Sexual Assault Treatment Fail

I just had an absolutely horrible experience at my local sexual assault treatment center. I’ve been having trouble finding a therapist that I like and I wanted someone that specialized in sexual assault and trauma because the main reason that I’m seeking help is because of my rape last year. The rape was the catalyst for my depression, and now that I’m medicated, a lot of those symptoms are gone. I went in for my intake appointment last week, and had my first real session scheduled for today.

When I arrived at the center, I sat in the lobby, waiting for my therapist to come out. There were about 5 people in the lobby with me and a TV was on. It was on a channel playing Jerry Springer and the like, and a talk show came on in which people that had been sexually assaulted or raped confronted the person they accused and both parties then take lie detector tests. First of all, there are so many things wrong with the fact that this show is on the air that I don’t even know where to begin. In one scenario, a woman was confronting her friend that she was accusing of performing oral sex on her 5-year-old daughter. Another had a woman confronting three men that she alleged held her down and raped her. Granted, I don’t know what kind of person publicly confronts the perpetrator instead of reporting to the police or coping on their own, but putting that aside, facing your attacker is traumatizing for many people. And then, having the validity of their claim doubted and taking a lie detector test? What if they fail it? Does that somehow mean that they’re making false accusations (which is relatively rare)?

And then, THIS SHOW WAS PLAYING IN THE LOBBY OF A SEXUAL ASSAULT TREATMENT CENTER. AND THE RECEPTIONIST DIDN’T CHANGE IT. I had to walk up to the desk and ask her to change the show, because it could be potentially triggering for the people coming in there. I mean, really? That’s just common sense. The woman looked at me like she had no idea what I could possibly be talking about. She still didn’t get up, and as the show continued on, recounting graphic details about the supposed sexual abuse of a child, I became angry. I got up and turned the volume down. Finally, the receptionist came and changed it.

THEN, my therapist came and got me. During the intake, the therapist asked about drug and alcohol use, which is standard. I mentioned that I used alcohol (whatever else I may or may not use is irrelevant; I know that I don’t have a problem, and that wasn’t what I was in there to seek help for). When asked how often, I reported 2-3 times a week, and maybe 3 or 4 drinks on those nights. I reported that I did not drink alone, or at my house (both true). So today, I sat down in my therapist’s office and she informed me that they could not treat me at the center, because their policy is that they can’t see anyone that uses drugs or alcohol of any kind, and I would have to be clean for 6 months before they could see me. This was because what they did there was “like open heart surgery and very intensive, and we can’t operate on someone that isn’t healthy.” She then gave me a referral to a substance abuse program. A SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROGRAM.

I was so angry and so upset that I walked to my car and started sobbing. If the sexual assault center won’t help me, who will? I can’t imagine how hopeless that would make someone else feel! It’s such a big step to go in and seek help, and to be told that you can’t receive the help because you drink alcohol socially? Not only that, so many people use substances to cope with their sexual assault! They substance use is often directly related to the trauma they’ve gone through. And they made me drive all the way there, which is a good 30 minutes from my house, just to tell me they couldn’t see me. They could have called me and told me that, and given me the referral.

I’m so disappointed in the way I was treated and the way my case was handled, and honestly? I’m really discouraged. I just want help. I just want to get better. I just want the flashbacks and nightmares to stop, and I am so tired of searching for a therapist that can help me. I went the one place I thought could help me, only to have them turn me away. I don’t agree with their policy, and am outraged at the experience I had. It’s almost like re-victimizing me in a lot of ways, or victim-blaming in which it’s my fault I can’t get help, because I’m a substance user. Major, major fail.

This entry was posted in Griping and Kvetching and Bitching, Psychobabble, Rape Culture, Self Medication. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. TragicNo Gravatar
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I am outraged beyond words at what you’ve gone through today. I wish I could say some magic words and make it all go away for you, or at the very least make it tolerable, but I can’t and I don’t know what I could possibly do otherwise. Listen I guess, I am soo sorry .. just.. damn. DAMN. Those hateful assholes!

    I’m sending all my vibes your way. I’m wishing with all that I am that you can get help. It’ll be nineteen years for me this coming December, I wish I’d been brave enough to get help, as you’ve tried. To this day, though not as frequently, I still have the nightmares and flashbacks as well. I don’t want to make you feel any more horrible today than you already must but if you look on my site, in my dropdown menu for “About” then you’ll know my story as well.

    Don’t give up, don’t stop trying to find the help that you need. It is out there, somewhere. It has to be. I hope.. All my best Britni, and as many ehugs as you can stand too.

  2. GhouldilocksNo Gravatar
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Wow. That is just so fucking… I can’t even think of a word that could adequately describe how disgusting and wrong that is. WTF?!

  3. KeithNo Gravatar
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Britni … I agree with the sentiments of both Tragic and Ghouldilocks. To put it mildly this fucking outrageous. WTF does it matter even if you do have an alcohol or drugs problem; that isn’t what you’re there for and shouldn’t be what they are there for. Fucking wankers!
    Do you know a therapist anywhere who you could trust? If so contact them. Even remote help might be better than no help. Or they may be able to recommend someone nearer you who is sensible.
    I’m coming to have more and more time for hypnotherapy.. That too may help if you know/can find a sympathetic hypnotherapist.
    Good luck. Hang in there. And don’t let the bastards get to you even more. (hard, I know).
    Love & Hugs … K xxxx

  4. SkyddsDrakeNo Gravatar
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    That’s… unethical. I can’t get beyond that thought, because that’s where it ends, full stop, in regards to that practice. They don’t treat people who use substances? Are they out of their minds? How single-minded and blinded is their practice? How incompetent must they be? And likening it to open-heart surgery? *Shakes head* Their treatment of you was inexcusable, and ridiculous. To put you through that, after you reached out for help? I’d seek every board in your state to let them know about the defunct practice they’re running…

