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Report No. 84

1.2. The crisis of rape.-

It is often stated that a woman who is raped undergoes two crisis-the rape and the subsequent trial. While the first seriously wounds her dignity, curbs her individual, destroys her sense of security and may often ruin her physically, the second is no less potent of mischief, inasmuch as it not only forces her to re-live through the traumatic experience, but also does so in the glare of publicity in a totally alien atmosphere, with the whole apparatus and paraphernalia of the criminal justice system focused upon her.

In particular, it is now well established that sexual activities with young girls of immature age have a traumatic effect which often persists through life, leading subsequently to disorders, unless there are counter-balancing factors in family life and in social attitudes which could act as a cushion against such traumatic effects. Rape is the 'ultimate violation of the self.1 It is a humiliating event in a woman's life which leads to fear for existence and a sense of powerlessness. The victim needs empathy and safety and a sense of re-assurance. In the absence of public sensitivity to these needs, the experience of figuring in a report of the offense may itself become another assault.

Forcible rape is unique among crimes, in the manner in which its victims are dealt with by the criminal justice system. Raped women have to undergo certain tribulations. These begin with their treatment by the police and continue through a male-dominated criminal justice system. Acquittal of many de facto guilty rapists adds to the sense of injustice. In effect, the focus of the law upon corroboration, consent and character of the prosecutrix and a standard of proof of guilt going beyond reasonable doubt have resulted in an increasing alienation of the general public from the legal system, who find the law and legal language difficult to understand and who think that the courts are not run so well as one would expect.

1. Hilbermen Rape: The Ultimate Violation of the Self, (1976), Vol. 133, No. 4, Am. J. Psychiatry, pp. 436-437.



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