Working in the Family Support Center makes one face upsetting and sometimes very disturbing fates on a daily basis. We hear the most horrible things that have happened to our patients. Sometimes even we the staff wonder how anyone could ever survive, physically or mentally, the crimes committed against them. Curiously enough, many of them do. People have often more resources than they themselves or others expect. Counseling, support from family and friends, and positive coping mechanisms all help a person survive. Even early experiences help; if you once were loved, if you know that you were once valuable, that helps you not to lose all faith in other people.
As well as the horrible stories we hear at the Family Support Center, we also witness the survival stories. It gives us great strength to help make them happen and we are privileged to witness them.
A 15-year-old girl came to the Family Support Center after being raped by strangers. She was walking home at night when four men pulled her into a bush, beat her, stabbed her, threatened to kill her and then took turns in raping her. The rape also contained some very humiliating elements.
Fortunately the girl came to the Family Support Center the next morning. She received a 28-day-long post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection. She also received medication to prevent sexually transmitted diseases; she was given a hepatitis-B vaccination and emergency contraception (the morning-after pill). Also, she was given counseling where her feelings were explored and normalized, meaning that the nurse told her that her fears and anxieties are common reactions to such a traumatic event. She was told that those feelings don’t mean that she is losing her mind. They will pass with time and treatment. The nurse also discussed possible ways for the girl to cope with her acute distressing feelings. After the counseling the girl told the nurse she felt very relieved. She said it was important for her to hear that the rape was not her fault.
At her last visit some weeks later, when the treatments were finalized, the girl said that she felt much better emotionally. She had used the coping mechanisms that were discussed with the nurse. She had sought support from friends and family, she had taken long walks, she had done relaxation exercises and she completed all her medical treatments. She said she no longer felt overwhelmingly distressed and felt optimistic about the future.