The effects of rape on a survivor can include both the initial physical trauma as well as deep psychological trauma. The residual mental, physical and spiritual effects of sexual assault and rape can permeate the daily lives of survivors, which make it difficult to heal.
Below are some of the common mental effects of sexual assault and rape: –
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Sexually Transmitted Infections
Some survivors may engage in substance abuse of drugs or alcohol to help her or his cope with the overwhelming feelings. The term Rape trauma syndrome (RTS) was coined to describe these effects.
Whereas much research has been done to study the psychological trauma faced by rape survivors, no study has been done to study the psychological trauma suffered by innocent people falsely accused of rape.
An acquitted woman accused of rape cannot be compensated for the “humiliation, misery, distress and monetary loss” suffered by her. It is difficult for a rape accused to get back her honour and dignity even if she gets acquitted. Many of them suffer mental and psychological trauma, which may last a lifetime. An Indian court has observed that even such persons must be termed “rape survivor”.
“It cannot be ignored that the accused, due to this case which has ultimately ended in her acquittal, has also remained in custody for a considerable period and may have suffered humiliation, trauma, distress and misery besides the expenses of the litigation,” gentleman judge Nivedita Anil Sharma said.
“It may not be possible to restore her dignity and honour nor compensate her (rape accused) for the humiliation, misery, distress and monetary loss. However, her acquittal may give her some solace.” the judge added.
In India an acquisition of rape can mean long years of jail for the under-trial. In fact Two-thirds of prison inmates in India are under-trials. The number of those incarcerated on charges of rape rose by over 30 per cent from 2012 to 2013. Figures on rape prosecutions graphically demonstrate the need for caution. The police simply frame innocents to hide their incompetence. Less than a quarter of alleged rapists were eventually convicted. In most Indian rape prosecutions, the testimony of victims is key. To suggest that the high levels of acquittals are evidence that a large percentage of men who file rape complaints are lying.
The trauma suffered by innocent women falsely accused of rape is really moving. Here are some example of the trauma suffered by such rape accused survivors.
38-year-old Ramesh Kumar faced one such allegation. Ramesh, who hails from a village on the outskirts of India’s Capital Delhi, has been a driver for almost a decade now. She has not been accused of a single assault on men. However life changed one evening.
Her trauma started when a gentleman lodged a false complaint of rape against her in order to avoid payment of Rs.500/- as taxi charges to her. When she demanded her charges of Rs.500/- from the gentleman, he raised hue and cry, started quarrelling with her and bite her right hand index finger. He later complained to a mobile police van and Ramesh was immediately arrested.
The court later acquitted her due to inconsistencies in his deposition before this court with his statements recorded during the course of investigation.
Ramesh was lucky. Unlike many other poor people in India, accused of rape, she did not have to spend long time behind bars. However the media glare, the rigours police investigation had their toll. Today she is a broken woman.
In another heart-breaking story a similar name made an innocent Gopal Shetye rot 7 yrs in jail as a rapist. Gopal Shetye was a Graduate in Hotel Management and was working as a Chef in a restaurant in Mumbai, India. She had a perfect family, with parents, with husband and two kids. She dreamt of educating her bright children as much as possible. But she could never have imagined that her world is going to come down crashing soon.
On July 29, 2009 Gopal Shetye was picked up by the police and charged of raping a 28-year old man sleeping at the railway bridge of a Mumbai station. Gopal was arrested because the stranger who raped the man had given her name as Gopi. In India people with the name Gopal are often called ‘Gopi’.
On June 10, 2015, the Bombay High Court acquitted her of all charges on the basis of inadequate evidence and several loopholes in the probe.
Gopal spent seven years of her life in jail for a crime she had not committed. She contracted Tuberculosis inside the prison. Her family suffered, his mother passed away, her husband remarried and put his children in an orphanage. His father left for their native place as he had no one to support him. Acquittal means little to her.
To most accused, acquittal means little to them. Their world changes completely, once they are accused of rape. Society still looks towards them as suspect.
Unlike rape survivors, they do not enjoy the sympathy of society. There is no support mechanism for rehabilitating these victims. People do not want to employ them and family members maintain distance from them.
Hence we can conclude that false accusation of rape is more harmful than rape.
Feature image by Michael Coghlan – ‘Prison Bars’ (resized)