Preventing the second rape: Rape survivors' experiences with community service providers

Although prevention efforts aimed at eliminating the occurrence of sexual assault are clearly needed, it is also important to consider how we can prevent further trauma among those already victimized. Prior research suggests that rape survivors may experience victim-blaming treatment from system personnel (termed secondary victimization or the second rape). This research examined how postassault contact with community systems exacerbated rape victims' psychological and physical heath distress. Findings revealed that the majority of rape survivors who reported their assault to the legal or medical system did not receive needed services. These difficulties with service delivery were associated with both perceived and objective measures of negative health outcomes. Contact with the mental health system, rape crisis centers, or religious communities was generally perceived by victims as beneficial. This study suggests that the trauma of rape extends far beyond the assault itself, as negative community responses can significantly elevate distress.
Wasco,Sharon M.
Ahrens,Courtney E.
Barnes,Holly E.
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Journal of Interpersonal Violence
Survivors of rape are all too often subject to inadequate or even distressing responses from the social systems they turn to postassault. This study addresses the perceived and objective community responses as reported by 102 women (mean age = 34.29 years) recruited via fliers, posters, and presentations given in representative regions of Chicago. Interviews began with open-ended questions concerning the assault, followed by structured questions that addressed the postassault contact with legal, medical, mental health, rape crisis center, or religious social systems. That is, the structured questions concentrated on service delivery outcomes related to contact with any of the aforementioned social systems and required participants to rate (on a 7-point scale) the healing or hurtful quality of the service provided to them. Posttraumatic stress and depression were measured using the Symptom Checklist 90 Revised, Crime-Related PTSD scale, and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. Results revealed an alarming paucity in the services provided by the legal and medical systems
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Racial/Ethnic Differences; secondary victimization; victim services
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