April 16, 2013 6:28 pm
Updated: April 16, 2013 7:10 pm

Double rape victim speaks out about the stigma of sexual assault

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TORONTO – Layla Thomas has been living with feelings of shame and guilt for years.

“I am completely affected by the fact that so many teenagers feel the need that the next response is to kill themselves,” said Thomas, whose name has been concealed to protect her identity.

Thomas was just 16-year-old when a date asked her up to his apartment and allegedly slipped sleeping pills in her drink. When she came to, three men were surrounding her.

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“I was in the middle of being raped, I don’t know who had me before, what they done before,” Thomas explained.

She was able to fight off her attackers but didn’t tell anyone, fearing it would destroy her family.

Then six years later, Thomas says she was raped a second time at a house party.

“All I can think in my head, again?” she said. “Is it me? Really again? So I just gave in.”

Sandra Diaz from the Canadian Women’s Foundation believes rape and the number of cases in Canada has become a dirty secret.

“Young girls in provinces as gentle as Nova Scotia are committing suicide because they’ve been gang raped and bullied on the internet, it’s appalling and we as a country should feel ashamed, not the girl who was raped,” Diaz said.

Cyber bullying may have been a trigger in the Rehtaeh Parsons case, but research suggests there is a connection between rape and suicide.

A National Women’s Study produced by the Medical University of South Carolina cites that a third of rape victims thought seriously about committing suicide.

Rape victims were also 4.1 times more likely than non-crime victims to have contemplated suicide and 13 times more likely to have attempted suicide.

“When your sense of self becomes so flooded with the sense that I’m worthless, I’m so rotten to the core because you were defiled by a sexual act, it makes it really hard for some people to see themselves going forward, they don’t think it’s going to get better,” said psychologist Dr. Oren Amitay.

Layla Thomas says her strength came the moment she realized weakness lies with her attackers and that she is not to blame.

“For every hundred people that try to knock you down, you are your own destiny,” she said. “You have to stand on your own two feet, you are not alone.”

© 2013 Shaw Media

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