TRIGGER WARNING: This article discusses a specific person’s experience surrounding rape. To respect their privacy, their name has been changed. Some readers may find the details distressing.

‘The GP receptionist stood in the middle of the waiting area and shouted the name of the Rape Crisis team in front of everyone’ 

Ruth, 29, reached out to an NHS Rape Crisis Centre after a traumatic experience. Instead of getting the help she needed, she felt pressured and judged by a member of staff who failed to deal with her situation sensitively.

“I obviously had a traumatic experience and was struggling to deal with it on my own. I didn’t want to go to my mum because I knew it would break her.

So at first I thought ‘I’ll just deal with it by myself and I should be fine.’ But I wasn’t. I knew I needed to reach out for some kind of support.

I searched online for local services really came across a local NHS Rape Crisis Centre. I just wanted to get it all off my chest, seek advice and maybe get some counselling. I wasn’t really looking for any answers. I just wanted to talk about it.

My appointment was held at my local GP surgery. It was busy and there was a mix up with the room I’d be in. When they found a room, I’d already met the lady who I had the appointment with.

But the GP receptionist stood in the middle of the waiting area and shouted out the name of the Crisis Team. She called for us in front of everyone. So the confidentiality kind of felt non-existent at that point. And staying anonymous was incredibly important to me. That got my anxiety up.

The meeting started off quite well and the lady was really lovely in the beginning. She allowed me to take my time and speak about what had happened.

Then she asked me some questions, including one about the police and whether I’d thought about reporting it. I said I wasn’t sure I wanted to. She explained how I could go to the police without having to give my name or any of my personal information. And so I said I’d definitely give it some thought.

I felt the pressure of the fact that rape is very underreported. Maybe I should’ve come forward. But that’s not how I wanted to deal with it.

Then we carried on talking a little bit about the fact it happened with someone I knew. But after a little while she brought up the police thing again. And I said again that I’d think about it, but I wasn’t comfortable doing it just yet.

And she said ‘Well, how are you planning on dealing with this, then?’ I said I hadn’t really thought about it properly. That I’d probably just leave it for now, think about it and go from there.

She challenged me and said ‘But at the moment, you’re just going to ignore him. And pretend it didn’t even happen?’ And she didn’t say it, but she kind of insinuated that the way I wanted to deal with it was wrong.

She also asked me if I’d had a physical examination at the time. Obviously I got home and I felt dirty. I just wanted to get clean straight away. She didn’t exactly tell me off but it felt like she was saying ‘You know, you really should have done this. You should have got examined first.’

I don’t think she really knew how to approach the situation, or talk about it in a sensitive way. It could have been a lack of training. I felt like instead of a professional opinion, it was more her own personal opinion.

It’s hard when it feels like that’s being forced on you, especially when I nearly didn’t go in the first place. Because it’s so hard to reach out. I felt the pressure of the fact that rape is very underreported. Maybe I should’ve come forward. But that’s not how I wanted to deal with it.

At the end of the appointment she said she’d go back to the office and let them know that I wanted  counselling. She would get back to me in two weeks’ time.  But she never did so I never got the counselling. I was dropped, basically.

Eventually, I reached out to another Rape Crisis team for counselling. And I’ve now been on that waiting list for about a year and a half. I think I’d probably still benefit from getting specialist help. But since then I’ve kind of just left it, you know? I feel very much like I shouldn’t have bothered in the first place.”

The charity Life Centre provides support and therapy for people who have had an unwanted sexual experience.

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