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LJIDOL: Week 10 [May. 28th, 2014|09:24 pm]
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Sometimes, even when you're supposed to be helping people, you end up feeling helpless. Not an ideal arrangement, to be sure, but I guess that's just how it goes when you're dealing with people, especially people in crisis. You simply cannot help everyone, and you have to get used to that.

For several years, I volunteered at our local Rape Crisis center. I took calls from people who were victims of sexual violence. Sometimes, I gave referrals for therapists, emergency housing, or domestic violence shelters, but most of my time was spent talking to people struggling to make sense out of what had happened to them.

One of my most memorable calls was from a young woman who had pledged to a sorority. She was ordered by sorority members to walk across her college campus in her nightgown. She did this, but did not reach her destination safely. She was assaulted along the way. She called and talked to me later that night. I urged her to go to the hospital. Even if she didn't want to press charges, she needed to be checked out for any kind of infection or disease she might have gotten from the man who assaulted her. She refused to do this, saying she didn't want anyone to know what had happened to her, and the members of her sorority needed to know exactly where she was for the next several days. We talked for quite awhile, but I was unable to change her mind.

I also received a call from a mother who wanted her nineteen-year-old daughter to go to the hospital to have a rape kit done. The young woman was reluctant to do this, and her mother hoped I could talk sense to her. What she didn't realize is that I would not try to force someone to do what they were unwilling to do. The examinations women are put through after an assault are incredibly invasive. Even though they're necessary in order to press charges against one's attacker, many women choose not to subject their bodies to further invasion. This is something I won't argue with. So, when I spoke to this woman, I explained her rights to her. I also explained what the exam would be like, something she seemed to already know. She said she did not want to go to the hospital, and thanked me for letting her know she didn't have to. As you might guess, her mother was not pleased. She snatched the phone away and thanked me rather coldly for my help. She also made it quite clear that she and her husband would get their daughter the help she needed. I wanted to tell her she wasn't really helping. She was just forcing her daughter to something else she didn't want.

There are many other instances like these, but there are also a number of callers to whom I did make a difference. Sometimes, I can't keep myself from wondering what became of those I couldn't help. Hopefully, they're living happy, healthy lives. Unfortunately, I'll never know.

This is my entry for Week 10 of
If you are so inclined, show me some love in the upcoming poll.


From: faerie_spark
2014-05-29 05:13 pm (UTC)
You've told me about that young woman who was pledging to the sorority, but even know i already knew the story, i still got chills reading it. how horrid, on so many levels.

yes, it's so hard to know how or if one is being helpful, particularly when one's touch on another's life is as fleeting as a conversation on a crisis line.

it's hard, but i miss crisis line work.

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From: solstice_singer
2014-05-30 11:50 pm (UTC)
I miss it too. It was rewarding a lot of the time, even though it could be very hard. I heard so many things about the cruelty of humanity.
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[User Picture]From: reckless_blues
2014-05-30 11:53 pm (UTC)
It's interesting, exploring how the loved ones react to this ... No one has the slightest idea how to handle this if it happens to someone they care about, if they handle it the wrong way it can do severe damage in and of itself, and it's an event that can give that loved one secondary trauma and PTSD. When I was nineteen my boyfriend was violently raped. I didn't react as well as I could have.
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From: catwomon
2014-05-31 12:00 am (UTC)
I miss working at the crisis center at times myself. It is good to feel like you are doing something helpful for someone, at least a lot of the time. Like you, I often wondered about some of the callers, especially the suicides I would talk too. I had a lot of those and some of them haunted me. It may be better that I couldn't find out.
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[User Picture]From: rayaso
2014-05-31 03:02 am (UTC)
When I hear stories like this and read newspaper articles about sorority pledges being forced into sex acts as part of their initiation, I wonder why young women want to get involved in this. Articles I see about fraternities tend to run to "drunk frat boy falls out of window and dies." With sororities, the articles are usually about abuse.
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[User Picture]From: roina_arwen
2014-05-31 05:53 pm (UTC)
It's good that you could be honest in what you tell people about what to expect at the hospital. I hate when doctors or nurses are like "this might sting a bit" and then they poke you with whatever and it's like "HOLY F*** that hurt!"

I'm sure there are many people that you were able to help who are grateful, but unfortunately it is impossible to help everyone.
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From: uncawes
2014-06-01 01:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this. It can't have been a fun job, but definitely a worthwhile one. Even if you don't know the final outcome of those cases - that may be a blessing in disguise
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[User Picture]From: coachpeg
2014-06-01 09:27 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately, that is one of the huge dilemmas that we face working in the helping professions. Knowing it in advance doesn't make it any easier. Afterward, all we can do is hope, as you said, that they are living happy, healthy lives, trusting that even that internal power and energy that is hope might even now be impacting their lives for the good. Well written. Thanks for sharing it.
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[User Picture]From: kittenboo
2014-06-02 03:48 am (UTC)
I worked at a rape crisis center for 6 years, and have volunteered on their hotline for the past 4. I know that it can feel like you aren't helping, and in most cases you really are. By providing accurate information and referral, and a non judgemental ear that IS help. Yes the girls parents feel you did not help their daughter, but you did help her, giving her information she needed to know. And you may have felt like you did not help the other girl because she chose not to go to the hospital or tell her sorority, but I think you did help her. You were there for her when she had no one else to turn to. And her memory of your help may have helped her in her future in deciding to seek help or see a doctor or tell a loved one about what happened to her.

I use to always say, you can't think about what happens after they walk out the door. But it's true on the hotline to. You help in that moment, what they choose to do afterwards is entirely up to them, as it should be.
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[User Picture]From: dreamsreflected
2014-06-02 04:02 am (UTC)
That sounds like an incredibly difficult job.
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[User Picture]From: eternal_ot
2014-06-02 10:32 am (UTC)
You made me ponder over these incidents...the sorority case made me sad..hope young people realize it's not worth being a part of such groups.
I liked the fact that you explained the girl her rights in the second incident and not force your views on her..I guess that was a great help you did to her.
Sounds like a taxing job, but I guess people must have blessed you for sure and then somebody has to do it.
An interesting read. Thanks for sharing this!
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[User Picture]From: halfshellvenus
2014-06-02 05:50 pm (UTC)
You make a very good point here about how having a rape-kit investigation done might make the victim feel doubly violated, and why this is a decision that the victim needs to make for herself.
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[User Picture]From: eska818
2014-06-02 06:59 pm (UTC)

I know just what you mean. >.<
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[User Picture]From: witches
2014-06-02 11:46 pm (UTC)
this was beautifully written and really poignant <3
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