Principles of Empowerment

The Rape Crisis counselling approach is one of empowerment where a survivor is an active participant in her path to recovery and a counsellor is a trusted ally and empathic witness to her story.

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. Such feelings are exacerbated when survivors encounter situations in the aftermath of the rape that once again make her feel powerless. We refer to this as ‘secondary trauma’ and examples include the forensic medical examination after a rape and hostile cross examination by a defence attorney in court.

Rape Crisis has adopted a model that establishes a strong therapeutic partnership during which counsellors seek to restore feelings of control and power in a survivor’s life, where she is an active partner in setting treatment goals and decisions about how to go about achieving them. To this end our counsellors incorporate the following guidelines over the course of the counseling partnership:

Safety. It is vital that the survivor feels safe from further harm. Rape Crisis provides a safe space for survivors to tell their story. Our counsellors in their role as ally are non-judgemental and allow the survivor to tell her story at her own pace. Issues of safety outside the counselling room are explored and solutions are sought to ensure survivors safety.

Restoring control. It is essential that a survivor regains a sense of control over her life. This extends to her situation, her body and her surrounding environment. Survivors, together with their counselor explore her personal strengths and the strengths in her environment to set goals to establishing personal safety, authentic self-care and strategies to manage overwhelming emotional feelings.

Ongoing support. Survivors are assured that they will receive good ongoing support on a journey that is only just beginning in 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 protocol 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 and respects her ability to determine her path of recovery. To this end, our goal is to establish a positive therapeutic partnership where our counsellor is 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; there is an open platform for exchanging ideas and strategies and a flat hierarchical organisational structure; where support and supervision is constant and where staff is 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 will continue to do so moving ahead into the future.

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