Some of the most powerful and traumatizing dreams involve rape. In some cases the dreamers have experienced rape or sexual assault, and when they dream about it they are trying to reprocess the memories for healing. But usually rape in dreams has a non-sexual meaning. Think of uses in everyday conversation when it means one side dominates another in sports or video games. The player or team that’s dominated is said to be “raped,” especially when the loss is humiliating. Rape can also mean to exploit innocence, beauty, and natural resources. It’s a violation. It’s used as an expression of helplessness and anger and power. Dreams can use scenarios involving rape as a metaphorical means to express dynamics of a situation or feelings.
Think of it from the perspective of the dreaming mind that wants to tell a story. It creates symbolic meaning by making comparisons and using one definition of a word to mean another. People do it too, as illustrated above. Thought of this way, rape in a dream is simply an effective way to tell the story. Dreams enact alternate definitions of the word rape, turning them into scenarios of sexual rape.
Dreams are rarely literal. Always think of them first as figurative.
Symbolism of rape in a dream = coercion
Another way dreams use rape figuratively is to express the feeling of being forced to do something you don’t want to do, or to be someone you don’t want be. It’s a theme found frequently in the dreams of people who resist living up to cultural ideals and expectations of their gender, then face the consequences. Some females resent feeling like they have to wear makeup and heels just because it’s expected. Some males don’t want to act tough and distant or spend hours in the gym buffing up just so they can be viewed as “real men.” The pressure to live up to gender ideals feels coercive to them.
Social pressure to live up to gender ideals can be intense, and the consequences of defying it extreme. Even when a person tries to live up to gender ideals it can still feel like coercion. It’s not necessarily “consensual.”
Two lessons can be especially helpful when interpreting dreams about rape:
- Dreams exaggerate to create symbolism and be memorable.
- Dreams amplify to express your feelings and bring forward what you might otherwise overlook or minimize.
The dreaming mind does not care that rape is a delicate topic. It uses the most effective means to tell the story and accomplish the objectives that underlie it.
For people who have been raped, a mess of personal associations come into play that their dreams can use to create symbolism, express emotions, and address dynamics. For survivors of rape, the best approach to dreams about being raped is found in my lesson on nightmares. We’ll talk more about this subject later. However, it doesn’t mean their dreams can’t use rape symbolically or metaphorically.
Gang rape in dreams
Rape symbolism arises in dreams about being raped by a group of men, and whether a male or female has such a dream the basic meaning can be “men in general.” Being male in some cultures feels coercive and violating to some men. Trying to fit in as “one of the men” forces some men to try to be something they aren’t.
For example, a man I spoke with at Reddit Dreams asked why he has recurring dreams about being raped by other men. It connects with hiding his homosexuality. He forces himself to act straight. Rape sums up how he feels coerced.
Imagine the male whose father berates him to “be a man why don’t ya” and attacks him psychologically. Imagine being called “sissy” and “fag” by a bully. This sort of situation is readily turned into dreams about being raped by a single man, not a group, if the source of the coercion and humiliation is singular. And don’t expect the dream character to necessarily look like the dreamer’s tormentor. Dreams often use surrogates and symbols.
Females dream of gang rape for some of the same reasons. When males fire words at them them such as “ugly” and “bitch” it can wound them deeply. They can feel like all men view them that way, and all men are bad or predatory. Rape in their dreams expresses their humiliation and fear. When the wounding comes from other females, they can dream about it as being raped by a group of females.
Gang rape in a dream can be an exaggerated way of expressing the idea of being ganged-up on. It can express the feeling that everyone is out to get you.
Rape dream: a graphic representation of your inner life
Rape can be a graphic representation of inner life. For example, rape can be a symbolic way of showing how you act toward yourself when you talk with yourself harshly or feel ashamed of who you are. Or your ego is coercive, threatening, takes what it wants. If that’s how life is in your head, it’s likely to show in your dreams.
Some people are best described as rapists just based on their personality and character. If a dream shows you as a rapist, it might be true in a sense. But you MUST keep in mind the symbolic ideas that can be expressed as rape. For example, being depicted in a dream as a rapist can be a way of symbolically comparing with personality traits such as obsession, taking advantage of weakness or innocence, or single-minded determination to take what you want.
