Being a voluntary rape counsellor came relatively easily to me.
Yes, I know that sounds odd but it was only easy in the sense that I could relate to the women that I counselled. I could support and be there for them but I could as easily leave the women and their stories behind me at the end of the day.
I would go in and listen to the most horrific accounts of rape and still go out and party afterwards. I know that it sounds callous and devoid of emotion but this is how it was.
Of course, in the beginning, listening to their experiences affected me.
Sometimes, after a session, I would lock myself in the office toilet, and cry and scream. I cried because of the horror and pain that they shared. I screamed in anger at that men who believed it their right to do with women what they wanted to!
That said, at some point I was able to separate myself from their experiences and not be drawn into them, not carry them with me into my daily life.
Without a doubt, I empathised and felt for them but when I left the office I divorced/distanced myself. I am still not one hundred percent clear on how I did it but today I still do.
Since then, I have maintained that no counsellor could cope if they allowed themselves to be completely drawn into their client’s experiences.
My sense is that it is not about cutting off your emotions, rather about containing them and keeping yourself focussed on what you need to do.
You are there to provide support to someone who has experienced one of the worst possible violations.
You have taken on an awesome responsibility to help another human being face and relive their rape.
You actually cannot afford to dwell on your own issues!
Next Installment… A Spirit