Background: Individuals who experience sexual violence often seek services in a variety of health care settings. Although research indicates that survivors often report that interactions with health care professionals are distressing, little is known about what renders these encounters helpful or hurtful.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to use Hildegard Peplau's (1952) conceptualization of nurses' helping roles (i.e., stranger, resource person, teacher, leadership, surrogate, counselor, technical expert) in nurse-client interactions to explore how survivors of sexual violence perceive their encounters with health care professionals.
Study design: Content analysis was conducted on the transcripts of 60 minimally structured interviews in which participants discussed their experiences of sexual violence.
Results: The results revealed that the helping roles of counselor and technical expert, as identified by Peplau, were most important to survivors of sexual violence. Regardless of role, participants perceived health care professionals to be helpful when they exhibited interpersonal sensitivity, especially in regard to the participants' experiences with violence.
Conclusions: The findings indicate that health care professionals need to maintain an attentive and compassionate stance when working with survivors of sexual violence. Those who serve in a counselor role need to create an atmosphere of trust so that clients may explore in depth how violence has affected their lives. J Am Psychiatr Nurses Assoc, 2008; 14(2) , 136-143. DOI: 10.1177/1078390308315613.