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secondary victimization


The following anonymous quotes are examples of victim blame, secondary victimization, survivor bashing and bias (hate) crimes against rape trauma syndrome sufferers.


What is secondary victimization?

Secondary victimization is the re-traumatization of the sexual assault, abuse or rape victim. It is an indirect result of assault which occurs through the responses of individuals and institutions to the victim. The types of secondary victimization include victim blaming, inappropriate behavior or language by medical personel and by other organizations with access to the victim post assault. (Campbell et. al., 1999)

The Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation states that "A hate crime, also known as a bias crime, is a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin."

"Recent research suggests that the multitude of ways that persons with disabilities are victimized is pronounced and increasing." (Grattet & Jenness 2001)


Rape trauma syndrome information is available here.

Another aspect of abuse to consider is "gender as a status category in hate crime law, specifically in terms of their knowledge of gender-bias violence and their willingness to charge violence against women as a hate crime."(McPhail & DiNitto 2005)


"I was physically threatened and abused after my assault. People seemed to feel I should be punished for telling anyone I had been assaulted. Once I heard someone walking across my porch in boots. I knew it was bad so waited until they left. I found they had slashed my bike tires with a power stapler. We couldn't get the staple out of the tire for a while. A few weeks later I was riding my bike down a ramp that is very steep. Half way down I realized I had no brakes and my front wheel was in fact falling off. I hit the curb at the bottom with my rear tire and was thrown forward over the handle bars. I landed on my knee. I can't do high impact things now. I stopped riding a bike after that because I was afraid of what else they would do. People treated me very badly after I was raped."

Secondary victimization, Hate crimes, Victim blame



"I only told a few people. Some knew him and some did not. It seems to me that people got squirmishly uncomfortable, some became critical and judgemental, one weirdo got nasty, and so I stopped talking about it. I got the feeling like people believe it is only something that happens on the 11 o'clock news but couldn't possibly happen in real life! I got a counselor soon after the last rape and that helped me a lot. Now, I deal with aftereffects as needed. (if I am triggered)

Victim blaming reminds me of that '80's song: Dirty Laundry- "kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down..." (sad but true commentary on human nature)[name deleted] "

Secondary victimization, Victim blame


"I had been having extreme PTSD and people still didn't believe that I had really been raped. I was very disoriented all the time. The more verbal abuse I got- the worse it got. I couldn't retain many short term memories. I would forget what people said to me at work within a few seconds. I got confused very easily. Driving down the street on the way to a class I recognized someone I went to high school with. As I was looking to the right at him he turned all the way towards me and began imitating a crazy person with a vacant look on their face. I think he crossed his eyes. I gathered it was an impression of me. When I got to class the boys in front of me began throwing spit balls at me. I moved so that my back was against the wall. Even the teacher joined in tormenting me. I have had several teachers do stand up routines at my expense. Just because it was considered okay to hurt 'the rape victim'. People treat us like we're not human beings."

Effects of rape, Hate crimes, Victim blame



"The first person I told started yelling at me how stupid I was for being alone with him and told me all the things I "should have" done in the situation. She went on to tell me that my reactions afterwards were "wrong" as well...leaving me feeling even worse than I already did...which I thought at the time wasn't possible. Her response was a huge part of my decision not to tell anyone else in R/L at the time. Ironically, she will be taken by surprise when the investigators contact her regarding my case and I hope she eats her words when my perp is given his sentence. (positive thinking considering the investigation has barely begun)"

Secondary victimization, Victim blame



"Not sure if anyone else has a list but, here's mine:

*people I trusted with what happened when I went through a bad patch*

- told others who lectured me about it in public
- deliberately kept their children away from me, thinking that I would infect them
- fired me from cleaning houses, or watching kids


- told me "You should have forgotten this by now...it has been years and you are going aganst God by remembering what happened... (or my favorite one) I will take care of this you put it out of your mind" (she did nothing)
- lectured me about how I: 1. should not lie about family 2. should forget it ever happened 3. lectured me about acting like a whore.


