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Archive for Friday, February 28, 1992

COUNSELOR ENCOURAGES LISTENING WHEN RAPE VICTIM WANTS TO TALK

February 28, 1992

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Listening is one of the best things someone can do for a friend or family member who has been raped, a Kansas University counselor said Thursday night.

"There are four ways you can listen," said Richard Nelson, counselor in the counseling and psychological services program of KU's Watkins Student Health Center.

"You can listen to what they're saying, listen to the words they use . . . listen to what they are not saying . . . and listen to what they are feeling," he said. "Do not criticize, judge, evaluate or give advice right away. The victim will talk when they are ready."

Nelson made the comments during a presentation, "When Someone You Love is Raped . . . How Can You Help?" on Thursday night at KU.

About 30 people attended the program, sponsored by the Emily Taylor Women's Resource Center.

NELSON, who has counseled rape victims for 25 years, offered several thoughts that friends or family members should keep in mind when trying to help survivors of rape:

Remember each case of rape has its own set of dynamics and circumstances.

Rape is an act of violence, which creates fear in the victim, as well as in family and friends.

The psychological impact of rape can be profound from the initial moments of the attack to many years after.

The rape survivor can have emotions that run the gamut from calm to hysteria.

The victim may try to protect the feelings of friends and family by saying "Don't worry." This could be a sign of denial.

THE RAPE survivor may find it hard to face family or friends.

Someone who's been raped should be encouraged to seek professional help, when they are ready.

Help victims re-enter their social world. "Help them do what they used to do," Nelson said.

He said a key in helping friends who have been raped is allowing them to talk and adjust to normal at their own pace.

Rape victims, he said, may need months or years to readjust socially and mentally from their experience.

Joi Phelps, a graduate assistant with the resource center who also spoke at the program, said Rape Trauma Syndrome, experienced by all victims, occurs in three stages: Crisis, disorientation and reorientation.

DURING the first stage, she said, which occurs shortly after the rape, the victim may feel powerless or have a desire to bathe.

She said the victim may apprear perfectly calm on the outside, which can discredit her (or him) in the view of untrained police officers or medical workers.

During the second phase, she said, the victim may try to avoid anything that could remind her of the rape experience, such as smells or music. The person also may stop dating or become extremely sexually promiscuous.

The victim can regain a sense of freedom and healing in the reorientation stage, Phelps said.

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