In the past and often in the present I have tried to articulate how I have felt since that God-forsaken day I was gang-raped. What is described below pretty well says it all not just for me; but, I think for most rape victims.
There is one place in which one's privacy, intimacy, integrity and inviolability are guaranteed – ("one's body"), a unique temple and a familiar territory of sensa and personal history. The rape torturer invades, defiles and desecrates this shrine. He does so publicly, deliberately, repeatedly and, often, sadistically and sexually, with undisguised pleasure. Hence the all-pervasive, long-lasting, and, frequently, irreversible effects and outcomes of torture.
In a way, the tortured rape victim's own body is rendered his or her worse enemy. It is a corporeal agony that compels the victimized sufferer to mutate, his or her identity to fragment, his or her ideals and principles to crumble. The body becomes an accomplice of the tormentor, an uninterruptible channel of communication, a treasonous, poisoned territory.
Rape tortue fosters a humiliating dependency of the abused on the perpetrator. Bodily needs denied – sleep, toilet, food, water – are wrongly perceived by the rape victim as the direct causes of his or her degradation and dehumanization. As he or she sees it, he or she is rendered bestial not by the sadistic bullies around him but by his own flesh.
The concept of "body" can easily be extended to "family", or "home". Rape torture is often applied to kin and kith, compatriots, or colleagues. This intends to disrupt the continuity of "surroundings, habits, appearance, relations with others", indeed a sense of cohesive self-identity depends crucially on the familiar and the continuous. By attacking both one's biological body and one's "social body", the victim's psyche is strained to the point of dissociation.
The following describes this transmogrification thus in "Ethics of the Unspeakable: Torture Survivors in Psychoanalytic Treatment":
"As the gap between the 'I' and the 'me' deepens, dissociation and alienation increase. The subject that, under rape torture, was forced into the position of pure object has lost his or her sense of interiority, intimacy, and privacy. Time is experienced now, in the present only, and perspective – that which allows for a sense of relativity – is foreclosed. Thoughts and dreams attack the mind and invade the body as if the protective skin that normally contains our thoughts, gives us space to breathe in between the thought and the thing being thought about, and separates between inside and outside, past and present, me and you, was lost."
Rape torture robs the victim of the most basic modes of relating to reality and, thus, is the equivalent of cognitive death. Space and time are warped by sleep deprivation. The self ("I") is shattered. Men or women tortured by rape have nothing familiar to hold on to: family, home, personal belongings, loved ones, language, name. Gradually, they lose their mental resilience and sense of freedom. They feel alien – unable to communicate, relate, attach, or empathize with others.
Rape torture splinters early childhood grandiose narcissistic fantasies of uniqueness, omnipotence, invulnerability, and impenetrability. But it enhances the fantasy of merger with an idealized and omnipotent (though not benign) other – the inflicter of agony. The twin processes of individuation and separation are reversed.
Rape torture is the ultimate act of perverted intimacy. The savage torturer invades the victim's body, pervades his or her psyche, and possesses the rape victim's mind. Deprived of contact with others and starved for human interactions, the rape abuser bonds with the predator. "Traumatic bonding", akin to the hope and the search for meaning in the brutal and indifferent and nightmarish universe of the torture cell.
The rape abuser becomes the black hole at the center of the victim's surrealistic galaxy, sucking in the sufferer's universal need for solace. The rape victim tries to "control" his or her tormentor by becoming one with their aggressor (introjecting him) and by appealing to the monster's presumably dormant humanity and empathy.
This bonding is especially strong when the savage abuser and the tortured victim form a dyad and "collaborate" in the rituals and acts of torture (for instance, when the rape victim is coerced into selecting the torture implements and the types of torment to be inflicted, or to choose between the lesser of two evils).
"Rape torture is an obscenity in that it joins what is most private with what is most public. Rape torture entails all the isolation and extreme solitude of privacy with none of the usual security embodied therein... Rape torture entails at the same time all the self-exposure of the utterly public with none of its possibilities for camaraderie or shared experience.
("The presence of an all powerful other with whom to merge, without the security of the other's benign intentions.")
A further obscenity of Rape torture is the inversion it makes of intimate human relationships. The interrogation is a form of social encounter in which the normal rules of communicating, of relating, of intimacy are manipulated. Dependency needs are elicited by the interrogator, but not so they may be met as in close relationships, but to weaken and confuse. Independence that is offered in return for 'betrayal' is a lie. Silence is intentionally misinterpreted either as confirmation of information or as guilt for 'complicity'.
Rape torture combines complete humiliating exposure with utter devastating isolation. The final products and outcome of a victimized rape victim are a scarred and often shattered victim and an empty display of the fiction of power."
