Why I Became A Rape Counsellor

 I woke up one day and was terrified – I totally hated my job. Unstimulated, frustrated and bored out of my skull, I decided I needed a change. A big one. So I quit and decided to throw myself into something that I knew I was passionate about – rape counseling.

I had no experience - save for a couple of gender studies classes where the work was entirely theoretical anyways – and jumped in head first. I contacted a local rape crisis centre where they needed volunteers for their 24-hour crisis line and signed myself up for training.

It was broken up into categories – date rape, child abuse, ritual abuse, harm reduction, suicide prevention and crisis intervention. After eight weeks of training, the next step was to pass four simulated phone calls in and around the subject matter that I just mentioned.

I cannot tell you how much these evaluations terrified me. Explaining this anxiety to friends was difficult because they said what anyone else would say, “they are not real – they are only role plays”! But that was not enough to quell my panic.

It was the child abuse call that totally threw me off.

My manager faking the voice of a child, reporting abuse being done to her was enough for me to come undone. I had a full-blown anxiety attack in the middle of the call. I thought to myself, if I could not get through a role-play, how am I actually going to help a real child?

Because this crisis line in particular is anonymous and confidential, the callers are not expected to give any details about themselves and although one is obligated by law to report any suspected child abuse, if the child does not want to give up their information – there is nothing I can do. Except listen. Which is not that easy. But, alas, that is what I did and got through the call, offering support as the conversation unfolded.

I failed two of the four calls. I found out later that other crisis centres will not allow you to work the phone if you do not pass on the first try – but thankfully this centre allowed you to retry, reassess and go back and study.

I am currently on the 24-hour crisis line where I take active and live calls almost everyday. I can say that it has gotten a bit easier. But that is not to say that it is not difficult. One my first shift, as I closed the door to the office and took my seat, I prayed that the phone would not ring. It’s a strange feeling - really wanting to help but at the same time being completely terrified.

But, as I took the phone for my first shift, the phone rang before I was even completely in my seat.

Mostly, I’ve found that people just want to talk. Of course I do what I can to offer support and help, but really what most people ultimately want is to be heard. I was surprised to learn that the line had regular callers – I now have regular callers who check in with me daily to tell me how their day is going. I didn’t really expect that. But I really can’t help but hold my breath every time that phone rings – ready to help out but also fearful of what is on the other end. But it is worth it – every minute of it.