*friends I made the mistake of trusting*

- "Oh, wow" then acted as if I was someone that deserved that to happen
- some would deliberatly trip triggers that they knew I had, just to "make sure that they were still there"
(I'm ranting, a little someone just did this yesterday.)
- told what happened all around my school so they could get in with a group (click?) so that from that day until my parents were told by the principal to move me to a different school I was the subject of rumors about how I was willing (CSA), or called whore, ice queen (I refused to have anything to do with dating and this came up after), or was cornered by students looking for some fun."

Secondary victimization, Invisible community, Victim blame



"Yes, when I was training in the Navy, I [was] sexually molested. When I made a complaint to the commanding officer, it was treated very badly. I wanted a written apology, and the abuser would not concede to it. I was then treated really badly for the rest of my time at recruit school. That is where I ended up attempting suicide.

The only reason that all these people treated me badly because of the molestation, was that it is a male dominated area, and they did not believe me. So they thought they would give me a hard time. Maybe to show support to their 'buddy'. A lot of the instructors at recruit school encouraged the boys (most of them were boys really 17 - 20 yr olds) to treat the women badly. Of course, this molestation dredged up all of my past rapes, hence the suicide attempt (aside from the fact that Recruit school was enough to make you want to kill yrself anyway).

Some things to consider with stopping this happening would be:

1. education (background of psychological symptoms of abused ppl, ppl exposed to trauma, PTSD etc)
2. mediation
3. communication lessons
4. counselling for the 'bully' (I think that ppl who bully others have quite a few 'issues' themselves. Maybe they have been abused, and don't want to do anything about it? Or watched their mother/father/siblings being abused?)
5. consequences of the bully's behaviour outlined. (by this I mean through mediation, or in a letter, or even publically - the bully should know how they have affected the victim by re-victimising them, and all the feelings associated with it).


I think all survivors can say they 'mourn' the adult that they would have potentially turned out to be had they not been raped."

see Multiple victimization, Secondary victimization, War and rape, Victim blame



"People have generally retreated after I told them, and/or stopped wanting to talk to me."

Invisible community, Victim blame



"My dissociating (DID) created a child like persona to protect me during dangerous times. That elicited alot of jeers and people to this day still call me 'baby' as an insult. The difference now is that I know alot of other survivors who do the same thing to a more severe extent and if anyone made fun of them it would be considered horrific. It would be like saying something cruel to an autistic person."

Hate crimes, Victim blame



"I wasn't 'out' when I was raped (I am a lesbian) but my rapists found out. Someone told me they made sexual jokes about sandwiching me and another girl. Alot of the fall out after my assault was essentially gay bashing. People called me a hermaphrodite, referred to me as a man (I was feminine at the time). It really pushed back any healthy coming out process I might have gone through in my early 20's. The week after it happened a man I was volunteering with pointed out the window at a woman. 'What do you think of her?' he asked. I said she had a nice skirt on. That wasn't what he wanted to know. He was trying to get me to leer at her. Basically- they were looking for a sexual history to use against me. I really didn't have one (I didn't date much). So they had to dig a little deeper. Being gay was a pretty good excuse to dismiss my pain. It was also a good tool to hurt me further."

Hate crimes, LGBTQ and lesbian sexual assault, Victim blame



"For a while I was getting threatening phone calls. The person said 'I know what you did with those boys.' She also said she was going to kill me and 'smear my insides all over the highway'. My eating disorder flourished after that. I figured out who it was. I did call the police and report it but I didn't give them her name (I wasn't sure). She later admitted to it in front of a witness. I didn't think she would actually do it. It turned out she was angry because my rapists had told her that I said something I did not say."

Secondary victimization, Eating disorders and sexual assault, Victim blame



"My mom who was a rape counselor at the time told me that I shouldnt have been at my exboyfriends house (to watch movies as friends) to begin with. Then she told me that she would never let her self get raped to begin with.
A girl "friend" of mine told a man at a sports bar (that neither one of us had met before that night) that she wouldnt have ever put up with being raped and then preceeded to tell me that i took that statement too personally---how else would i have taken it?
When my husband years later raped me-my mom told me that i shouldnt have let him do that to me---HE WAS HOLDING MY HANDS AND PRESSING AGAINST MY LEGS- exactly how did i let him do that???????
I recently told someone that i felt responsible for the rapes and that i had done something to deserve it and she said that it was just a consequence of what i did...what did i do--oh yeah-i trusted an exboyfriend (of 5 yrs.) my husband and another jack*ss that told me he loved me. i wasnt running around the streets with only a g string on going hey come sc**w me--and even if i was that doesnt give anyone the right to disrespect my feelings. NO IS NO.
i tried to press charges the first one and lost everything-friends family--everything.
then when i didnt press charges this last time because of threats against my children-then i am weak. i cant win.
i have had no real support.
sometimes i think people are incredibly stupid and insensitive"

