Rape survivors’ experiences of helpful and unhelpful counselling aspects.
Van Rooyen, Melissa Victoria.
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The purpose of this study was to explore the counselling aspects perceived to be helpful and unhelpful by rape survivors in South Africa. While there is some existing South African literature on rape and the efficacy of rape treatments, very few studies exist which focus on rape counselling from the survivor’s perspective. Exploring the subjective experiences of counselling from a rape survivor’s point of view allowed us to further our theoretical understanding of mediational processes in counselling, test our understanding of existing theories and to also contribute to improving counselling techniques. This study was conducted using a qualitative research approach. Semi-structured interviews with 5 adult participants who had survived a rape experience and who had sought and concluded counselling at a local rape crisis centre were conducted. Interview transcripts were analysed using an interpretative phenomenological approach (IPA) and relevant themes and sub-themes that emerged from these transcripts were interpreted and discussed. The majority of helpful counselling aspects centred on the quality of the therapeutic relationship between the counsellor and the rape survivor. Specific aspects relating to the counsellor’s personality as well as the way in which certain techniques were implemented in counselling were described as facilitating the restoration of survivors’ sense of dignity as well as contributing to an increased sense of connection and trust following the trauma. Important considerations for a South African context included the provision of practical and social support, follow up counselling and interventions that increase survivors sense of safety. This is likely to benefit South African survivors who may not have adequate access to resources, and therefore health services needed for recovery, as well as those who are at risk for coming into contact with the perpetrator. The inclusion of these aspects into future rape counselling programmes will likely contribute to a more holistic and meaningful counselling experience for rape survivors in South Africa.