The Rape Crisis Intervention Handbook

pp 193-198

The Male Counselor and the Female Rape Victim

  • Daniel SilvermanAffiliated withInstructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical SchoolDepartment of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Hospital

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Because rape represents a sexualized form of aggression directed most frequently against women, it is not surprising that female mental health professionals have assumed leadership both in studying the phenomena and in developing methods to assist victims in the posttraumatic period (Bassuk, Savitz, McCombie, & Pell, 1975). Clinical experience indicates that female rape victims may prefer to relate to women counselors during the acute phases of the crisis, perhaps because the victims assume that a woman can offer them empathy and understanding in this situation. However, the reality of crisis intervention work, whether carried out in the setting of the general hospital emergency ward, an acute psychiatric service unit, the local mental health center, or similar facilities, often dictates that male counselors, mental health workers, psychiatric residents, or physicians may be the first or only persons available to the female victims of rape. It is the purpose of this chapter to consider some of the possible difficulties inherent in being a male helping person assisting women in crisis following rape. It is hoped that these speculations will encourage others to share their impressions and experiences in this clinical area and that increased awareness of these problems may reduce the likelihood that they will interfere with potentially helpful intervention efforts.