28 Aug - 3 Sep 2015 #773

Keeping it in the family

Approximately 4 in 5 of all rapes are committed by someone the victim knows, and 98 per cent never go to jail
Anjana Rajbhandary

BIKRAM RAI

In HBO’s show Game of Thrones, we notice the incestuous relationship between siblings Cersei and Jaime Lannister, and it is implied it has been going on since childhood. That is but one of the incestuous relationships in the series: what it fails to show accurately is the psychological, social and physical impact incest can have on individuals.

Earlier in the year, media reported the rape of a 19-year-old by her father and grandfather. The father had been raping his daughter for eight years and he only got 18 years in prison and a Rs 200,000 fine. The grandfather committed suicide to avoid public humiliation.  The father and grandfather were exposed after the girl tried to commit suicide, which can be a common result of sexual violence.

Any form of sexual assault can have a range of effects on the individual. It is never easy to deal with it but it can be managed with the right help and support. Sexual assault also does not come with a timeline of how long it takes someone to recover. It can take weeks, months, and years, and there are cases when some people never move on.

It is very common for victims of sexual assault to have posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Many may engage in self harm such as cutting oneself or suicide to cope with the painful memory. Some may develop eating disorders because they tend to become ashamed of their bodies, or may start engaging in substance abuse.

The awful memory of an incident caused by a family member, who should make an individual feel loved and protected, can lead to sleeping problems, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies. Statistics on Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN) says that approximately 4 in 5 of all rapes are committed by someone the victim knows and 98 per cent of rapists never go to jail.

After a couple of years of knowing her, a friend, now 32, opened up to me about her sexual assault. “I was 15 and met my cousin at the bar. He raped me behind the building. He told me to stay quiet and I did. I pressed my eyes shut the whole time but my tears did not stop, and neither did he. He said it was my fault it happened because I was wearing a short dress. ” She never reported it to the police.

Didn’t that make you cringe?

In many cultures including ours, reporting a crime is not as prevalent because someone in the society will blame the victim as the cause for incest or rape. However, seeking justice can have a positive effect on one’s recovery as it holds the perpetrator accountable for their actions and may prevent them from repeating it.

Incest takes away the essence of one’s soul and it (temporarily) destroys one’s desire to live and fight. Incest is not always about sex but can be a twisted form of showing one’s power and sense of control over someone else.  Recovering from this pain is always a long process.

But, we can help those who have had to suffer this unfortunate incident. The first thing is to make the victims feel safe, and give them the space to reach out and listen to their voices. These victims, who have survived need to take care of themselves. With the right support from family and friends without judgment, and maybe therapy or medication from a mental health professional and hope, we can help the survivors try to move on.

It is very important to let survivors know that what happened is not their fault. I have no sympathy for perpetrators of sexual assault of any kind because it is wrong and there is no gray area in the issue. There needs to be a longer and stricter jail sentence for rapists without any possibility of parole.

Read also:

Behind closed doors, Namrata Sharma and Aruna Uprety

18 year imprisonment for raping daughter

A letter to little Pooja

This is not how your story should end, Anjana Rajbhandary

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