By Amy Sondova, M.A. It’s a statistic that no youth worker wants to read—60% of all rape victims are under the age of 18. And that’s just of the rapes that are reported. Vast numbers of nameless boys and girls will never fall into any statistic because their stories are locked within their minds and bodies forever. Sadly, rape and other sexual crimes are very real in the lives of teenagers today. Therefore, it is imperative that youth workers know what to do when one of their students, youth workers, or anyone else in their care has been raped.
1. Seek medical care. If the rape has been committed within hours or days, immediate medical attention to gather evidence and treat any wounds is necessary. Youth workers, especially female youth workers, can be a huge comfort by accompanying a student to the hospital or even sitting with parents or siblings during the student’s examination.
At the hospital or rape crisis center, your student will talk to a trained counselor and/or social worker about her rape. While things are done differently at different facilities, most rape victims tested for STD’s, pregnancy (and may be given a “morning after” pill if requested), and blood toxicology (to determine if date rape drugs were used.) Samples of hair, clothes, bodily fluids, and nails may be taken to later charge a suspect with rape.
A girl who has been sexually assaulted is also treated for physical and internal injuries that may have taken place. Often pictures are taken of vaginal trauma, bruises, and other injuries to later use as evident in court proceeding. As you can imagine, the entire process though necessary often causes a rape victim to feel even more victimized.
2. Help your student deal with the emotional trauma of rape. Your student has been violated horribly and in a way that breaks God’s heart. Emotions ranging from anger to sadness to grief are racing through your student’s brain and she needs an outlet in which to release these emotions. Professional counseling and rape support groups are excellent outlets for your student. But she also needs you. Suddenly, her world has become terribly unsafe and she feels dehumanized.
After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back by Nancy Venable Raine is an excellent resource for rape survivors. Dr. Diane Langberg, a Christian psychologist who specializes in counseling those who have been sexually assaulted also has some great resources available including her books, On the Threshold of Hope and Counseling Survivors of Sexual Abuse.
3. Abide by your state’s mandated reporting laws. As a member of the clergy, it is not only your responsibility to report the sexual abuse of those under the age of 18, it is the law. Make sure to familiarize yourself with your state’s laws regarding mandated reporting and the reporting procedure.
4. Understand that the rape survivor’s recovery takes years. Your student has been violated physically and emotionally, maybe even spiritually. Walk with her slowly and allow her to open up to you at her own pace. Remember, her trust has been violated and she needs to slowly rebuild all that was destroyed.
Sadly, rape and sexual assaults are part of a long history of crimes against women (and men.) Because of the prevalence of this crime, many books and resources have been devoted to its discussion. This article serves has only an opener to the conversations youth workers, churches, parents, students, and communities need to have about rape, molestation, and other sexual crimes. Backseat Writer will continue to research and provide more articles on these topics, including the experiences of male survivors of sexual assault.
Here are a few other resources (other than those mentioned in the articles) available on the topic of rape and sexual assault:
Men Can Stop Rape – Mobilizing male youth to prevent men’s violence against
(Thanks to Peggikaye Eagler who helped compile this list.)
**This information has been reviewed by a Master’s Level Therapist as well as a licensed social worker.**