Publish 31 August 2020
A Psychologist’s Perspective
⚠️ Reader Discretion advised. Includes abuse detail.
Rape is a violent act of abuse committed against the will of an individual. The victim is coerced into sexual acts of genital, oral, or anal sex. Assault, harassment, and exploitation can accompany sexual abuse. Through the use of physical force, threats of damage, and coercion, the perpetrator dominates the situation.
Even during the rape process, a woman (who is most often the victim*) fears for her life afterwards. Hence, rape goes beyond a sexual act. The physical trauma and coercion can originate from either strangers or romantic partners.
It is difficult for a victim to pick herself up and shake it off. Humiliation and fear often hinders legal charges. Life does not return to normal. Many cultures highly value a female’s sexual virtue as a marker of her family’s dignity and reputation. In these parts of the world, a raped woman is no longer virtuous.
The act suggests that she is tarnished. This negatively impacts her and her family Other geographical areas may not carry such stigma, but a child or multiple children may prevent some men from pursuing marriage with the victim.
Difficulties a Woman Endures as Single Parent Raising Child Born of Rape
A victim has tough choices to make when pregnancy results from a sexual attack. Children conceived in this manner may be permanent reminders of the rape. Thus, pregnancy after rape contributes to moral battles about prospects for the child.
How a child can exacerbate pain, stigma, and prejudice:
- Families in many countries banish women who conceive and raise a child after rape.
- Mothers can suffer from poverty, malnutrition, and reproductive health problems due to the lack of support from members of the community and family.
- Fears of embarrassment can prevent pregnant women from obtaining proper medical treatment, placing them at higher risk of severe birth complications.
- Girls carrying children of rape are at tremendous mental and physical health risk. They are pushed into adulthood at an early age and may withdraw from school.
- Victims of rape may not have access to facilities for safe childbirth. They often receive coercion to have dangerous abortions.
- Lack of education can lead to socioeconomic difficulties for both mother and child.
Psychological Effects on Victim Having Child after Rape
Survivors of rape who live with children born of rape suffer multiple psychological issues. This includes post-traumatic disorders, suicidal thoughts, and certain antisocial personality disorders. Harmful habits such as drug and alcohol addiction are common. As outcasts with a broken family identity, they most often experience the serious psychological effect called “Rape Trauma Syndrome.”
For any parent, having an unexpected child is a traumatizing event. However, the mother of an infant born from abuse is not in the proper emotional state. She may not be psychologically equipped to deal with the memory of the rape.
Depression is also a common byproduct of rape. Many women blame themselves for what happened to them and experience feelings of shame and guilt. Victims may then transfer such feelings to their developing children. The person who lives a normal life can’t see the depth of sadness in a woman’s eyes when she looks at her child conceived from rape.
Emotional impact of raising children born of rape:
The innocent child born of rape bears can rejection by society if history is public. This brings many difficulties in confronting daily life challenges. Lack of affection, care, or support from a single-parent mother are common. This may encourage feelings of loneliness, expressions of hate and aggressive behavior, decreased self-esteem, antisocial, and other negative behaviors.
The relationship between parents and kids spans the growth of a child. Children born from abuse may not receive sufficient emotional and physical connection for their well-being.
When a Rapist Escalates Family Life
In many cases, a rapist escapes criminal punishment. A woman experiences virtual second rape when her rapist tries to claim joint visitation rights or parental custody of the child. The legal wrangling increases the stress for a woman already going through child-raising difficulties. It could make her fearful of the danger this poses to her child. The mother has a legitimate right to ask the court not to grant the offender parental rights because of sexual abuse.
Legal entitlements include excluding the perpetrator from the life of the abused. The victim has the option of seeking either a Sexual Harassment Protection Order or a Domestic Abuse Protection Order. An attorney can determine which one fits the situation.
Sexual assault is viewed as shameful, and victims are frequently disowned or blamed for being assaulted. Rape influences the future of the victim and her families for generations. It is very difficult for a woman to cope with the atrocities and to raise a child who is a lifetime reminder of the horrors she endured. Against such odds, many succeed, with the benefit of therapy.
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* Rape is also common among male or non-binary victims in LBGTQ+ communities.
Khadija Razzaq is a contributing author with a mater’s degree in clinical psychology. Her views may not reflect those of ClinicalPosters or its editor. Main photo by Kamaji Ogino from Pexels.