Rape Survivors' Experiences With the Legal and Medical Systems: Do Rape Victim Advocates Make a Difference?

This study used a naturalistic quasi-experimental design to examine whether rape survivors who had the assistance of rape victim advocates had more positive experiences with the legal and medical systems compared to those who did not work with advocates. Eighty-one survivors were interviewed in two urban hospitals about what services they received from legal and medical system personnel and how they were treated during these interactions. Survivors who had the assistance of an advocate were significantly more likely to have police reports taken and were less likely to be treated negatively by police officers. These women also reported less distress after their contact with the legal system. Similarly, survivors who worked with an advocate during their emergency department care received more medical services, including emergency contraception and sexually transmitted disease prophylaxis, reported significantly fewer negative interpersonal interactions with medical system personnel, and reported less distress from their medical contact experiences
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Violence Against Women
This study looked at women who were treated in emergency rooms after reporting rape. Two hospitals were included in the study-- one had a policy of paging a rape crisis advocate when a victim arrived, and the other did not. Participants included 36 women who worked with rape victim advocates and 45 who did not. Survivors were asked about medical and legal services that were offered, secondary victimization behaviors by medical and law enforcement staff, and their emotional responses to the secondary victimization. Victims who worked with advocates had more police reports taken (59% vs. 41%) and were less likely to experience secondary victimization behaviors from medical and legal personnel. They were more likely to be offered emergency contraception (33% vs. 14%) and information about/treatment for STDs. They were less likely to blame themselves for the assault (54% vs. 82%) and less reluctant to seek further help (67% vs. 91%). The author recommended that rape crisis centers continue to work with medical and legal systems to streamline response systems and increase the use of advocate services.
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Rape crisis centers; secondary victimization; victim services
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