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When protectors turn predators

Nidhi Surendranath & Shyama Rajagopal
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“There is a victim of rape in most families,” said counselor Manjula Emmanuel when asked about rape inside homes. Many of the city’s psychiatrists and counsellors agree with her completely.

Victims of incestuous and marital rape stay silent as they may be financially dependent on the abuser. “Rape inside homes does not happen just once. The victim has usually been made to suffer physical and verbal abuse throughout the relationship. The constant suffering kills their will power and they cannot react unless they are motivated,” said Ms. Emmanuel.

City-based psychiatrist C.J. John had been referred to a 15-year old patient with pseudoseizures by her neurologist. Speaking to the girl, the doctor realised that she had been sexually abused by her father. Her pregnant mother was passive and with no one to turn to, the child started showing physical symptoms which psychiatrists call psychogenic seizures.

Yet another case was that of a teenager who became pregnant after her maternal uncle raped her soon after she attained menarche. The young girl could hardly understand the implications of pregnancy. The child and her mother were being supported by the same uncle after the child’s father died.

Child abuse is not the only kind of rape occurring within the family, said Ms. Emmanuel. “The prevalent case of marital rape is not even accepted as rape in our society,” she said. It is simply considered part of the wife’s duties to satisfy her husband. A significant number of victims raped by their family members thus remain silent. The physical and psychological trauma is simply suppressed to maintain the appearance of a family. Many a times, young victims of incestuous abuse develop psychological problems when they grow up. They often have to deal with the trauma trapped alone as perpetrators threaten them to continue the abuse.

According to Ms. Emmanuel, the first step to escaping abuse is to realise that rape was not their fault. “The victim should first understand that they do not deserve to abused. That is where recovery starts.”

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