Secondary Victimization

Another one of the biggest problems with reporting sexual violence lies in the potential for secondary victimization of the survivor. Secondary victimization in this context refers to the attitudes, statements, and actions of legal and medical system personnel, which may blame or shame survivors and could cause them further distress.

Research suggests that contact with community systems for reporting sexual violence can worsen survivors’ psychological distress, and in fact that a fear of this potential leads survivors to avoid reporting their sexual assaults. In one landmark study, most therapists surveyed believed that some community professionals engage in harmful behaviours that are detrimental to rape survivors’ psychological well-being. Another study found that police officers and doctors significantly underestimated the impact they were having on survivors.

Guide: PDF Version