Teens Affected By Rape

By Danny Huerta, MSW, LCSW, LSSW
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Rape is a way to control another person via nonconsensual sexual penetration. Teens affected by rape experience physical harm and emotional distress.

Rape is a Way to Control Another Person

As teens begin to experiment with sex, often boundaries are loosened and lines are crossed as one person, usually a male, begins to try to force his partner to engage in unwanted sexual behaviors. He may push for sexual contact without consent, known as sexual assault. Or, he may participate in nonconsensual sexual penetration, known as rape.  Teens affected ty rape often feel demoralized and dehumanized because rape is a way to control another person.

What Happens to Teens Affected By Rape

The effects of sexual assault and rape are profound and life altering. Victims may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, sleep disorders and depression. They are more likely to have multiple sexual partners. Also, they are at a higher risk for suicide.

Teens affected by rape have been violated and may experience many heartbreaking consequences.  Rape is not just an attack on the body, but on the victim’s personhood. It strips away a sense of security. A victim often has to deal with a betrayal by someone she trusted. In 3 out of 5 cases involving a minor, the victim already knew the perpetrator. Consequently, if she sees the person at school, she may always wonder who else knows about the attack.

Being Proactive to Reduce the Risk of Rape

Teens need to know that rape is never the victim’s fault. To reduce the numbers of teens affected by rape, try these risk reducing strategies:                            

1. Explain the reasons for not using drugs or alcohol. These substances are illegal for teens and can also lead to risky behaviors. One study indicated that in about half of all sexual assaults, alcohol was consumed by the perpetrator and/or the victim.

2.Talk to your teen about modesty. How we dress communicates something about ourselves. Ask your teen: What do you want to communicate with your clothing?

3.If your teen finds herself in a situation where drugs or alcohol are being used, tell her she can text you anytime for a ride home. And, she shouldn’t fear a lecture. Tell her the same escape clause applies for any situation where she feels uncomfortable or threatened. 

4.Teach and model smart dating. Ask to meet a potential date, so you can form an impression. Recommend group dates or outings with a youth group. No matter what, trustworthiness needs to be established before teens spend one-on-one time together. Remind your teens that anyone they plan to date is a person who bears the image of God. Therefore, he or she deserves to be treated the way God would want the person to be treated.

5.Some guys think that if they buy a girl dinner, they have the right to sexual favors in return. Give your daughter the confidence to say no. Rehearse it with her. Remind her that she’s worth infinitely more than a meal. Sexual perpetrators look for people who lack confidence, because they are less likely to report anything. Rape is a way to control another person. So, a perpetrator may also be on the lookout for someone who would be easy to control.

Focus on Values First

Counsel your teen about the importance of putting friendship before romance. Set standards about dating someone who shares your child’s values, and values her as a person created in God’s image. Teach your child to wait for her thoughts, instead of living out of pure emotion. Teens are usually heavily influenced by their feelings. They can greatly benefit learning to “think about their thinking.” This can difficult for teens, so it requires patient and diligent teaching.  Remind her that teens affected by rape face many negative consequences.  Therefore, thinking about her values may allow her to resist participation in risky behaviors.  This could help her prevent being a rape victim.

Rape is Not Just a Girl’s Issue

Nearly 1 out of 5 rape victims under the age of 18 is a boy. Rape is a way to control another person and young women can be just as controlling as young men. Don’t forget to talk to your sons about this issue. Boys are less likely to report a rape. So, let your son know that if he is ever a victim, he needs to let someone know.

Symptoms of Teens Affected By Rape

  • Bruises or other injuries, including possible cutting
  • Sleeping fully clothed or wearing a bathing suit to shower
  • New anxiety, depression, social fears or fatigue
  • Withdrawing from normal activities or friends
  • Changes in hygiene or attention to appearance, including sudden and significant weight gain
  • Difficulty sleeping

Ways to Help Your Child

Teens affected by rape need parents more than ever:

  • Believe your teen if she says she has been raped. Parents risk minimizing the issue or making the victim feel responsible by questioning whether the rape actually occurred.
  • Avoid focusing on the unsafe behavior that possibly led to the unwanted sexual contact. Your daughter does not need a lecture. She needs love. Insights about risky situations and prevention should come in the recovery process, not at the point of disclosure. Your teen needs to feel grace and be treated with dignity. It’s important to tell your teen that it’s not her fault.
  • If the rape occurred within the last 72 hours, get your child to a hospital. Doctors will be able to treat injuries, collect evidence of an assault and test for sexually transmitted infections. If the rape occurred more than 72 hours before you learn about it, a medical exam is still important.
  • Contact the police. Many victims are reluctant to do this. They don’t want to draw more attention to the violation or they may want to protect the perpetrator. Also, because rape is a way to control a victim, perpetrators sometimes threaten further assault if the victim talks. It’s important that your child sees you providing safety and taking action in her defense.
  • Encourage involvement in a rape recovery group. Victims need to hear from their peers that the crime committed against them was the perpetrator’s fault. This may also make them more willing to receive counseling or talk more openly to you about the experience.
  • Let your child know you are always available when she wants to talk. Then try to get her back into a routine. Your teen will likely struggle at first, but resuming her daily routine can help her learn to live normally again.

Helping Your Child Reach Out to Peers

What should your child do if she discovers that a friend has been raped? Suggest that she:

  • Encourage her friend to talk with a parent, school counselor or trusted adult. By offering to go with her for help, your child can give her friend the strength to speak out. If she refuses, your child still needs to let an adult know what happened. Keeping a friend’s confidence is important, but keeping a secret like this is damaging. Sometimes being a good friend means doing hard things.
  • Have her friend call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673) for support.
  • Listen without judging. Your friend may want to talk about the incident if she knows you really care. What she doesn’t need to hear is condemning comments like, “Why would you put yourself in that situation?”
  • Be supportive. Check in with your friend now and then to see how she’s doing. Let her know that nothing that’s happened has changed the way you think of her. Pray for her.

Conversation Starters

Talk to your child and enourage him or her to:

Be a noticer

  • Do you know anyone who has been the victim of sexual assault or rape?
  • How can you tell if someone is not a good person to date? What attracts you and why? Why might others be attracted to you?
  • What do your friends at school think of drug and alcohol use? How does it impact them?
  • Since rape is a way to control another person, would you know how to spot a controlling partner?

 Be a builder

  • How can you encourage someone who has gone through something as difficult as rape? What can you do to support them?
  • How are rape victims viewed? What might you do to help them regain the truth about who they are? Can you help them regain the perspective of being made in God’s image?

 Be a connector

  • Do you know of any resources that are available for teens affected by rape? What are they?
  • What kind of help would a perpetrator need?
  • Why is it important to connect a rape victim with necessary resources? What if the victim says he or she will never be your friend again if you tell anyone?

7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment

Good parents aren’t perfect. There’s no formula to follow, but there are ways you can grow every day. Focus on the Family’s 7 Traits of Effective Parenting Assessment gives parents an honest look at their unique strengths, plus some areas that could use a little help.

Copyright © 2019 by Focus on the Family



Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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About the Author

Danny Huerta Media Profile
Danny Huerta, MSW, LCSW, LSSW

As vice president of the Parenting and Youth department, Danny oversees Focus’ initiatives that equip parents to disciple and mentor the next generation, so that they can thrive in Christ.

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