Obsessed by endless ruminations, demented by pain and a continuum of sleeplessness – the rape victim regresses, shedding all but the most primitive defense mechanisms: splitting, narcissism, dissociation, Projective Identification, introjection, and cognitive dissonance. The victim constructs an alternative world, often suffering from depersonalization and derealization, hallucinations, ideas of reference, delusions, and psychotic episodes.
Sometimes the rape victim comes to crave pain – very much as self-mutilators do – because it is a proof and a reminder of the rape victims individuated existence otherwise blurred by the incessant torture. Pain shields the rape sufferer from disintegration and capitulation. It preserves the veracity of his unthinkable and unspeakable experiences.
This dual process of the rape victim's alienation and addiction to anguish complements the perpetrator's view of his quarry as "inhuman", or "subhuman". The rape abuser assumes the position of the sole authority, the exclusive fount of meaning and interpretation, the source of both evil and good.
Rape torture is about reprogramming the victim to succumb to an alternative exegesis of the world, proffered by the abuser. It is an act of deep, indelible, traumatic indoctrination. Men and women afflicted by rape often swallow whole and assimilates the torturer's negative view of him or her and often, as a result, is rendered suicidal, self-destructive, or self-defeating.
Thus, rape torture has no cut-off date. The sounds, the voices, the smells, the sensations reverberate long after the episode has ended – both in nightmares and in waking moments. The victim's ability to trust other people – i.e., to assume that their motives are at least rational, if not necessarily benign – has been irrevocably undermined. Social institutions are perceived as precariously poised on the verge of an ominous twilight zone. Nothing is either safe, or credible anymore.
Rape victims typically react by undulating between emotional numbing and increased arousal: insomnia, irritability, restlessness, and attention deficits. Recollections of the traumatic events intrude in the form of dreams, night terrors, flashbacks, and distressing associations.
The men and women who suffer rape affliction often develop compulsive rituals to fend off obsessive thoughts. Other psychological sequelae reported include cognitive impairment, reduced capacity to learn, memory disorders, sexual dysfunction, social withdrawal, inability to maintain long-term relationships, or even mere intimacy, phobias, ideas of reference and superstitions, delusions, hallucinations, psychotic microepisodes, and emotional flatness.
In a nutshell, tortured rape victims suffer from a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Their strong feelings of anxiety, guilt, and shame are also typical of victims of childhood abuse, domestic violence, and rape. They feel anxious because the perpetrator's behavior is seemingly arbitrary and unpredictable – or mechanically and inhumanly regular.
They feel guilty and disgraced because, to restore a semblance of order to their shattered world and a modicum of dominion over their chaotic life, they need to transform themselves into the cause of their own degradation and the accomplices of their tormentors.
"The purpose of all coercive techniques is to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on the rape sufferers will to resist. Regression is basically a loss of autonomy, a reversion to an earlier behavioral level. As the subject regresses, his or her learned personality traits fall away in reverse chronological order. Rape victims begin to lose their capacity to carry out the highest creative activities, to deal with complex situations, or to cope with stressful interpersonal relationships or repeated frustrations."
Inevitably, in the aftermath of torture, the rape victim feel helpless and powerless. This loss of control over one's life and body is manifested physically in impotence, attention deficits, and insomnia. This is often exacerbated by the disbelief many torture victims encounter, especially if they are unable to produce scars, or other "objective" proof of their ordeal. Language cannot communicate such an intensely private experience as pain.
"Pain is also unsharable in that it is resistant to language... All our interior states of consciousness: emotional, perceptual, cognitive and somatic can be described as having an object in the external world... This affirms our capacity to move beyond the boundaries of our body into the external, sharable world. This is the space in which we interact and communicate with our environment. But when we explore the interior state of physical pain we find that there is no object 'out there' – no external, referential content. Pain is not of, or for, anything. Pain is. And it draws us away from the space of interaction, the sharable world, inwards. It draws us into the boundaries of our body."
Bystanders resent those victimized by rape because it makes them feel guilty and ashamed for having done nothing to prevent the atrocity. Rape victims threaten their sense of security and their much-needed belief in predictability, justice, and rule of law. Those victimized by rape, on their part, do not believe that it is possible to effectively communicate to "outsiders" what they have been through.
"It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The rape victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The rape victim demands action, engagement, and remembering."
But, more often, continued attempts to repress fearful memories result in psychosomatic illnesses (conversion). The rape victim wishes to forget the torture, to avoid re-experiencing the often life threatening abuse and to shield his or her human environment from the horrors. In conjunction with the victim's pervasive distrust, this is frequently interpreted as hypervigilance, or even paranoia. It seems that male or female victims can't win. Torture is forever.
Edited by jcf1957 (03/28/08 09:17 PM)
No affliction nor temptation, no guilt nor power of sin, no wounded spirit nor terrified conscious should induce us to despair comfort from God.
Today well lived...makes every tomorrow a vision of Hope.