The Subjective Perception of Secondary Victimisation Among Sexual Assault Victims

Anna Masarikova, Katarina Kohutova

OBJECTIVES: The investigatory aim of this article follows the personal accounts of sexual assault victims and their experiences with secondary victimisation. Specifically, we identified the (in)actions taken by professionals and bystanders that constitute secondary victimisation, and we analysed the victims’ introspective processes on their (in)decision to speak publicly about or report their sexual assault. THEORETICAL BASE: We view the issue from an anti-oppressive approach: secondary victimisation may be experienced and felt by the victim, and this then becomes a stressor in relationships with professionals or bystanders trying to provide victims with assistance. Sexual assault victims’ fear of secondary victimisation may be a significant determinant preventing victims from speaking publicly or reporting their experiences to the relevant authorities. METHODS: A qualitative research strategy was applied to semi-structured interviews with sexual assault victims and the data obtained were analysed using the grounded theory method via the Atlas.ti 9 analytical programme. OUTCOMES: We identified the manifestations of secondary victimisation on the part of professionals and bystanders. Participants’ statements focused on victims’ decisions to either maintain their silence or report their experiences to the relevant authorities; this was the central focus as well as the determinants that influenced those decisions. SOCIAL WORK IMPLICATIONS: The professional work performance of social workers depends on their knowledgeability on and experiences with instances of secondary victimisation; this enables them to prevent further harm to victims by recognising and acting where necessary on the identified (in)actions and those of other professionals. Professional familiarity with which types of factors influence victims’ decisions to speak publicly or not can be helpful in supporting the victims’ initiatives to speak publicly and report sexual assault.

secondary victimisation, sexual assault, sexual violence, victims, perpetrators

p. 21-37

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