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Secondary Victimization

What is it?
What victims may need

Thanks to the following organization for its permission to use the Creator wheel:
Mending the Sacred Hoop
202 East Superior Street
Duluth, MN 55802

What is it?

Secondary victimization is when a victim of family or sexualized violence speaks out about the abuse and is re-victimized through the words or actions of service providers, family, "friends" or other members of the community. This can further abuse, as it gives more power to the offender and takes power away from the victim. This can happen in many ways including:

1. Disbelieving or denying: Often people will minimize the victim's experience or how the abuse has had impact on her life. "She's making a big deal out of nothing …I don't think it was that bad."

2. Blaming the victim: People may say that the victim is responsible for what happened, increasing her sense of self-blame and low self-esteem.' "What was she thinking, going off with those guys? It's her fault."

3. Criticizing: This occurs when other people judge a victim for normal reactions to a traumatic event. This can include:

• Making fun of, or talking down to her.
• Seeing the survivor's distress as a sign of her own problems. "She's just hysterical. You can't believe anything she says."
• Saying that the survivor's reaction is her way of looking for money, attention, or sympathy.
• Supporting the offender at the expense of the victim. Depriving the victim of support and understanding.

This original text can be found at Permission to publish it was granted by the Victim Services Committee of Leeds and Grenville.

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What victims may need from their support system – C.O.N.T.R.O.L

C Compassion – Victims are sometimes angry at the sudden, unpredictable and uncontrollable threat to their safety or lives. This anger can even be directed at the people who are trying to help them. Try not to take it personally.
O Options – Victims need to know what services and options are available to them. This information may need to be given many times and in different ways – it is difficult to take in information when you are in crisis.
N Non-judgmental listening - Victims need to have their feelings accepted and their story heard by people who won't judge them. Respect and understanding instead of judgment and blame help to heal the victim's sense of dignity.
T Time - Victims need time to process what has happened and make decisions about how to respond.
R Reassurance - Victims need to feel safe. Crime often leaves them feeling helpless, vulnerable and frightened. The most common response is "I don't believe this happened to me." Reassure them. Listen to them. Support them.
O Openness and understanding the process -- whether it is the criminal justice process or counselling process -- victims need to know 'what happens next'. The situation is usually stressful and clearly knowing what happens next lessens the anxiety.
L Loneliness and shock – Victims need to know it is not their fault and that no one deserves to be abused.

This original text can be found at Permission to publish it was granted by the Victim Services Committee of Leeds and Grenville.

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Putting the pieces of one's life together after the abuse is hard and tiring. It is always an emotional time filled with ups and downs. For most victims, a new sense of balance can eventually be reached but it may take a long time and be very hard. For some victims, support groups and counseling provide healing, support and some closure.

Healing can take a long time and can be made more difficult by family, friends and service providers who are impatient and do not show understanding.

Hurtful things people may say to the victim
or about the victim:

How to respond in a way which will support the victim:

"Why doesn't she just leave?"

"Why won't he let her go?" or
"How can I support her?"

"He didn't mean it he was drunk"

"There is no excuse for abuse" or
"He has to learn to own his actions"

"What was she thinking?"'

"It's hard to think clearly when you are scared"

'"She's not a good mother"

"It is hard to parent when you are struggling to survive"

"Why can't she just get over it?"

"The hurt is deep – it takes a long time and lots of support to start feeling better."

This original text can be found at Permission to publish it was granted by the Victim Services Committee of Leeds and Grenville.



Previous Page Back to Top Last Updated 20-04-2006