Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Advocating for Rape Victims (child sexual abuse, incest, sexual assault, clergy sexual abuse)

© (2011) by Vicki Polin, MA, LCPC

It’s been wonderful and amazing to watch how so many people are jumping at the chance to help  survivors of sex crimes navigate through the justice system.  This is especially true in cloistered communities. There is one problem and that is that many of these individuals and groups lack the education and training to really do this type of work.  Though anyone can call themselves an advocate, and want to help -- a true rape victim advocate is someone who has been trained, certified by a local rape crisis center and is supervised by those who are true experts in the field.
An advocate is someone who you choose to speak for you in situations in which you don’t have the expertise to advocate for yourself.  It’s not uncommon to find someone to help advocate for you in medical and legal situations.  Yet, when someone has been sexually violated it is most likely in your best interest to find an organization or agency to help guide you through the process. 
Those involved in the anti-rape movement who advocate for survivors and work with legitimate and credible organizations have been trained utilizing multi-disciplined approach.  They are provided insights in medical, legal, cultural and mental health issues and are supervised by highly trained professional.  
Advocates are often referred to as a rape victim advocate, rape crisis counselor, advocate, or a crisis intervention counselors/advocates.
As part of the training process, advocates are screened out.  They must demonstrate a nonjudgmental, supportive attitude toward survivors of sexual violence. and must have strong interpersonal/communication skills, with a focus on empathy.
Depending on the state in which you reside, a trained advocate has gone through anywhere between a 40 - 60 hour certification training, which includes class participation, group workshops/role plays, and quizzes. These training programs are conducted by those who have already been certified and are connected to a legitimate rape crisis center.
In many states, credible advocates are also required to attend a minimum of 6 hours of continuing education session as scheduled throughout the year.
Those who successfully make it through the certification process are continuously evaluated by their supervisor, other senior team members connected to the agency or organization in which they are connected, local hospital staff, and law enforcement personnel.  The evaluation process continues through out training programs offered throughout the year.  
A credible advocacy agency also offers debriefing sessions for their advocates to help prevent burn-out, secondary post traumatic stress disorder, compassion fatigue and or vicarious victimization.  
A true anti-rape advocacy organization’s members will be committed to the philosophy of the organization: non-violence,non-oppression, and the empowerment of all victims of sexual violence.
The object of a rape victim advocates is to provide crisis intervention counseling, nonjudgmental support, medical and legal advocacy to survivors of sexual violence and their family/friends, provide proper referrals and information.
The responsibility of all rape victim advocates is to always act diplomatically and respectfully toward survivors, significant others, police, hospital staff, state's attorneys, and other advocates/staff members.  
In some organizations that meet survivors in emergency rooms, with the survivor's permission, advocates remain with the survivor throughout the medical examination, evidence collection, and police interviews. When appropriate, advocates accompany the survivor to the police station to view line-ups/mug shots and for interviews by police/prosecutors. If a case is taken to court, effort will be made for an advocate (staff) to accompany, as needed. Crisis intervention counseling also may be provided for the survivor and significant others.

1 comment: said...

Ms. Polin, Thank you for enlightening me. Recently I am confronted with rape in the military from among their own ranks. Staggering statistics show that 1/3 of womwn report rape while that at least doubles due to the nature of military culture and fear. My fiancé is deployed to Afghanistan. I wonder if women would join the military if they knew there was maybe a 70% chance they would be raped with no retaliation. If women in the military report rape they lose. No justice, no compensation, they lose credibility and maybe their pension.