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The Stranger in a Stairwell

Thursday, 24 October 2013 00:00 Written by  R.S.N.

Ready for the next uncomfortable topic? It’s not as sexy as our favorite firearms, it’s not as cool as our reading lists, and it’s far from as comforting as our food supplies. It’s rape, the attempt to prevent it and how it’s dealt with afterward. I think we all expect crime to go up during a protracted crisis, and maybe the unspoken theory is that rapes will go up with it. As it is, estimates suggest that between ‘1 in 4’ and ‘1 in 10’ women have been sexually assaulted or have escaped an attempted rape. Men and boys under-report, but that’s a high number, too. Put 30-40 guys in a room and chances are, 1 of them has admitted to being sexually abused in a survey or on a report. That’s prevalent enough to try and prepare for, with or without a disaster situation. But, rape may be coming from an unexpected angle.

The Victims and Perpetrators

On TV and in movies, in the Prepper fiction we read, and the self-defense classes we take, rapists are a guy in a mask, escaped convicts, members of biker gangs, hood thugs, somebody in a stairwell, or an alley outside of work. And yeah, these types of people are responsible for a fair portion of reported rapes. If SHTF were to occur, without a widespread moral community to be evading, without threat of law enforcement, their ratios of attacks may very well go up.

However, the primary threats for both adults and children are much closer to home. More than 70% of women know their attackers. Considering the many reasons knowing your attacker would encourage you not to report it, that’s a pretty shockingly high statistic. Of all rapes, 30-40% are committed by a friend or acquaintance. About a quarter of rapes are committed by someone who is described as an intimate. Somewhere between 5-10% of all rapes are committed by family members; who include blood and marriage relatives.

Let that sink in for a minute. Ever see a picture of big family reunion? If there are a hundred people in it, one of them has probably been abuse, molested, or raped by somebody else in the family picture. You are probably thinking, “Not in my family”, but by the “statistics” that common response is a hope a desperate prayer. The reality is that only 5-7% of the perpetrators of child rape are strangers.

In cases involving children, family members are named as the rapists 30-40% of the time. 50%, or more, were less intimate acquaintances (family friends, teachers, babysitters, coaches, neighbors, or other youths). Almost all child rape victims know their attackers beforehand (90-95%).

Preventing Rape and Abuse

So how do you protect from rape when chances are situational awareness and self-defense skills are nullified by trusting the attacker? This question only gets harder in cases when we’re talking about preparedness. If children are sequestered away with only family members, maybe a few others, some of the normal checks and balances that can lead to prevention and disclosure go away.

The truth is that because of the usual perpetrators, rape is one of the hardest crimes to prevent. Remember, 30% or more of all rapes are committed by an intimate or relative. That’s people who know you well; boyfriends, girlfriends, Uncle Sal, Aunt Bea, grandpa, Cousin Lou and Cousin Jo, Bernie the grilling buddy, or Kara the college chum.  And there are a growing number of neighborhood kids, school kids, minor siblings, and teenaged relatives assaulting committing rape.

So how do you beat it? How do you protect the ones you love when the predators are probably going to be people who are trusted? How do you limit something that is already happening to so many people every day, especially when the world falls apart? Sometimes, you just don’t. It’s a tough one to swallow, but it’s true. You’re as likely to have a victim of sexual abuse somewhere in your circle of family, friends, and coworkers as you are to have a traffic accident.

Sometimes you’re the one in the hallway of a hospital asking how this could have happened to your family member or friend. Rape affects everyone involved; the rapist, the person that was raped, and immediate family members. Likewise, most of us tend to deal with issues as personal ones; even if you were not the person that was raped you may still think that the raped directly affected yourself. Sure, you may feel some responsibility, should have seen the signs, or maybe you don’t want to be inconvenienced with what lays ahead. However, you shouldn’t think in terms of how did this happen to me; instead you need to remember that it’s something that happened to them [the victim].

Rape is hard on spouses and caregivers of victims, undeniably. They wrestle with their own guilt and anger. There’s help for everyone, from counseling and support groups. But initially, the focus needs to stay on the fact that it happened to the victim. Eventually, the focus can shift to having happened to a family, because the victim is a member of the family.

How Can We Keep It From Happening?

First, pay for background checks for everybody you’re letting into your home, putting in a position to care for your child, or be around your child and spouse. Background checks are not just strangers you are considering having in your Mutual Assistance Group (MAG). That’s Uncle Al, Cousin Jo, the priest or preacher you figure you’ll take care of when the time comes, and the babysitter you’re hiring tomorrow. Background checks will not catch everything, but they can weed out some. Talk to mutual acquaintances just to get a feel for who they are and other’s impressions about them.

Second, pay attention. Watch for people who like kids but don’t have any; like myself. In my case, we walk dogs, harass the cat, make cards, poke around in the woods, and play with plants. I do like the children in my life, but I also want to be a non-parental “cool” person in their life so that I can poke deeper if I worry about them. I have to know them to be trusted with an outcry, I have to know them to be aware of who does and doesn’t belong in their worlds, and what’s normal for them. Watch for people who don’t necessarily make overt attempts to be involved, but who watch women and children, or one woman one child in particular. Some of them are sheepdogs just checking on the lambs in their field, but some of them may be the wolves.

Find out how somebody felt after a sports massage or a doctor’s visit. Sexual abuse can sometimes be curtailed before a rape by an outcry of unwanted contact, by not being sure something was right. A call can find out how an exam should have gone, start a ball rolling to remove a predator, or can calm fears and uncertainty, which is just as important. Skip the “that was a waste” comments and don’t allow the one who was concerned to apologize for causing a fuss if something was normal. I didn’t need to evacuate for my last hurricane, but I double checked routes anyway. It’s the same kind of preparedness. Gather information before accusations are made, but if somebody harasses you for making sure your spouse or kids are safe, it’s totally okay to label that person a jerk and find somebody else.

