We fully believe that every woman has the right to choose the right time to share her experience and pain, and start her battle in front of society. This applies to everything and anything a woman goes through, from marital rape, harassment to any kind of psychological assault she unfortunately had to experience. That being said, we understand that a whole lot of people in society have so many questions about marital rape, for example, 'Why does it take time for women to come forward and actually admit to what has happened to them? ' 'Why would a woman come forward after years and confess to everyone?'
To answer all these questions and to explain things in the best way, we reached out to a professional, the none other than Noureen Bin Halim. Noureen is a counseling psychologist & therapist and she is known for addressing all the issues we're all afraid to say out loud and is constantly sharing very insightful advice. We decided to pick her brain and asked her all the questions.
Why does it take women years to admit or come forward with an incident? Can you explain or elaborate on this because alot of people don’t understand why this happens?
Women may not admit that they’ve been subjected to marital rape for several reasons. The first reason is false intimacy myths that are upheld by our society. We are socialized into falsely believing that sexual assault cannot occur by an intimate partner or husband. The second reason some women do not come forward is because of low self-esteem. Years of being in an abusive relationship may take a toll on the woman’s self-esteem. Sometimes the woman believes and feels that she deserves to be treated in this way. The third reason is similar to the one mentioned in the 2nd question, sometimes the abuse is subtle and occurs over years, and it can be very difficult to pick out. The last reason most women do not come forward is fear. They have a deep fear of the consequences of speaking up. They worry that others will not believe them, or belittle their story.
But, how can women talk about marital rape while knowing they'll face a lot of pressure by society to not talk about things that happen in the marriage and to keep quite?
I would advise women to speak up and to not be affected by the pressure of society to stay quiet. There’s a very important distinction between having boundaries/keeping a relationship private and understanding that keeping emotional/physical/sexual abuse a secret may be more harmful on the long-term.
What approach should a woman take to share her story so as not to risk her credibility or to be heard well?
Share your story with people who can validate you and help support your emotional needs during this time.
What is the role of the friends and family surrounding a woman if she has been subjected to marital rape or any other traumatic incident?
To provide emotional support and validation, even if the victim’s experience is unfamiliar or new. If you don’t know what to say or do, the best thing to do is to ask the person, “How can I help you during this time ?” Everyone is an expert on their own emotional needs. Remind them that you are there for them by vocalizing your support “I’m here for you/with you.” Encourage the person to seek psychological help and explain why it may be beneficial to seek help from a trained professional.
A lot of women create excuses for their husbands if an incident occurs, for example, ‘ He probably didn’t know’ or ‘I probably wasn’t clear enough’ is this normal or why does it happen often?
Unfortunately, marital rape is the end of a long chain of abusive and manipulative behavior carried out by the husband. Detecting such behavior and being able to name it is not always easy for women, because sometimes the abuse is subtle and occurs in ways that are indirect. For example, the man may indirectly tell his wife that if “she doesn’t sleep with him”, he will have to sleep with someone else. When this happens, women begin to feel guilty and may start to believe that THEY have a problem. This is known as gaslighting (a form of abusive behavior where the partner distorts their wife’s reality and makes her question her feelings and thoughts).
A lot of women live in denial that they have experienced marital rape? Is this a reaction to the trauma? How does denial affect their mental health?
Traumatic events like marital rape is often difficult to process. As humans we deal with trauma differently, but there will be a period of grief in the aftermath of any trauma. One of the stages of grief includes denial and the purpose of denial is to give the person a chance to be able to absorb difficult information or facts that they may not have been ready to absorb. Denial, is a coping mechanism that often protects the person during the early stages of grief. During later stages, the person may begin to understand and make sense of what has happened, and to learn healthier ways of dealing with the trauma.
If a woman has been subjected to marital rape, what can she do in terms of taking action and working on healing from such a trauma?
Women who are subjected to marital rape are often traumatized that the rape has occurred or is occurring by their spouse. The aftermath of psychological healing involves several factors like supportive therapy (with a therapist who can help the client understand the reasons why marital rape occurs). Gaining insight and understanding is especially important so that the client does not blame herself. Martial rape often occurs when the male partner wishes to exert power and dominance over his wife (against her will or without her consent). Unfortunately, because many women do not understand the psychology behind the rape, they often blame themselves (stating things like “I should enjoy sex” or “It is my duty to always say yes”, or “Maybe the problem is with me.” Therefore, the first step is to correct their misconceptions is with a trusted therapist, to explore the reasons behind the rape, and to work on healing from the trauma that resulted.
Is addressing marital rape with the husband a good enough action to take with your partner? Is this enough to make sure it won't happen again?
While it’s CRUCIAL to set boundaries, openly discuss the concept of consent with the partner, this is not necessarily enough in a relationship where abuse may likely be second nature to the partner. It may occur again, or the abuse may occur in other forms. Abuse is directly related to the need for power and control, and those who are abused are often dealing with severe interpersonal issues. If the abusive partner is willing to go to couples' therapy, this may be a good place to start.
What advice can you give women who don’t face support or are surrounded by people not believing her story?
Stand your ground and believe your own truth even if you are standing alone. Leaving an abusive relationship is the most couragous thing you can do for yourself. Staying in a relationship filled with emotional, physical, or sexual abuse puts you at risk for depression, anxiety, low-self esteem.
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