At Rape Crisis, we have developed a counselling approach that empowers survivors and encourages them to be active participants in their respective paths to recovery. Our counsellors are trusted allies and empathic witnesses to our survivors and their stories.
Rape is an act of violence; victims are powerless to stop what is happening. Feelings of powerlessness and feelings of loss of control over life generally often persist long after the rape itself has occurred. These feelings of powerlessness are exacerbated by situations in the aftermath of the rape, like the forensic post-rape medical examinations and hostile cross examinations in court,, that make the survivor feel powerless. This is known as ‘secondary trauma’.
Rape Crisis has adopted a model for counselling that establishes a strong therapeutic partnership between the counsellor and survivor. The counsellors seek to restore feelings of control and power in survivors’ lives and the survivors themselves are active partners in setting treatment goals and making decisions about how to go about achieving them. To this end, our counsellors incorporate the following guidelines over the course of the counselling partnership:
Safety. It is vital that the survivor feels safe from further harm. Rape Crisis provides a safe space for survivors to tell their stories. Our counsellors in their role as ally are non-judgemental and allow the survivors to tell their stories at their own pace. Issues of safety outside the counselling room are explored and solutions are sought to ensure survivors’ safety.
Restoring control. It is essential to the recovery process that survivors regain a sense of control over their lives. A survivor must feel in control of his/her situation, body and surrounding environment. Survivors, together with their counsellors, explore their personal strengths and the strengths in their environment to set goals to establish personal safety, authentic self-care and strategies to manage overwhelming emotions.
Ongoing support. Survivors are assured that they will receive good ongoing support on a journey that is only just beginning during the aftermath of the rape. It is vital that survivors feel supported and that support systems outside the counselling room are explored: survivors are encouraged to access all avenues of support in their surroundings.
Respect . Every step in our counselling process is based on respect for the survivor. The empowerment model is based on the premise that the survivor has the tools for healing within her/himself and it respects her/his ability to determine the path of recovery. To this end, our goal is to establish a positive therapeutic partnership where our counsellors are empathic, honest, genuine and non-patronising.
These four principles guide the ethos of all relationships within the working environment of Rape Crisis, where all staff members may feel safe in their work environment; where there is an open platform for exchanging ideas and strategies and a flat hierarchical organisational structure; where support and supervision are constant and where staff are respectful of one another. We believe it is this ethos that has sustained the efficacy of both our counselling services and the organisation as a whole since 1975, and it is this ethos that will continue to do so moving into the future.