Advertisement
Wide Awake: Making a Statement
Doing something when it needs to be done

When I was in my early 20s, I was standing at a bank teller’s window when I heard the man next to me explain quite loudly why he was certain Mike Tyson – who was on trial for rape at the time – was innocent. “Mike Tyson could get any girl he wanted,” he said. “He doesn’t have to rape anybody.”

If I heard that now, I would speak up; I suppose aging has made me braver. Back then, though, I didn’t say anything, but after I left the bank, I did take action. I researched organizations that helped rape victims, and was soon volunteering for Women Against Rape (WAR), which was then based in Collingswood.

I was trained to counsel women in two settings: on a phone hotline and in an emergency room immediately after the crime. For both roles, you were assigned a night to be on-call. I usually had Tuesdays, which I soon learned was a plus. When you’re a rape counselor on the weekends, you’re busy, so only experienced volunteers took those times. Ditto for holidays, when people often drank. And  counselors who were on-call on Super Bowl Sunday knew they shouldn’t make any plans.

Soon after completing my training – which was pretty extensive, two nights a week for two months – I got a call late in the afternoon. A woman had been raped and was being taken to the ER. Could I meet her there? It wasn’t Tuesday, but they needed someone. I apologized and said I was too busy at work to leave.

I hung up and sat there feeling paralyzed. It would have been easy for me to leave work, but I was afraid. My training was done in a classroom. This would be crime, suffering and pain right there in front of me. I didn’t know if I was ready. And it wasn’t Tuesday.

But then it occurred to me that no one had called the woman to see if this was a good time for her to be a victim of a horrific crime. She didn’t get to resist the unpleasantness of the moment. I called back and left my office to go help this woman.

That was the first of many ER calls. I met women of all ages who were never asked if this was a good time for someone to turn their life upside down, physically hurt them and emotionally change them forever. Sometimes I got up in the middle of the night, got dressed and headed to the ER. I would greet each woman and explain what was about to happen to her, how during the procedure to gather evidence for the police – completing what is called the rape kit – the doctor would pull pubic hairs from her body and a nurse would cut off her fingernails. These women would have to stay in hell just a little bit longer. I stayed with them and tried to ease their pain.

I did more ER visits than hotline calls. I wasn’t very good at phone counseling. I spoke to woman after woman who insisted she couldn’t report the rape. Usually because she didn’t think anyone would believe her, or her rapist was a family friend and she didn’t want to cause any rifts. It was beyond frustrating.

I felt I was better in the ER. I could be calm and helpful there.

Plus, every time I answered a call and started my drive to the ER, I felt I was making a statement against that really stupid guy in the bank. Just like he put his message out into the world, I was putting mine out there. And mine said simply that a woman who is raped needs one thing: help. So I helped.

August 2013
Related Articles
Comments

Leave a Reply

Dr. Ali Houshmand on What Baffles Him About Women – 2017 SJ Magazine Men's Roundtable
Advertisement
dining guide web ad
Advertisement
adventure aquarium button
Subscribe to Our Newsletters
Advertisement
cheese giveaway web ad
Advertisement
Podcast Web Ad
This is South Jersey at the Cowtown Rodeo
Advertisement