Carl Jung says some dreams are objective; they tell it like it is, but most dreams are subjective; they tell it like you see it. This teaching is tremendously important to bring with you as you interpret dreams involving rape or portrayals of rapists. I recently encountered a post at Reddit where a young woman reported a dream of being raped by her father. She says he acts strangely toward her and gives her a weird vibe. Is her dream subjectively expressing that feeling and exaggerating it into a story about rape? She didn’t answer. It’s hard to talk about.
Most people don’t know that dreams use symbolism. This is simple fact #3 about dreams that I teach in my Crash Course in Dream Interpretation:
Rape dreams: a warning about living dangerously
A dream about rape might connect with a recent or ongoing situation that’s dangerous, or potentially so, sexually or otherwise. It’s the sort of comparison dreams are known to make because dangerous situations such as passing out at a party or running off with people you don’t know can lead to rape. In which case, dreaming about rape amplifies the message about putting yourself in danger.
A rape dream can come in response to feeling vulnerable. For example, after being hit on at a gas station by a creepy guy, a woman dreams that night about being raped at that gas station by a similar guy. It’s an expression of having her dignity attacked, compounded by recognizing her vulnerability to men who are stronger than her.
Dreams can act as simulations, and a dream about rape can be a way of acting out an issue related to it. For example, you hear a graphic story about a friend who is raped then dream it happens to you. It’s a way of really understanding what that friend went through, or to express fear of it happening to you. Or you have a rape fantasy and dream about rape. Something about the idea of domination and humiliation turns you on.
For example, a young man with a rape fantasy had two dreams that when looked at together present a choice. In one, he has normal sex with a girl he is attracted to, an imaginary character, and in the other he rapes a random girl. The dreams are showing him his choices. On the one hand, sex with someone he’s attracted to (normal sex) appeals to him but lacks the stimulation he feels at the thought of raping someone. The rape dream shows that the stimulation of rape comes at the expense any sort of intimacy. He can have one or the other but not both.
Rape dreams for survivors
Rape in a dream can have sexual roots. People who have been raped are likely to dream about it. It seems cruel to replay traumatizing events, but it actually helps by creating psychological cushion between the present moment in time and what happened in the past. Once the dream is over it’s in the past, and when something can be thought of as in the past it creates personal distance, or cushion. The same sort of process happens with other traumas such as combat and abuse.
On the other hand, rape dreams can show that you’re still chained psychologically, emotionally and even physically to the experience. For example, a woman dreams about finding her rapist working beneath a car. She coldly pulls out a gun and pumps rounds into him. The dream is an expression of her thoughts of revenge. She didn’t report the rape because her best friend’s brother did it, and it’s eating her up inside. Her thoughts of revenge rip open the scab and keep the wound fresh.
Rape in dreams can be used to exaggerate a situation related to sexual tension or exploitation, such as when a person is used as a sexual plaything. When you are used for sex or harassed sexually, your dreams can tell it like it is. It’s as if you are raped, even though you don’t explicitly say no. Hundreds of women (and maybe some men too) who encountered Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Ghislaine Maxwell know exactly what I mean.
Resources to help with rape dreams
If you have found this post because you were raped, dream about it, and want help, try dream rescripting, used in therapeutic settings for treatment of chronic nightmares and PTSD. Use this link when you’re ready to get to work: Dream rescripting worksheet.
Another rescripting worksheet.
Links can be broken so if the ones above don’t work for you, simply search online for “dream rescripting worksheet.” Deep inner healing work like this is best done with a therapist.
You deserve to have your life back. Your dreams are trying to help you heal. Dr. Carl Jung said dreams are only for your benefit, even when they are dark and fearsome.
I also suggest Peter LeVine‘s book “Waking the Tiger.” Its insights and exercises can help you feel safe and in control of your body again.
This post covers the symbolic meaning of rape dreams and offers advice for understanding them and healing from past sexual-related trauma.
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