Emotional rape has many similarities to physical rape, particularly date rape. Date rape involves the sexual use of someone’s body without consent. In a like manner, emotional rape is the use of someone’s higher emotions, such as love, without consent. However, in the case of emotional rape the lack of consent is contained in what the perpetrator doesn’t say… his or her hidden agenda. Emotional rape can happen to both men and women. Both forms of rape can be very devastating and require specialized programs for recovery.
Several major obstacles are encountered in recovery from emotional rape. The first is that the victim knows that something bad happened, but doesn’t know what or why. And as in date rape, a big issue is that of trust. Victims often feel that they will never be able to love or trust anyone again.
Other obstacles to recovery, again similar to date rape, are the re-victimization of the victim by friends, family, and society (“you were stupid”, “how could you let this happen”, “…told you they were bad news”, “you were naive”, etc.) and the subsequent tendencies toward self-blame and silence about what happened.
It Could Happen to Anyone
Shara, who died after jumping from a freeway overpass into rush hour traffic (because of emotional rape trauma), was exploited by a rapist who could accurately be described as armed and dangerous; an accomplished deceiver who had raped before.
Without exception, victims describe two predominant characteristics of their rapists:
They are charismatic, ostensibly attractive personalities, likely to be widely admired, but with a naturally manipulative nature.
They can completely conceal their true selves.
These two observations draw attention to one of the central features of such behavior:
Emotional rape can happen to anyone. The widely varying backgrounds and personalities of those who have already become victims demonstrate the danger in thinking otherwise; in believing “It could never happen to me.”
It is sometimes difficult to believe that no moral responsibility rests with the victim – because he or she was weak, naive, or otherwise “to blame” – but that it lies with the rapist, whose ability to conceal his or her true self is such that almost anyone could be deceived.
The focus here is mainly on the rapist, examining what it is that makes an individual capable of this form of psychological aggression.
It is no exaggeration to describe emotional rape as the most underrated trauma of our age; the effects are powerful and potentially destructive.
Victims are forced to cope with a tangle of conflicting emotions, experiencing all the traumatic after effects of both rape and loss.
This confused pattern of emotional responses is very similar to that experienced by victims of sexual rape.
It’s a pattern commonly identified as post-traumatic rape syndrome, although victims of emotional rape will be unaware that this is what is happening to them.
These colliding emotions become so entangled that it is extremely difficult – and would be a serious misrepresentation – to attempt to categorize them individually. They are inseparable.
However, it is possible to identify certain generalized feelings which characterize the emotional aftermath. Principally, these are:
- Feeling ‘Had’ or ‘Used’
- Loneliness and Despondency
- Rage and Obsession
- Inability to Love or Trust
- Loss of Self-Esteem
- Erratic Behavior
- Hidden and Delayed Reactions
- Fear and Anxiety
Each of these is considered in detail…, as are the typical physical and material after effects, so victims will understand that what they are going through is normal, that they are not alone, and that they are not insane.