Secondary victimization, Victim blame



"Most of my negative experiences with survivor bashing came from my having symptoms of rape trauma syndrome. I think that because people didn't know what Dissociative Disorder was they decided that those symptoms indicated I was just randomly crazy. Therefore MORE likely to not really have been raped - but to have made it up. Actually all the reasons they didn't believe me are the symptoms that would indicate I had been sexually assaulted. Irony. I had such bad PTSD that I couldn't read more than a sentence at a time for two years. I would start "remembering" or having what are called flash backs to things my rapists had said or done. I had people tell me that they thought I had been given a lobotomy (they were not being sympathetic). Actually it was just that they retraumatized me for five years so badly that my PTSD became permanent. It flares up when I feel I am in a dangerous situation and my mind goes blank. Kind of like an ice cream headache. I just can't think without serious effort. Makes it hard to study...When I was finally able to even tell my therapist what happened she explained what it was. I took several tests over the years and scored very high for OCD and PTSD. I also scored as having a very high IQ at the same time. I went to a poetry reading and asked this guy where my friend the speaker was. He started talking to me until he recognized who I was. Then he started sneering and said 'what's the matter- forget how to read?' and walked away. I regained normal reading ability two years later when I went into the hospital for an eating disorder. It was the first time I felt safe in years. I was quite a bookworm for the next year or so."

Secondary victimization, Hate crimes, Effects of rape, Victim blame



"My mom said to me right after it happened that I shouldn't have been wearing such short shorts. I haven't really gotten that many others but that is because the first bad responses I got from my family shut me up for seven years and in my mind I blocked out anything else bad that was said."

Secondary victimization, Victim blame



"I was going down the street and a child with his family stepped into the road and screamed 'whore' at me. His mother was smoking a cigarette and glaring at me. I was not in any way promiscuous."

Secondary victimization, Victim blame



"Several years after the assault I was walking down the street near a club with a friend (the first friend I made since the assault) and two college aged boys stepped in front of us and yelled 'whore' at me at the same time. At that time I had only had one boyfriend in my entire life. He is the only person I had ever consented to sleep with. At the age I was when I met him I was the oldest virgin I personally knew. I don't consider the rape as a loss of that. They drugged me. That night I was wearing jeans and a loose sweat shirt. Probably a jacket. It was cold. I stopped wearing make up after I was raped too. People used the fact that I wore eyeliner for three months of my life as the reason and excuse for them assaulting me. It was on sale. I guess I shouldn't buy eyeliner."

Secondary victimization, Victim blame



"I was driving home from work (near a University) and a drunk college student stepped in front of my car refusing to move. He started yelling horrible things at me. I had to back up. I don't remember how i got out of there."

Secondary victimization, Victim blame



"[They said that] Since I was on my period, my hormones were raging, so I really wanted the sex but I got a mood swing and regretted it afterwards. Seriously, isn't that the stupidest thing you have ever heard? I got that a few times on a forum that deals with relationship advice, that my period played a role in it. I wasn't even asking them to debate whether or not it was rape, I just asked for comfort!!

Also from that stupid forum I used to like:

-Well yes, you did manage to get raped, but you need to stop focusing on the person that did it and instead focus on why you allowed yourself to make those bad decisions that lead to it. [see Self blame]

-Don't play the victim.

-If you had really been raped, you would have fought a hell of a lot harder. [see Victim blame]

-There's so many "what-ifs" that this story can't be real and must be some sort of law-school hypothetical.

Some people were really helpful on there, but once I educated myself on SA and experienced it, I realized just how ignorant most people are about it.

Stop going to guys' hotel rooms. - I was told that a couple times by the police and my family. Hello, I think I learned my lesson when I ended up being raped!

