Picture this: You’re over at a friend’s. You guys might be playing video games or just watching a movie. Pretty normal stuff, right? There’s no sexual undertone nor any intention on your part.
But suddenly you feel someone touching your thigh. You look down, it’s their hand. Feeling uncomfortable but not wanting to cause a scene, you smile awkwardly and gently shift away, thinking they made a mistake. But then the hand creeps back and even more forcefully.
And before you know it, the worst has happened. Your friend won’t even look you in the eyes as you pick up your clothes and leave their place in a hurry. Dazed, you reflect on how that evening transpired.
Was I raped?
But that only happens with strangers, right?
The sad truth is, 8 out of 10 rape cases are committed by someone known to the victim, be it an acquaintance or even a spouse. No always means no, whatever the relationship you have with the person you’re saying it to.
And as you walk home or towards your car, you start to make justifications.
He’s a friend. He wouldn’t hurt me.
I should have been sterner. I should have been more aggressive when saying no.
Did I send mixed signals this whole time? Was I being suggestive when I hugged him hello?
Some people might avoid using the four-letter word starting with R, deeming it too harsh or even downplaying the actual events that happened to them.
When we think of rape, we think of the movie portrayals: of a girl walking in an isolated alley late at night, a masked male grabbing her from behind and holding her at gunpoint or a knife at her neck, rendering her helpless as he violates her.
But those are the movies and in real life, it’s less intrusive as that.
Rape doesn’t even necessarily mean PIV penetration.
It could be a friend fondling you in places you don’t want them to, relative kissing you on the mouth when you have clearly stated you’re uncomfortable or a partner forcing you to have sex even though you’re too tired.
Whichever phrase you choose to use, once someone crosses your physical boundaries, it’s a major sign of disrespect towards you and your body.
So when that happens, what do you do?
The obvious choice is to turn to authorities. Rape IS a crime and it falls under Malaysia’s Penal Code and it’s defined as non-consensual sexual intercourse or consensual sexual intercourse that was accomplished by putting the woman in fear of death or hurt.
But to ensure a fuss-free investigation. Here are some tips in reporting your perpetrator:
1. Do not shower or clean any parts of your body, especially the violated parts.
We know you want to wash off any residue of what happened. But trust us, doing so will lessen the evidence essential for testifying against the perp.
2. Head over to your nearest police station.
We know the last thing you’d wanna do is recount that nightmare. But it’s vital to have an official report done either orally or written down. In your police report, note important details: who was involved, what happened, when it happened (date & estimated time) and where it happened.
3. A rape kit will be taken.
Usually, after you’ve done the report, a female police officer will do a rape kit test on you. It’s basically an examination of your body to gather DNA evidence and also provide you with medical care after a traumatic experience to your body.
If all goes well, a trial will be held at court and fingers crossed, the perp will be prosecuted.
But before that, remember to give yourself some help. Being a victim of rape is traumatizing and you might be left with a lot of residue feelings that will need acknowledging if you wish to move on from it.
Here are some tips on dealing with the aftermath of rape:
1. Talk to a trusted friend or family member.
A cliché but definitely an important tip. Having a good support system will help you in processing the bad feelings that come with every traumatic experience.
2. Get counselling
Maybe your family & friends can do so much, search up on counsellors or therapists specializing in rape/sexual assault to get professional advice.
3. Forgive yourself
The hardest thing to remember is what happened to you was not your fault. Do not allow yourself or others to shift the blame on you.
In Malaysia alone, there is an average of one rape case happening every 35 minutes. Many of which involve girls under the age of 16.
And these are just reported cases, many victims fail to report because out of fear of ridicule or worse, being accused of lying. Sometimes we don’t need to directly say the victim is being dishonest.
Even by just saying things like “She was asking for it by the way she dressed” or “If she didn’t want to do anything, why was she alone with him?” fuels a certain type of mentality that’s extremely toxic for rape & assault victims to be surrounded by.
The tainted way victim-blaming has become so prevalent has caused many rapists & sexual assaulters to walk away freely. And this is why so many cases go unreported.
Do not give these assailants the power to silence & abuse us freely. With more awareness, there will come a time that reporting these cases will bring justice instead of stigma.