STOP! Before proceeding think about what one emotion would make you feel the most uncomfortable: fear, anger, embarrassment, mistrust, confusion, being violated. Now put yourself in the place of someone who has been sexually assaulted…. they are hurting as a result of all those emotions at once. Approach these calls with that in mind.
For obvious reasons, if you are a male crisis responder you will want to partner with a female who can act as a buffer between you and the victim. This can be a friend of the victim, neighbor, female police officer or a relative. Male or female the victim needs to feel comfortable with those who are providing support. As long as the “support segregate” is providing that support by being physically closer than you, speak directly to the victim or direct the conversation to the segregate so that the victim overhears the informational instructions.
After establishing some level of rapport make it known that your role is just to support them in any way necessary. It is imperative for the victim to not discuss with you what has occurred until after they have talked with the police officer or detective. As much as the experience is an emotional one, it is a legal one. They will have to tell and re-tell what happened many times, and while they may want you to be present, it is imperative that the appropriate authorities are first to hear the details.
As noted in Lesson #1 – Step 2 it is important to inform, disclose and clarify the activities that will be taking place. It is your function to eliminate some of the unknowns and establish some order to the mental chaos the victim of the assault is experiencing.While your initial offer may be declined, offer to contact friends and family if not already present. After verifying with the police, explain why the victim can’t eat, drink, use the rest room or change their clothes.
The victim may be asked to have an exam performed for evidence as well as medical protection. You may be asked to accompany them to the hospital or advocacy center for the exam. It is customary to stay with the victim until they are in a safe place as designated by them and they are with someone or have reassured you that it is okay for you to leave. Again, a male may be unwelcome even with a female go-between. Honor that issue.
Throughout the entire process in which you are involved remember that your function is one of emotional support. No judging, no explanations as to why, just gentle caring support. If you intend to be a crisis responder, it is good to maintain a box or brief case with support material and advocacy resource contact information.
For more details concerning the process of Crisis Response management, watch for Lesson #13 Child & Elder Abuse – Not So Unlike.