Three, GO WITH THE GUT. It’s humanity’s best weapon, always. If you are not comfortable around someone, if the husband or wife, mother or father, daughter or child is creeped out by them, pay more attention. Most of all, when that tingle hits the spine, listen to it.

Outcry After Rape

It’s very, very important to be approachable with family and with friends. Since a lot of sexual assault doesn’t leave bruises to draw attention to a problem, it’s hard to figure out what’s going on sometimes. Usually a change in behavior is one tipoff for both children and adults acting out.

For school aged children, grades slipping and/or growing aggressive tendencies could be a sign.

Adult women tend to display a lack of interest in being places or doing things they usually want to, and/or an increased moodiness and lack of ability to relax in both.

So take a high stress situation with either increased boredom or much higher activity level, restrict people to a house and yard and new rules, cram in a few members of an assistance group or some family that wasn’t prepared, and in addition to all the other domestic violence that can be expected to increase, watch for moodiness and trouble sleeping. Helpful, right?

Being approachable as a friend, spouse and parent, taking a few minutes out of the day to listen or just hang out without advice, lectures, or pressure, makes a huge difference in how fast an outcry is made and how easy the healing process goes. Sometimes very few words are necessary to build open lines of communication. Just sit and pay attention; just be present while a loved one is doing their thing. If chatter is common try to listen instead of speaking for that period.

“What do you think I should do?” is a whole different sentence than “You would not believe my day.” Listening and showing interest can encourage the communication. If a youth or spouse is ridiculed for their thoughts in daily conversation or has no opportunity to voice them, they won’t open themselves up when it’s important.

Sometimes teens especially don’t want to tell their parents because they just don’t want to hear it. They want a shoulder, which is why they make contact with a hotline or an advocate’s office. They just can’t deal with a parent’s advice or disapproval on top of an assault. A few minutes here and there in daily life, establishing the freedom to share thoughts and feelings, helps prove the words “you can tell me anything, no matter” before it’s needed. “I’ll always take your side” can make a difference as well.

The winning coach, the babysitter everybody loves, the successful and good-looking neighbor or friend, and especially family members can be hard to rat out. “Nobody will believe me” is one of the most common things heard in the advocacy world. It’s joined at the hip with “everybody will hate me” because the coach will get fired, somebody’s buddy gets put in jail, maybe Mom’s or Dad’s or The Spouse’s boss is going to be accused and there’s fear of job loss. Families have absolutely been ripped apart by accusations of rape, so they’re not empty fears. Open lines of communication are imperative to overcoming those fears.

When you’re looking at a regional disaster, when there’s a major crisis at hand, when the rapist is in the MAG and maybe playing an important role or even providing the property, “nobody will believe me” and “I can’t risk saying” will very likely play an even more important role. That potential makes it doubly important to get ahead of problems, to make the immediate family know that they are absolutely the most important thing.

The Aftermath of Rape

In today’s world, there are advocacy centers, teen and adult hotlines, groups and other opportunities for help with victims and family members after a rape. Rape victims should always be tested, at least for STDs, even if the attack wasn’t recent.

Let the victim’s anger, fears, and pain take the lead. Let the victim know when you share their feelings, but don’t vent on the victim.

Don’t hide feelings, but control how they’re expressed. Hiding feelings can be assumed as lying, and can lead to victim feeling isolated. However, coming on too strong can overwhelm the victim’s own voice, isolating them, or can be another source of guilt and anger. You do not want the victim to believe they are putting you through an ordeal, and that their feelings have become secondary; when they were the ones attacked.

It’s totally okay to admit “I don’t know what to do for you,” to an adult victim. Chances are they don’t either, but the honesty is important. The desire to help is there and can come through.

For a child, it’s more important to focus on the fact that “we can and will get through this, together” and to be a strong and certain for them.

In today’s world, there are morning-after contraceptive pills that are large doses of estrogen and progestin. Most states allow them to be purchased over the counter, although some may require an outcry. No report is required to be lodged for them. They can be started up to 100-120 hours after a rape.

If rape is a concern, it might not be a bad idea to collect contraceptive pills in the same way animal antibiotics or over-the-counter anti-inflammatories are stashed for potential need. There are also disposable vaginal irrigation kits hospitals use to reach the upper areas of the reproductive tracts for washing. More typical douche sets have the potential to flush fluids and contaminants upwards instead of out. In cases of injury incurred during rape, iodine or another wound-cleansing agent can be added. Many hospitals use Betadine in 1000ml of solution.

Conclusion

Because of the prevalence, the most important aspect of rape to preparedness goals may just be to think about it and be aware of it. Kneejerk rope and shotgun solutions only deal with a narrow slice of time in the healing process and aren’t for current victims so much as future victims. A few precautions can be taken, but it’s hard to fight. A few extra things can be stocked, but bodies heal much more easily than hearts and self-confidence. It takes patience to work through the aftermath, on all sides.

Sources

The statistics used here are ranges collected from FBI and Maryland State Trooper reports and the RAINN website. The RAINN site has condensed statistics pages for any who are interested.

http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-offenders

Other information that may be of interest is the prevalence of minors who commit abuses and the trends of coercive or non-violent intimidation threats in rape:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57606422/study-1-in-10-adolescents-say-theyve-committed-sexual-violence/

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1358546

Last modified on Thursday, 24 October 2013 15:21
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