Imagine you’d kept a secret your entire life?

The slightest familiar smell or word took you back to that place of despair, pain and disgust. You finally build up the strength to say it, “I was raped…” – the counsellor promoted themselves to you as a safe person -open and non-judgemental turns into your persecutor.

Disclosure of sexual abuse can be difficult, painful and embarrassing so why do we persecute our clients to satisfy our own needs?

The counsellors initial response to a disclose is imperative, it is in that moment that your client knows if you are all that you promoted yourself to be. Client perceived non-supportive counsellor actions, can leave them feeling lost, hurt, wanting to leave and rejected. We may think that our shock reposes are natural and empathic but clients have reported these as being some of the most unhelpful, leaving them feeling isolated and stigmatised, (Draucker, 1992b).

Examples of poor responses:

    “oh my! I can’t believe someone would do that, that’s disgusting” SHOCK
    “It sounds like you feel that happened, it’s hard to know what did though” DISBELIEF
    “Why didn’t you tell someone!?” BLAMEING
    “This was a long time ago, why don’t you move on?” MINIMISATION
    “Tell me exactly what he did?” VOYEURISM

Counselling is not intended to be torturous process for the client and we the counsellors do not need to know everything about our clients – however we do all believe that acceptance is key to building a strong relationship.

Helpful responses can include, acknowledging the difficulty in sharing their experience, acknowledge the feelings, show calm concern and assess safety.


    “Thank you for sharing, would you like to talk about it some more?”
    “We can discuss what happened if you’d like to? Sharing sexual experiences can help to look at concerns you have at the moment?”
    “I wonder how you feel right now that you have shared this with me?”

Read Drauckers original work; Draucker, C.B (1992). The Healing Process of Female Adult Survivors: Constucting a Personal Residence. Image: Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 24: (1), 4-8.

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