    It’s so incredibly understandable that you would feel discouraged after that experience. I hope, however, that you will find it in yourself to seek help elsewhere. They were very incompetent, and I’d hate to think the kind of treatment they would have offered if you had stayed… As I’m sure you’re aware, however, every practice (every THERAPIST) is different. You sought help because you felt it was necessary… There is help if you still want it…elsewhere. Again, all of which I’m certain you’re aware of. Just reiterating the points…

  5. JanieNo Gravatar
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry honey, that sucks big time. It totally doesn’t make sense to me why that would be an issue. And even if it was, why they can’t deal with it there when you’re main issue is not substance abuse (in their eyes, not mine!) but sexual assualt? They’ve got to be turning away a lot of people if that’s their criteria.

    Keep going Britni, we’re all rooting for you and I hope that you find the help that you’re seeking.

    Big love and hugs


  6. KittieNo Gravatar
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    When I did my internship at a psychiatric ward, we had people there for benzodiazepine withdrawal so they could be reassigned to inpatient trauma therapy. But then, those people were constantly under the influence of benzos, not taking some when they went out with their friends and being sober the next day. They did use the drugs to help them cope with symptoms, not as a recreational activity. I understand the need to be off sedating drugs when in trauma therapy, but you are not under the influence during therapy, obviously. -.-
    The point being that trauma therapy might exacerbate substance use if the substance use is a way to cope (bad) and that sedating drugs affect the brains ability to process therapy and might render it useless (even worse). But somebody who uses substances for coping is no outpatient candidate anyway.
    What are they fucking thinking? Those people, as soon as withdrawal was complete, went straight from one inpatient unit to another, no everyday coping inbetween, so it was all sorts of different.

    How they got the idea that outpatient trauma therapy is not suitable for social(!) drinkers is beyond me. You seem not to drink to manage your symptoms (you’ve probably even used alcohol the same way before the rape incident..?). This is annoying me to no end.

    Also, what the fucking hell is wrong with that fucking douchebag receptionist??

  7. RachelNo Gravatar
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    That is just such bullshit. Who do these people think they are? It’s so wrong in so many ways- How dare they pass judgement on what is actually very light alcohol use (I’d argue some prim diva refusing to touch a glass of wine with friends with hysterical pronouncements it is ‘using’ is in way more need of therapy than someone who behaves in a perfectly normal, social way): how dare they make someone who is already feeling fragile feel worse: and the insanity of ending someone to one sort of therapy before they can start another leaves me completely speechless- what are they planning to do in the therapy? tell people to shut up as they are bringing the ‘wrong issues’? Bizarre. They are insensitive, inconsiderate, ill-educated and inhuman- there have to be better places to go. I could tell you where to find them in London, which I know is no use to you at all, but if we have them in the old world, I’m sure you have them there! Good luck

  8. CatherineNo Gravatar
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    That is absolutely ridiculous. Honestly, if the Jerry Springer in the waiting area is indicative of how sterile their “open-heart surgery” facilities are, you’re better off elsewhere (okay, that metaphor may have been a bit of a stretch). You deserve better! I hope that you find the help you’re looking for.

  9. Nell GwynneNo Gravatar
    Posted June 24, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    So. Much. Rage. Here.

    First, it should be a given that that TV should never be playing anything triggering in the reception office at an office that provides therapy to sexual assault survivors.

    Secondly, WHAT THE HELL?

    Their response to your openly admitting that you drank makes no sense, for all of the reasons you included. It seems like such a cop out. I hope you finally find the help that you need. Plus, that seems so incredibly condescending, seeing that you are a therapist yourself.


  10. SaNo Gravatar
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    So…trying to cope with sexual assault is judged? I mean, maybe it would make sense to these people that victims (sorry if you dislike the word) who already have to go through the ordeal of talking about their assault shouldn’t be judged for drinking or using? How many people are totally sober???? Do they specialise in teetotal patients?

    Are you going to talk about them?

  11. Sophie DelanceyNo Gravatar
    Posted June 25, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Seriously? SERIOUSLY? I don’t know what passes for treatment there, but every place I know in Montreal is dedicated to staffing people who understand and respect the nuances of survivors, not those who are indifferent to TRIGGERING people there for ONE MAIN REASON and then ignoring what is very obviously either a pre-existing controlled thing or, I don’t know, maybe a COPING strategy! Fuck the world, how do those people not get berated on a daily basis for their obscene lack of understanding of the field they are in? That sounds like an unbearable experience, but hopefully you’ll be able to find someone better.

  12. MaryBullstonecraftNo Gravatar
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Britni, I am so sorry this happened; this is absolutely inexcusable and terrible. I can’t imagine treating anyone this way, let alone someone who is a sexual assault survivor. I know this is not really a consolation, but at least you know now that you won’t be getting ‘treatment’ from a place utterly incompetent to offer it.

  13. alanaNo Gravatar
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    This is horrible.

    And it doesn’t even make sense to me (though Kittie’s comment sounds valid). Even if you did drink to deal with the trauma (though I’m not saying do) wouldn’t dealing with the trauma be the way to stop the drinking instead of the other way around?

  14. Garnet JoyceNo Gravatar
    Posted June 26, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Yeah that’s all kinds of fucked up. Are there any LGBT centers around that offer therapy? They tend to usually be a bit more open minded and sliding scale.

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  1. By Sexual Assault Treatment Fail, Continued on June 27, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    [...] the sexual assault treatment center that refused to see me because I used alcohol called to “follow up” with me. The counselor asked me if I was [...]

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