How can it be rape if he didn't put a gun to your head? - my dad

Did you like it? - my ex boyfriend

Gee, that sucks. Sorry, I'm hungry so I'm gonna get food now. - a person who I thought was my best friend until she signed off of AIM right when I was explaining what had happened to me to go somewhere to eat dinner."

Secondary victimization, Self blame, Victim blame



"If they realized I was having problems I hadn't had before the assault (and they knew that) why didn't they make the connection between rape trauma syndrome and my problems?"

Secondary victimization, Effects of rape, Victim blame



"When I was raped I definitely connected their motivation with the fact that I was taking a women's history class. I would talk about what I had learned that day alot and I think it angered them. I also felt they were disrespectful towards girls and women. They would cat call females when they walked past. They tried to look up my friend's skirt. I think the assault was their way of 'getting one over on me' and showing they had the control." [see gender bias]



"I was riding my bike down the street. I saw a car coming from the other direction. I noticed him make a U turn and start coming toward me. I had a bad feeling about it. There were two lanes and a lane of parked cars. There was no other traffic on the street. A bike, a car and two lanes. He pinned me between the parked car and his car (the handle bars mostly). I flipped all the way over forward and hit my head. I was wearing a helmet. There were alot of witnesses. I didn't press charges or even tell anyone at all because I remembered what happened when I asked for help after my assault. It just got worse and no one believed me. I didn't even tell my boss that I had a sprained wrist from the incident. I just used my other hand. I kept my silence. I think he was the security gaurd at the grocery store. He said he worked there. The security gaurd had a clear water gun full of oddly colored fluid and he shot me in the back of my shirt. I had stains that color on my back when I got home from the store. I also saw him watching me in the parking lot. I didn't tell anyone about that either. No one would have cared or helped me. At least I didn't think so."

Hate crimes, Secondary victimization, Victim blame,



"I didn't have any friends for five years after my assault. Every time I tried to make a friend they would be pressured not to hang out with me because of my stigma. Once a girl walked up to me and said '[name] told me I shouldn't be friends with you. I'm going to anyway. I don't care what he says.' I avoided her after that so that neither of us would be persecuted by the man who told her not to help me. He was our boss and knew her family. That same man had indicated to me earlier that he knew about my assault. He said he would be my friend 'anyway'. He also said he had heard rumors about me which my rapists spread. They told people I wasn't nice anyway so they shouldn't help me. I assume they also just denied it. I didn't know what to say."

Secondary victimization, Victim blame



"My favourites were..
Did you let him rape you so you could sue him?
The night after the assualt...from my sister
"Oh you were raped..gee what do you want me to do about it?"
This one's kind of universal..
You didn't fight back hard enough so you must have wanted it.
and the coup de grace for me:
I was crying in my mares (horse) stall, about 4 days after it had happened. It had been one heck of a week, and my trainer had stood outside of her stall SCREAMING her bloody lungs out at me for crying.
And then she yelled at me for reporting it to the police as it seemed to be one MAJOR inconvenience....
People were cruel..I lost everything down there."

Secondary victimization, Victim blame



"While mom made some truely amazingly stupid and insensitive comments, she never really blamed me for what happened. (though admittedly she does not believe that anything happened)

My friend "S" however, seemed reluctant to believe me. After I told her, she said to me, "So was this just something that started off as kissing and then got out of hand or was it that now you feel guilty because you slept with that man?"

I said no, and then the best that I could I told of how we had been drinking earlier that evening, and how he had walked me to my car and r*ped me even though I said no. I felt like I had to definitely make that point, like I had to prove to them that I did not consent.

S then said, so you admit that you had been drinking. How do you know you did not give him permission? At this comment I realized I was not going to be able to convince them of what happened, so I just stopped talking."

