Case Study: Friends Of Survivors

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Case Study: Friends Of Survivors

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She is the youngest of five children and lives at home with her parents. Rita has dated in the past but never developed a serious relationship. She is close to her immediate and extended family as well as to her female friends in the Latino community. Although her parents and three of her siblings were born in the Dominican Republic, Rita was born in the United States. A year ago, Rita was sexually assaulted by an acquaintance of a male coworker. Rita and a female coworker met Juan and Bob after work at a local bar for a light meal and a few drinks. Because Rita had to get up early to work her shift the next day, Bob offered to drive her home. Instead of taking Rita directly home, however, he drove to a desolate spot nearby and assaulted her.

Afterward, Bob threatened to harm her family if she did not remain silent and proceeded to drive her home. Although Rita did not tell her family what happened, she did call our agency hotline the next day to discuss her options. Although she agreed to have an advocate and the sexual assault nurse examiner SANE meet her at the hospital, Rita tearfully stated that she did not want to file a police report at that time because she did not want to upset her family. The nurse examiner interviewed Rita, collected evidence, recorded any injuries, administered antibiotics for possible sexually transmitted infections, and gave Rita emergency contraception in case of pregnancy. The advocate stayed with Rita during the procedure, supporting her and validating her experience, and gave her a referral for individual crisis counseling at our agency.

My treatment goals for Rita included alleviation of rape trauma syndrome symptoms that included shame and self-blame, validation of self-worth and empowerment, and processing how it would feel to disclose to others when the time felt right. In addition, Rita would receive important information regarding state policy and procedure for victims of sexual assault that would assist her in deciding when and how to report the crime if she chose to do so. My treatment involved crisis intervention and stabilization along with emotional support and validation surrounding her experience.

Managing her trauma and acute stress symptoms were key to her recovery. Those symptoms included guilt, shame, emotional shock, powerlessness, anxiety, fear, anger, and doubting her judgment. We discussed the policy for reporting a sexual assault to the police in our state and how Rita only had a day window to report the crime after her forensic evidence was obtained. After 90 days, the forensic kit would be destroyed. The problem with the current day hold policy in our state for victims like Rita is that a person in crisis experiences strong and conflicting emotions and is faced with an acute sense of disequilibrium and disorientation.

This, in turn, affects her or his ability to retain information and make decisions. Professor Nicky Stanley, from the Connect Center for International Research on Interpersonal Violence and Harm at the University of Central Lancashire UCLan , said: "This extensive research demonstrates the vital role that specialist domestic abuse services play in supporting survivors and helping them to rebuild their lives.

We'd recommend that the NICE Guidelines on domestic violence and abuse are revisited and updated to provide up-to-date guidance for health professionals and encourage them to collaborate with domestic abuse services. Suzanne Jacob OBE, chief executive of SafeLives added: "The innovative, tailored interventions in pilot "Beacon' sites recognize that to make sustainable change, we need to acknowledge and respond to families as they are, deeply interconnected with one another, with intertwining situations and needs. This includes putting accountability for change on the individual s causing harm, directly addressing their behavior. At the start of the intervention, she had regular brief chats with workers by telephone, but she didn't want further involvement until she felt ready to leave her partner; this point came after a period of six months.

At this time, she was assigned a key worker, and described feeling 'relieved' that she would have one person to support her throughout the process. Input from the worker gave her 'the confidence and the strength' to leave safely, and this occurred three months after being assigned to the VOICES worker. She described feeling fully in control of this process:. It went at my pace, completely at my pace. I was not pushed to do anything any quicker. I was not held back at all. It was completely, she just worked with me and supported me and we went exactly at the pace I wanted to go. The intervention aimed to support the survivor to recognize what she needed, and the type of support required to help her progress.

She described how, as a result of being able to communicate effectively with her worker, feeling listened to and understood, they were able to collaborate on a plan to enable her to leave safely:. I mean she's really helpful at understanding what I was going through and helping me…That was all very, very helpful, at managing situations. And she gave me the confidence that I would be able to get out of that situation. Regular and consistent contact with the worker was highly valued and the survivor described feeling that her worker 'was always available and always there whenever I needed her to be. Having been supported by VOICES staff to leave her abusive partner, this survivor was now living in her own home with her young child and had started to retrain for a new job.

She described feeling liberated and optimistic about their future:. I can do things when I like, I can do what I like. I go out with my friends, you know…. Although she felt well supported by the service as a whole, she reflected that it was the relationship she had with her individual worker that was key to her being able to achieve change:. If I'd never been given [her] as a key worker, it wouldn't have been anywhere near as good.

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