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To Report or Not to Report, That Is the Question: A Case Study on Rape Victims

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STo Report or Not to Report, That is the Question: a Case Study on Rape Victims


Concerning philosophies of morality, rape is no doubt abhorred. However, what is debatable is whether or not it is one's duty to ensure that a rape is reported. In a particular case, one hotline operator finds herself in a dilemma that challenges her duties as a licensed social worker, with the obligation of ensuring that victims report their rape. As a part of the twenty-four-hour hotline staff at a local rape crisis center, the duty of the hotline operator is to provide the support and counseling necessary to protect the victim's identity. As a part of the advocacy services the hotline provides, the crisis center is dedicated to aiding victims both in reporting their crimes, and in the process such an action entails. Some people call the crisis center with the intention of reporting their rapes because they feel empowered to do so. Other callers do not wish to report their rapes for personal reasons, and still other individuals are undecided as to a proper course of action. Phone operators are responsible for taking calls for the crisis center's advocacy program, and they must also take into account the purpose of the center's companion program. The companion program empowers the social worker answering emergency calls to obtain an understanding of the difficulties victims encounter in the process of reporting their rapes. Thus, the social worker must face the fact that women who have suffered as a result of their rape have a right to be notified of the potential traumas involved in reporting the crime. A lot of times rape victims are unprepared for the insensitive and harsh treatment they may receive from the police, hospitals, and legal system. If the hotline operator warns her of such difficulties, chances are the victim will be discouraged to report the crime. On the other hand, encouragement to report may not be in the best interest of the victim, particularly if she is too physically and emotionally weak to bear the processes because of the trauma already endured from the rape (Rothman 205-208).

Statement of Moral Dilemmas

The two sides of this situation present general ethical conflicts of interest. That is, should the hotline operator value her professional commitment, as a social worker, to justice more than her obligation the client's best interest? Furthermore, this case poses the important underlying question as to whether or not it is ever okay for a social worker to misrepresent information to her client regardless if her intent is to protect society. The case of the hotline operator represents an important conflict that occurs regularly between individual values and societal values. At first glance, one could argue that John Stuart Mills would support the utilitarian approach to such a situation and be in favor of ensuring that victims report their crimes in order to value the benefit of society as whole. However, such superficial examinations fail to take in all the underlying issues related to rape cases. These are the issues that create a dilemma for the victim in deciding whether or not it would be beneficial to report her rape. For the purpose of this discussion, it is necessary to look not only at basic ethical theories of philosophers and the NASW Code of Ethics for social workers, but also it is of the utmost importance to consider specific characteristics of rape and the underlying issue of female oppression as having a negative effect on rape victims. This essay is also intending to prove that it would be the hotline operators' obligation to her trusting relationship with the caller that supersedes a duty she feels towards justice in society.

Theoretical Analysis and Detailed Application

The NASW Code of Ethics is an option the phone line operator would need to explore when deciding how to approach her caller. According to section 1.01, she has a commitment to the client's well being as her primary responsibility. However, the worker's responsibility in this case to society may supersede this commitment. Also, if there is a perceived possibility that someone else would be hurt as a result of not reporting a rape, then perhaps the phone operator would need to avoid potential harm and dangers to others in society. Another important NASW Code of Ethic for a licensed social worker that applies in this case is section 4.04, which states that social workers must be truthful and provide complete information. Specifically, this code makes it clear to the phone operator that she is not to lie, regardless of the positive intentions she may have. Conceivably, the hotline operator would need to be truthful in doing all she can to ensure that the victim will report her crime. Regardless of the caller's hesitation to report her rape, all the operator can do is her best to truthfully present the facts surrounding the difficulties in convicting their rapists. The social worker's duty to her job as a hotline operator means that she must do what she can to convince the caller that reporting her crime and convicting the rapist would be the best choice to ensure her own justice, as well as society's.

As far as deciding to report the rape or not, the victim may be guided solely by reason, by emotions, or perhaps by both. The same goes for the hotline operator who hopes the caller will report her rape, and is deciding whether or not to provide her client with complete and factual information that may or may not dissuade her to report. Whether the decision's outcome would lead to satisfaction of justice to the individual, or to society, depends on the source of one's actions. Due to the nature of the phone operator's case, it is equally important to note at this point evidence Held provides concerning women and morality. As a whole, she feels as though women are seen as people who may aspire to morality, but will always be viewed as lesser of a moral person because people feel as though they are distracted by their feelings. Held brings to one's attention the notion of women being perceived by society as the passive sex who just want to talk about their feelings concerning a situation (Arthur 55). When it comes to this case, I feel that the difficulties women face as victims of rape could operate as blockades, and often render them unable to talk about their feelings. This inability to express herself leads to the victim's inability to successfully prosecute her offender, assuming she chooses to do so. The specific difficulties women face in these situations are to be discussed later in the essay, and will include the struggles of rape victims in proving their cases when faced



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