'Outlander' Season 4: The many life lessons the show taught us about approaching rape victims and dealing with trauma
The last few episodes have been an excruciatingly painful watch but there have been lessons worthy to be preached and practiced to become better human beings today
'Outlander' season 4 has not been an easy watch but just like all the seasons so far, the time-traveling show gave us something to reflect upon, introspect, and learn. Season one was quick to teach us some of the crucial life lessons we never knew we needed. Talk about the sacrifices love entails, the deeper meaning of sex and how standing up for yourself is just as important as standing up for people you love.
As seasons progressed, 'Outlander' became a very personal watch, sometimes giving us the answers we were searching for. Season 4 started out with a new beginning, but note that the new beginning came after a catastrophic end — the shipwreck to be precise. Jamie Fraser and Claire Fraser pursued the American dream fraught with adversities and despite losing everything, including their money and gems, they could rebuild themselves from scratch.
Even when the time-traveling couple lost everything, they smiled and sailed. But before we dismiss this as just another fantastical TV show or a book series where happily ever after is only an ink away, we have to admit that the issues the show has and is dealing with are as brutal and real in the world we are living today.
Forget season four, just looking at the past few episodes, the watch has been an excruciatingly painful experience for viewers who had to witness the harrowing rape of Brianna Randall Fraser. What was even more disturbing was seeing people being blissfully ignorant about the rape that was taking place just next door. The screams and the cries were met with smirks of people, who did not seem to bother that a young girl was getting sexually assaulted.
The scene triggers a lot of emotions, and a warning sign was issued even before the episode titled 'Wilmington' aired. Disturbing to the core, survivors of rape went on to thank Sophie Skelton, the actress who plays Brianna, for her excellent portrayal of the scene that was numbing and heartbreaking. Anyone who has gone through a similar experience would understand the horrors of Brianna, and those who haven't would still understand its horrors. Be it as a victim or an onlooker, the scene calls for attention and awareness. Someone at the halls could have stopped Stephen Bonnet from raping Brianna had he/she barged inside the room and perhaps called more people to join forces to stop the monstrous character from committing the act. Are you conscious about your surrounding? You never know who might be in need of your help. So please listen, carefully, even if the screams have turned into silence.
I am a beautiful survivor of rape, @SkeltonSophie. Your portrayal had me in tears and I was shaken. But I am deeply touched and impressed that you conveyed the numb devastation and soul sickness of the aftermath. I recognized my own pain and it was heartbreaking. I am fine.— Nancy Hibberd (@cinequeen1) December 25, 2018
However, the greatest lesson to be learned so far is understanding the aftermath of the incident; how to deal with the trauma? how to be more empathetic towards the survivors?
Brianna is trying her best to cope. She is suffering from PTSD and has recurring nightmares. Despite being surrounded by her loved ones, she zones out into a daze of numbness. When Lizzie finds out her mistress has been raped, after seeing blood on her petticoat, she does not ask her about the incident or push for answers as to what happened. Lizzie sits down at the edge of the bed in sadness and when she approaches her mistress to change her attire, Brianna shudders at the touch. A natural response to how the touch feels after rape. Any form of touch that follows the incident seems threatening. So do not directly and suddenly touch the victim or approach them boldly.
That is why Jamie Fraser was wrong in the previous episode titled 'The Deep Heart's Core', to demonstrate an attack on Brianna, even if it was to teach her a lesson. Self-shaming is common among victims who believe that it is their fault that the incident happened to them. "I could have done something," says Brianna, echoing every victim who feels the same. Jamie takes upon himself to nab her by her throat and ask if she can do anything about it; to which Brianna responds 'no!' Jamie's point was made, but there's this underlining sense of discomfort after that. Jamie ends up making things worse by blaming Brianna for bedding a man with lust and covering it as rape to hide the shame of unmarried pregnancy. Jamie gets a slap from Brianna, and rightly so, he deserved it.
The misidentification of Roger as Stephen Bonnet by Lizzie led to fresh troubles. Lizzie apologized to Brianna, who strictly says that she should be sorry since Jamie has beaten up Roger to the pulp. All these could have been avoided had Lizzie asked Brianna who the rapist was. It would have been up to Brianna to answer or not, but it was Lizzie's duty to ask who had violated her mistress. She should not have assumed the identity of the rapist. An assumption is never the right thing to do. As they say, when you assume, you make an "ass" of "u" and "me."
This is one of the greatest lessons of 'Outlander' season 4 so far and we cannot wait for more.