addition, the book was listed in the top 100 best sellers on the subject of rape.
What are immediate reactions to sexual assault? There is a myth that all victims are hysterical and crying. Research does not support this myth.
“Our data did not support this myth. To the contrary, we observed two contrasting styles: expressed style, in which feelings of fear, anger and anxiety were expressed verbally or shown through such behavior as crying, shaking, smiling, restlessness, and tenseness; and controlled style, in which feelings were masked or hidden, and a calm, composed, or subdued affect was seen” (Burgess and Holmstrom, 1979, p. 118).
Some women react to their tenseness by smiling. Burgess and Holmstrom explain: “Sometimes when feelings are unbearable, the victim will defend psychologically or substitute another feeling. As one woman who smiled occasionally during the interview said, ‘Laughing is better than crying.’ (p. 120).
In Recovery, Benedict, a rape researcher and counselor, notes some victims act “indifferent” as though they are “explaining a math problem,” or they “crack jokes,” (p. 24). She explained that “this control is a way of protecting yourself from the shock, but it can be most confusing to friends, who expect to see you shaken and sobbing” (p. 24).
Burgess and Holmstrom provide yet another valuable insight about the controlled style of coping: It is important to some victims that they present a “strong” appearance (p. 120). Apparently, it would be difficult for them to be seen as having problems or falling apart. The need to appear strong may be caused by a sense of pride or a fear of rejection if the victim is seen as weak. The researchers noted that the individual with a need to be strong discusses feelings of defeat and powerlessness rather than concerns about other people’s reactions to the assault (Burgess and Holmstrom, p. 328).