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Secondary Victimization of Rape Victims: Insights From Mental Health Professionals Who Treat Survivors of Violence

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Abstract

Rape victims may turn to the legal, medical, and mental health systems for assistance, but there is a growing body of literature indicating that many survivors are denied help by these agencies. What help victims do receive often leaves them feeling revictimized. These negative experiences have been termed “the second rape” or “secondary victimization.” If indeed secondary victimization occurs, then these issues may be raised in rape survivors’ mental health treatment. In the current study, probability sampling was used to survey a representative sample of licensed mental health professionals about the extent to which they believe rape victims are “re-raped” in their interactions with social system personnel. Most therapists believed that some community professionals engage in harmful behaviors that are detrimental to rape survivors’ psychological well-being. Implications for future research on secondary victimization are discussed.

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