Secondary victimization, Victim blame, Date rape drugs (alcohol is considered one)



"A lot of people I know that knew about the attack said it wasn't even r*pe because she had been drinking. They also said it wasn't r*pe because "he wasn't that kind of guy." Whatever that means. Those comments really hurt my friend, and they invalidate all survivors"

Secondary victimization, Victim blame, Date rape drugs (alcohol is considered one)



"I post at a forum where in the past I have been very open (probably too open) about my history of sexual abuse. I guess my amount of talking about it a lot, and me just being myself made myself an enemy. Earlier in the week, there was a thread about men us ladies found attractive, and I happened to mention that I was attracted to older, middle-aged men, but no older than that. (I am in my mid-20's). I thought everything was going fine until later on a thread was done about sexual experiences, and I mentioned the incest. This person dealt me my secondary wounding when she said I was lying or exaggerating about the extent of the incest, because I was attracted to middle-aged men. No amount of pointing out that my abusers were way older than middle-age would convince her otherwise."

Secondary victimization, Victim blame



"I had some pretty negative reactions to some of the things that happened to me when I was younger and to some things that happened to me in my 20's.

I never really named all my experiences, but here's some of the reactions I had to those experiences; I'll apologize in advance because I think some are upsetting, and very triggering. Please read with caution. I also think these reactions aren't only linked to victim blaming, but blatant sexism too, and an example of ongoing abuse in my family.

***the following may be very triggering***

1. Recently I told a neighbour I had been drugged and raped in my mid 20's. When we were discussing the effects certain drugs can have on you (that were similar to roofies, and sedatives) she said this to me even without me mentioning the rape "yeah... you wake up and realize your were raped, and then you get over it." I felt like it was an underhanded way of saying be quiet.

2. I grew up in a pretty abusive and controlling family. They would often beat me and call me a slut. my mother would encourage my brother to beat me because I was a "whore", and needed to be locked up in a mental ward. I sometimes wonder if it was because I questioned her authority as a parent, and the way she was so neglectful as a mother. I sometimes think her name calling, and abuse was for standing up to her sexually abusive ex husband (my step father). I used to think I got punished for being strong.

3. My mother would encourage my brother to call me a whore, and all kinds of names. When I was 15 I was followed and harassed by a man in his 30's. He pushed me into intercourse after cornering me and threatening to hurt, and rape me. He admitted to following me for at least a month- and that no matter what I would do I would "never get away." My mother would allow my brother to call me all kinds of "slutty" names because of that incident. Thanks mom. I had such a hard time during this time I just lost my mind."

Secondary victimization, gender bias, Victim blame



"Things people have said to me:


"You should repent" okay sure...it's my fault. I'm sorry, where was God?

"You put yourself out there and should not have been there" Really as if I have not thought that before...

"That's how college guys are, when they're out to get laid" Okay, so we should just accept it because every 19 year old guy is a rapist... right??

"He wasn't even in the frat so don't hold it against the house" Great, let's just worry about the frat. boys

"Well, you weren't raped, so get over it." Yeah because having some guy that you trusted push you down, climb on top of you and try to rape you shoving his hands inside of you, making you touch him is sooo much better. I'm totally relieved, thank you. I'm so thankful I was not raped, thankful every day but don't tell me I'm not allowed to hurt."

Secondary victimization, Victim blame, College and Fraternity Rape



"Reading these posts in here, it's absolutely heart wrenching, but has shown me i'm not alone. My first rape, when I was 13, was by a guy I knew, a friend, a few years older, he was from a typical "hard" family, i.e., people don't cross them. I was bullied, constantly, emotionally and physically, by him, his family, and worst of all, my so called friends, who were friends of his too. I had things written in marker pen about me in the school toilets, and the few people who did believe me would say things like "Yea, but it's not rape, just a bit of teenage fun that got out of hand"

There was loads of other stuff, but i won't go into it all. Then after my second rape, by a complete stranger while i was walking home, well after that, there was the, well you can't possibly be raped twice remark, or that i'd been drinking. Even had a doctor telling me i needed to pull myself together and should be over my rapes. Luckily i now have a pretty awesome doctor"

Secondary victimization, Multiple victimization, Domestic violence, Victim blame



Secondary victimization

What is a bias crime?

Information regarding bias (hate) crimes against rape trauma syndrome sufferers and Survivor bashing.

Related links: Secondary victimization|PTSD |OCD|DID|Eating disorders and rape|Self Injury|Victim blame|The effects of rape / psychology |LGBTQ and lesbian sexual assault|Male sexual assault |Cultural diversity|

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