Helping Students Return to School After a Rape
Returning to school after a rape is always a tough task for a student. Rape is occurring more frequently in our society and at ever younger ages. Rape happens to both females and males and in all age ranges. Some students experience post traumatic stress disorder after a rape. This disorder often impacts their ability to sleep and function in daily activities.
A student who has been raped may not feel comfortable at school. The student may worry about other people knowing of the crime. Or they may know for a fact that the news of the rape is very public knowledge.
A student who has missed time at school will be worried about schoolwork too. They may have been unable to keep up with assignments in the aftermath of the rape. If they required a hospital stay after the rape they may be adjusting to life back at home and nervous about adjusting to school too.
Strategies to Help
A Flexible Schedule to Complete Work
Let the student know that you will be flexible with due dates for any missed assignments. Tell them that you understand that they are still healing emotionally and there may be times when it is very hard for them to do work. Reassure the student that you will work with them during tutoring times to help them catch up on any missed lessons.
An Open-Ended Pass to Guidance
Talk to the student’s guidance counselor and make arrangements for the student to have an ongoing “open ended” pass to the guidance department. A student recovering from rape may have moments where something reminds them of the rape and they go into a flashback or an emotional crisis. Thus, give the student the pass to let them know they may use it at any time in class if they are overwhelmed and need to talk to their guidance counselor.
Talk to Parents
Stay in close contact with the student’s parents as the student returns to school. Ask them if they have set up an appointment with the school psychologist for the student. If they have not done it, offer to set up the appointment.
Keep an Eye on Peer Interactions
Some students may be unkind to a student who is back in school after a rape. If news of the rape has seeped into the community or the student population, keep a close eye on students to ensure they are not taunting the rape survivor. Take prompt action to speak to an administrator if any student or group of students is harassing the rape victim.
Offer Books and Pamphlets to the Student
Keep some books and pamphlets about life after rape available in the classroom. If a student tells you about a rape share the information and refer the student to the librarian to get more information about books that may be helpful during the recovery period.
Offer a Journal
Offer the student a journal they may keep. Writing is very therapeutic during times of trauma. Tell the student you hope that writing in the journal may help them sort through the feelings they have and help them write about what they want to achieve as they get back to normal.
Talk to the Student
If a student drops an offhand comment about the rape or alludes to rape, talk to the student out in the hallway. Spend a few moments trying to help the student share information that may be upsetting them. Sometimes a student will drop a comment like “the memories of prison that are too horrible to discuss” that allude to possible violence or rape. Draw out the student and if they seem to have experienced a trauma tell them you will have the school psychologist meet with them.
Useful Resources and Further Reading
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673 (A toll-free number)
ttp://www.RAINN.org (Rape information and tips to move on in life)
Help for rape and abuse survivors: http://hopeforhealing.org
Reading List: Books about Rape and Moving on After Rape
"Recovering from Rape" by Linda E. Ledray
"Where I Stopped: Remembering A Childhood Rape" by Martha Ramsey
“Lucky” by Alice Sebold
“Secondhand Hope” by Gayle Crabtree