Working With Rape

Evening at Vaseux Lake
Working with past traumas like rape takes courage, but the soft light of inquiry serves equally well when exploring even the darkest places.

Working With Rape

If you need to do The Work on rape, I encourage you to first gain confidence and trust in The Work by doing it on less traumatic situations. I also encourage you to work with a facilitator to hold the space for you and to bring you back to the inquiry if you start going into self-blame, shame, or attack.

Though rape is a major trauma, the stress of it can be unraveled in the same way as any other stressful thinking through inquiry. When I say, The Work, I’m referring to The Work of Byron Katie, a way to question stressful thoughts and find more peaceful ways of seeing things.

Detaching From the Victim Identity

What makes rape debilitating for years or decades is the strong victim identity that it can create. The feeling of being powerless from that situation often continues long after the crime was committed. 

In The Work, we identify the thoughts that paralyze us and question them. And in doing so, it is often possible to find some wiggle room and open the door to freedom once again. 

How I Like to Approach It

I often don’t start by questioning, “I was raped.” (Depending on how you hold it, this can be a very powerful inquiry too.) Instead, I often prefer to ask the victim what meaning they are seeing in the rape. “What did you feel you lost in being raped? What damage was done?” It is partly this meaning which causes the ongoing stress.

Each Person Has to Find His or Her Own Thoughts

This is personal work. Rape in one situation for one person means something specific to them. And rape in another situation with a different person may mean something different to that person. 

Inquiry means going inside and finding what it is for you in your situation. You are then working with your emotional interpretation of what happened, which often lies at the root of the experience of stress. 

For example, for one person the stress of rape could be centered around a loss of trust (a trusted friend raped them) and the resulting loss of relationship. For another, the main stress could be about having a clear no be ignored and the powerless in that. For another, it could be about the shame of being labeled as a rape victim and what that means to them. 

In Other Words, Each Rape Situation Is Different

To begin to move beyond it, it can be helpful to identify the victim story:

I lost a friend.
I can’t trust anyone now.
I’m not safe.
My no is useless.
Others don’t understand me.
I don’t belong anymore.

Once the thoughts have been identified, they can be questioned. And when they are questioned, new views can often be seen. This is how, from a place of total powerlessness, it is possible to find degrees of freedom.

Finding Forgiveness

One of the most liberating parts of doing The Work is the forgiveness that often gets discovered. If you put your thoughts on a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet and question them, you may find understanding for the “monster.” 

Many people are afraid of doing that, but I have found it helpful many times to look inside the other person (as I imagine them) and look at what could have been going on for them. This does not justify their action, but it opens the possibility for forgiveness. 

And that’s when healing really happens. The most painful thing about being a victim is having to keep hating someone. It goes against our nature.

Join Us for Inquiry

Every week, I offer free Open Sessions. Bring your stressful thoughts to question and your questions about The Work.

And consider diving deeper early next year as we start the year off with a Virtual Retreat and The Work 101 in January.

Have a great week,

“I have worked with hundreds of people (mostly women) who are hopelessly trapped by their own tormented thinking about their rape or incest. Many of them still suffer, every day of their lives, from their thoughts of the past. Again and again, I have seen inquiry help them overcome any obstacle that they have innocently used to prevent their healing. Through the four questions and turnaround, they come to see what no one but they can realize for themselves: that their present pain is self-inflicted. And as they watch this realization unfold, they begin to set themselves free.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Further reading: Emotional Trauma

About the author 


Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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