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
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