For three years, the case managers of NVRDC have provided support for survivors of sexual assault seeking a medical forensic exam at every hour of the day, often working longs hours with little sleep. Many of them a driven by the belief that there is no greater responsibility than a complete stranger placing their trust in an advocate while they are in the midst of one of the most personal and traumatic events in their life.
As advocates at the hospital, they provide crucial and immediate crisis support, information, and access to resources. For every survivor seeking access to a medical forensic exam, more often called a “rape kit,” they try to create a safe and supportive environment. Since NVRDC began providing advocacy services to sexual assault survivors we have supported over 1,500 victims of sexual assault through the forensic exam process.
Lindsey Silverberg, Senior Manager for Advocacy Programs, has been here from the the beginning of NVRDC. She sat down with us to answer some questions we had about her experiences.
What does a typical on-call shift look like?
One of the most challenging parts of this line of work is that an on-call shift can vary drastically from one day to the next. It is important as advocates that we feel prepared to deal with any situation that arises throughout our shift. On average, we get called about once a day for a survivor requesting a medical forensic exam. However, it depends based on time of year, holidays, and if the colleges and universities are in town. If we get activated a case at the hospital typically lasts somewhere between 2 and 5 hours, depending on what
In your experience, what do you find survivors need the most when you meet them at the hospital?
In my experience, I find that they need someone to sit with them, validate that it is never their fault, and provide a safe space to process the trauma.
What are some common misconceptions that people have about sexual assault that you wish would change?
While I love shows like Law and Order or CSI, they provide an unrealistic version of what happens at the hospital and during a criminal investigation. The hospital experience will take longer than an hour but is so vital to an individual’s physical health. Of course, the most common misconception we encounter is that it is the survivor's fault. It is never the survivor's fault.
Oftentimes it’s really hard to know exactly what to do or say to someone when they disclose that they were a victim of sexual assault. What advice would you give to someone whose friend and family member has experienced this?
Be honest if you don’t know what to say and offer just to listen. It is not your job to fix or repair the survivor. It is your job to provide a non-judgmental space that the survivor feels safe to express their experience.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first began this work?
I wish I knew that I didn’t always have to have an answer to everything and that sometimes silence can be more powerful than having the right words.