An 18 year old woman named Amna was sentenced to gang rape by a village council in southern Pakistan. Four men violently dragged her into a hut and painfully raped her while a large group of other men watched, doing nothing to and did nothing to stop the horrific assault. Afterwards, she was forced to walk home naked in full public view. Primarily, she was asked to appear before the informal village council to apologize for the alleged misdemeanor of her younger 12-year old brother. He was accused of having an illicit affair with an older woman from another tribe of higher status. The truth was that her brother had no such affair with the indicated female from the other tribe. For the false allegations put on a brother, his sister received a ‘punishment’ that is worse and more painful than death.
According to the statistics complied by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan every 2 hours a woman is raped in “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. Statistics for the year 2005-2006 also reveal that incidents of rape cases in 2006 had increased by 129%. Human rights activists estimate that for every rape case reported, there are two more that are never brought to the authorities’ attention.
The reason that rape is so prevalent in Pakistan and in similar third-world, or even so-called first world countries, is that there is barely any respect for women as a result of historical social constructions, helped by religious bigotry and male chauvinism. Women do not have the same rights or status that men do and the image of women is very different in that cultural perspective. This leaves them vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment.
I have seen and nursed such victims including Amna. They come with severe complications in emergency department including physical trauma/injuries, depression and gynecological issues. My understanding is that because of lack of support system and stigma women health is being compromised and mental illnesses are now a days a growing concern. We need to see the issue from nursing perspective as well as a citizen of this country this is our duty to care such victims and identify the ways of restoring their self-esteem and rehabilitation in the society.
The recovery process after a rape assault largely depends on reactions of family, friends and professionals. It is important for the victim to be able to talk about the assault without being interrupted. Therapy may be necessary to help the victim work through the traumatic experience. It is important that the woman is not made to feel guilt or responsibility after a sexual assault and to help her understand the real reasons for rape.
Unfortunately, reactions from society often involve some blame on the victim’s own behavior, or character. It is not unusual that the victim blames herself for the rape, and the public’s attitude may increase this feeling. As a nurse I would advise some of the following tips to help your loved one or neighbor who has been victimized.:
1-BELIEVE THE VICTIM – Rape is one of the least reported crimes in the Pakistan. Besides the obvious personal shame that comes from being a victim of rape, many rape victims feel that no one will believe them. The fact that your family, friend trusts you enough to tell you is the hardest step for a victim to go through.
2-NEVER BLAME THE VICTIM – No one, absolutely no one deserves rape. No matter what safety measures they did or did not take. No matter where they walked, how they dressed, no one deserves that personal invasion against their will. The victim is blaming her/himself. Individuals in society, including many medical and legal professionals blame her/him. Be the first person to “Tell the victim that rape is not his/her fault”.
3-EDUCATE YOURSELF NOW – About not only the experience of rape, but also the resources available to victims. Search websites that support the victims of violent crimes and that have already done the research on the laws and resources for victim’s rights. Volunteer and attend trainings. Educating yourself can also help you if you are ever a victim of rape.
5-AVOID COMMANDING – If the situation is immediate, advice, but avoids commanding a victim on what she/he needs to do. As frustrating as it will be, the decisions to do to a hospital or to report the crime to the police are the entire victim’s choice. Be prepared to support victim if she/he changes her/his mind. For example, she/he may insist on taking a shower, no matter how you explain the importance of immediate evidence. You can still store the clothes she/he wore in a brown paper bag (plastic does not preserve evidence as well) in case she/he decides to report the crime later.
6-UNDERSTAND THE VICTIM – It is easy for people to blame themselves for rape. It is a way for them to tell themselves that they actually had control over the situation. It is harder for a person to accept the reality that for a brief moment another human being had taken that control completely away.
7-RAISE AWARENESS – As an educated person, raise awareness about rape in a way that supports victims, and does not blame them. This can range from simply believing and not blaming victims, to organizing community events to educate the public. I would advice as a nurse, you as a citizen of our society should always remember that rape is not about sex; it is about gaining unwanted power and control. Make sure you, as a victim advocate, have your own emotional support system. Avoid using the word ‘rape’ lightly or as a joke. This is a serious issue with real consequences.
In conclusion I would say that by following some of the tips given above you can help the victim and their family, by reducing the stigma and helping the victims is avoiding mental illnesses. Men, especially, need to support the victims of rape and other forms of violence to make this society a better place.
As they say, “A woman came out of a man’s rib. Not from his feet to be walked on, not from his head to be superior over, but from his side to be equal. Under the arm to be protected and next to the heart to be love”.