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understanding the survivor community


Listed below are some subjects which therapists may or may not be aware that their patients are effected by. If someone is reporting a rape they should ask the local crisis center for a victim's advocate who will walk them through the process. For information on Reporting a rape click here.


Rape survivors at times develop specific abbreviations and acronyms in their online support groups. They also share word of mouth knowledge about current events and the politics of sexual assault.


A survey by survivors for therapists- results

If you could say anything to your therapist- what would you say?

Some issues survivors need addressed: Self blame (why it happens), secondary victimization (how to deal with it), telling their story (means of expression).


Message boards

Related links:

What is life like for many rape survivors?

The book/movie Speak is a fairly typical example of the secondary victimization rape survivors suffer. View clips. See also: secondary victimization testimonials

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)


See also: Training manuals



The effects of rape / psychology

Coping Skills

LGBTQ and lesbian sexual assault

Eating disorders and sexual assault

Date rape drugs

Victim blame

Current events

Online Libraries on sexual assault- research.


Smith, Marilyn E.; Kelly, Lillian M. (2001). Issues in Mental Health Nursing. The journey of recovery after a rape experience. 22(4), Jun pp. 337-352. link

"The purpose of the study was to discover the meaning of recovery from the perception of the victim, how recovery is experienced, and what contributed to the growth and recovery of the woman who has been raped...The thematic structure of a woman's recovery from rape comprises 3 main themes: reaching out, reframing the rape, and redefining the self."


Sarkar, N. N.; Sarkar, Rina, (2005) Sexual assault on woman: Its impact on her life and living in society. Sexual & Relationship Therapy,20 (4), 407-419
Database: Academic Search Premier

Abstract:The author's aim is to bring forth the consequences of sexual assault on women with a view to abate this crime against women. Data are extracted from the literature through the computerised MEDLINE system.

Women sexually assaulted in childhood are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted in adulthood.

Post-traumatic mental problems, acute stress disorders, depression and other psychological problems are found in victims of sexual assault. Women often suffer from sleep disorders, nightmare, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and diminishing of sexual urge and pleasure among other disorders following sexual assault or rape. Recovery is slower in sexual than in non-sexual assault victims. Factors influencing recovery are emotional support from friends, relations, social and community supports. Overall social changes in outlook and perception towards women are needed in the modern society to curb the sexual assault on women.


Foa, E., Rothbaum, B.,(1998) Treating the trauma of rape: Cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD. New York, NY, US: Guilford Press, xviii, 286 pp.
Database: PsycINFO

Abstract:(from the cover) In the US alone, approximately 1.5 million adult female survivors of rape are estimated to suffer from chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This book provides a step-by-step guide to proven brief cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques for treating traumatized women. Filling an urgent need of front-line practitioners working within managed care guidelines, the book includes numerous case examples illustrating sensitive and effective information gathering and intervention, as well as explanations of how to cope with common problems and complications in treatment.


Campbell, Rebecca, Tracy Sefl, Sharon M. Wasco & Courtney E. Ahrens. (2004). Doing Community Research without a Community: Creating Safe Space for Rape Survivors. American Journal of Community Psychology. 33.

"Rappaport (1995) argued that listening to the stories of people's lives should be an important goal of community psychology. Through analysis of these narratives, researchers can gain new insights into community phenomenon. Perhaps in a similar manner, the narratives of the researchers themselves may shed some light on the process of how research is actually conducted and constructed. In the story of the UIC Women & Violence Project, our narrative focuses on how we identified, recruited, and interviewed a community-based sample of rape survivors. The stage of designing a sampling plan is often overlooked and undiscussed, but in our project, this task raised practical and conceptual problems unlike those we had ever encountered in prior work. How were we going to find rape survivors? Who was "the community" with whom we wanted to work? And, once we found these rape survivors, how could we create a safe space for them to tell their stories? Wrestling with these questions prompted us to reinterpret classic ideas of communities, settings, and the purpose of community-based research."


Littleton, Heather; Breitkopf, Carmen Radecki. (2006). COPING WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF RAPE. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 30 (1). p106-116.


The coping strategies that a victim of a rape engages in can have a strong impact on the development and persistence of psychological symptoms. Research provides evidence that victims who rely heavily on avoidance strategies, such as suppression, are less likely to recover successfully than those who rely less heavily on these strategies. The present study utilized structural path analysis to identify predictors of avoidance coping following rape and examined factors in the assault itself (e.g., force, alcohol use), sequelae of the assault (e.g., self-blame, loss of self-worth), and social support as potential direct and indirect predictors of avoidance coping. From a sample of 1,253 university women, the responses of 216 women who endorsed an experience of rape were examined. Results suggested that sequelae of the assault such as feelings of self-blame and negative reactions received from others are potentially important predictors of avoidance coping. Implications of the results for future rape recovery research are discussed



VanDeusen, Karen M.; Carr, Joetta L.. (2004). Group Work at the University: A Psychoeducational Sexual Assault Group for Women. Social Work with Groups. 27 (4). p51-64, 14p.


This article describes an innovative psychoeducational support group for female survivors of sexual assault. The intervention model takes place in a University setting and is free, confidential and easily accessible. The psychoeducational format allows survivors at various levels of healing to gain information about common sexual assault effects, rape myths, and coping strategies, and to explore their feelings and thoughts in a safe environment. This article also includes a review of theoretical and empirical literature on group work with female sexual assault survivors. Methods for screening members and recruitment techniques are also discussed.



French, Sandra L.. (2003). Reflections on healing: framing strategies utilized by acquaintance rape survivors. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 31 (4). p209, 111p.


This study examines the stories acquaintance rape victims tell through semi-structured interviews. Acquaintance rape, viewed here as a particularly paradoxical crime, creates a need for women to resolve the inconsistency of their experience. By conducting interviews with victims and analyzing their verbal communication, this project explores how victims frame their rape experience. Framing strategies used by victims of sexual harassment served as a guide for the initial identification of framing strategies for victims of acquaintance rape. Women in this study utilized strategies of paradox management to assess blame, define, and reframe their experiences. Recognition of these management strategies can assist social support networks and law enforcement professionals in identifying the communicative strategies of female victims of varying types of violence.


Comments from sexual assault patients on their therapy experiences:

One person expressed that they would prefer to learn coping skills over using medication. They had negative reactions to the medications previously prescribed.

Language sensitivity: Using particular words sometimes triggers assault patients. Perhaps asking which term the victim would like to use would be better than choosing a descriptive word for them (rape, assault, incident).

Minimizing the patient's traumatic experiences.

Telling the patient they "should" forgive the perpetrator when no apology or amends have been made.


Allen, J. (2005). Coping with Trauma: Hope Through Understanding, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.

Bremner, J. & Marmar, C., Eds. (1998). Trauma, Memory, and Dissociation. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.

Herman, J. (1992). Trauma and Recovery. New York: Basic Books.

Saakvitne, K., Gamble, S., Pearlman, L., & Lev, B. (2000). Risking Connection®: A Training Curriculum for Working with Survivors of Child Abuse, Baltimore, MD: Sidran Institute Press.

Stamm, B.H. (Ed.) (1999) Secondary Traumatic Stress: Self-Care Issues for Clinicians, Researchers, and Educators. 2nd ed. Baltimore, MD: Sidran Institute Press.


Related information:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Second Edition: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures

by Francine Shapiro


EMDR : The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma by Francine Shapiro, Margot Silk Forrest

"EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is a new, nontraditional, very short-term therapy for treating trauma victims that utilizes rhythmical stimulation such as eye movements or hand taps"



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