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Dating a Rape Victim – Tips and Advice
Being raped is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can go through. A rape victim is not only subjected to extreme physical and mental anguish but also has to deal with feelings of guilt or accusations from others that she may have been responsible for it somehow. The result is that a rape victim often takes time to get back to socializing and forming intimate relationships. So if you have just found out that your partner has been raped in the past, here is how you can make dating more fulfilling for both of you.
Be understanding and patient
The most significant indicator of a past of sexual violence is perhaps an aversion to sexual or even emotional intimacy. So if you feel that despite having a warm, fulfilling relationship otherwise, your partner - inexplicably - keeps avoiding intimacy with you, it could mean he/she has been hurt in the past. The memory of the physical trauma that he/she went through as a child, a teen or a young man/woman is often enough to make any thoughts of intimacy abhorrent or scary to the rape victim, even after years have passed. Under such circumstances, you need to check your sexual advances and wait for your partner to heal herself before he/she can be comfortable with you in an intimate setting. Let the other person know that even though you find him/her attractive and are deeply in love, you are willing to wait till the time he/she feels she can open up to you. When your partner realizes there is no pressure on her to engage in intimacy, he/she will be able to better sort out his/her feelings with regard to her past hurt and the present relationship.
Yet another far-reaching consequence of sexual violence like rape is a lack of self-worth or even a latent sense of guilt in the victim. Thus your girlfriend may at times suffer from a lack of self-confidence or even a crippling form of self-doubt. This could be because subconsciously the person feels that she was in some way responsible for her rape, that she may have encouraged or invited, so to speak, the heinous act. in case your boyfriend was raped as a child or a teen, there is the additional burden of shame of being too weak to prevent something like this from happening when as a boy or man, he should have been stronger. What you can do to in such a situation is to regularly appreciate your partner’s achievements and attributes – no matter how small they seem. So you could compliment your boyfriend on the new hairdo that he has got or praise the new Mediterranean recipe that your girlfriend has tried out. However don’t give way to insincerity since dishonest flattery will either make her more suspicious than before or lead to a false sense of security. The essential thing is to keep reminding your partner that he/she is much more than a product of her painful past, that he/she has incredible potential and active possibilities to live a happy, meaningful life.
Help him/her to trust again
Men and women who have suffered sexual violence are particularly prone to having trust issues in their future relationships. This is especially true if the perpetrator of the crime was a known person like a family member, neighbor or even boyfriend in case of date rape. Apart from the physical pain, what hurts most is the realization that no one, not even an adult from the circle of family or friends, is worthy of trust. The memory of this abuse of trust sometimes makes it difficult for the victim to have faith in others, ever again. So you may find your boyfriend or girlfriend at times suspicious, jealous and highly emotionally insecure. Taken to an extreme, the inability to trust a partner may also result in commitment issues where despite finding herself compatible with you, he/she is unable to commit to the relationship. The only way to get over this is to prove yourself worthy of your partner’s trust in a real practical sense. Give him/her enough time to find out that you are truly committed to the relationship. When you feel that your partner wants to talk about their past, be sure to listen actively and later offer unconditional support. At the same time however, don’t nag at him/her to share her past with you – the memories might still be painful and it may be some time before he/she is ready to discuss it.
Don’t enable self-destructive behavior
As a result of being sexually traumatized in past, your partner may sometimes display behavior that is difficult to support, despite your sincere love and best intentions. It is common for victims of rape or sexual abuse to succumb to depression or get addicted drugs, alcohol and even sex. If such self-destructive behavior is still in the initial stage, you could communicate your concerns to your partner. Offer him/her support to end this kind of behavior but don’t make excuses on their behalf or indirectly support their pathological behavior. Sooner or later, the person will have to take charge of his/her own life and put the demons of their past to rest.
Take professional help
If you truly want to be with this person but find yourself unable to cope with their emotional ups-and-downs despite your sincerest efforts, the only way left is to seek professional past. A therapist or counselor will go a long way in helping your partner work his/her way through past suffering and encourage him/her to take responsibility for the present. Also see if your partner wishes to press charges against the rapist, if he/she has not already done so. To go down the legal road, he/she will have to be strong and courageous since it will mean reliving the past and perhaps even confronting the rapist. As such your partner will need the staunch support of his/her loved ones, including you. Indeed seeing a counselor is necessary for you too since being forced to be the ‘understanding’ or ‘supportive’ partner in the relationship for over a time can take its toll. You might begin to feel that you have always been giving to the relationship and have got little in return. Also the nagging suspicion that you always fall for the ‘wrong’ kind of partner can have disastrous consequences on the relationship. Thus rather than give in to such negative thoughts, it is far better that you and your partner seek out someone who will be able to help you through a complex situation and move ahead to a mutually fulfilling relationship.