Caroline Burrell: Victims react in different ways but all need support

RAPE is an abhorrent crime and many people who have been raped describe fearing they would be killed by their attacker.

Survivors draw on many resources to survive an attack, whether it might be talking to the attacker or being compliant to minimise the threat of further violence.

Whatever the nature of the attack, whether it is perpetrated by a stranger or, more commonly, by someone known to the person - a partner, ex-partner, family member, acquaintance or work colleague - being raped is an extremely traumatising experience and can have lifelong impacts on survivors.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The time it takes to heal from rape is different for each individual. There is no one way to do this. The belief and support of key people in survivors' lives, such as partners, family members and friends, can play a vital part, as can access to support, information and counselling provided by Rape Crisis, Victim Support and other organisations. Being offered a safe space where survivors are believed, listened to and allowed to tell their story at their own pace, in their own time, is really important.

The healing process can include a number of different stages, and for some survivors, forgiveness can be a powerful part of this, whereas other survivors may feel forgiveness is not something that would help them heal. Again, all survivors are individuals. What is key is they receive a strong message from services supporting them and supportive people in their lives that they are not to blame for any part of what happened.

Men who perpetrate rape make a choice to do so, and responsibility always lies firmly with them, no matter what the circumstances.

• Caroline Burrell is centre co-ordinator for Edinburgh Women's Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre.