The second rape I’m referring to in my title is not literal assault by a ‘doctor’ but more so an emotional and mental assault of a sexual assault survivor seeking help from doctors, lawyers and other systems providers. And most times, their friends, families and community members.
Sexual assault is perhaps the only crime in which its victims are victimized first by their attackers and second by legal, medical, and mental health systems (i.e. lawyers, psychologists and nurses) and even members of their communities. This secondary victimization or even “second rape” prohibits survivors of rape1 from thoroughly recovering and in addition perpetuate the idea that a rape survivor, male or female (although statistics show that women are succumbed to rape more than men), is to blame rather than the attacker. Campbell and Raja (1999)2 define secondary victimization as behaviors and attitudes of social service providers that are “victim-blaming” and insensitive, and which traumatize victims of violence who are being served by legal, medical, and mental health systems. This “second rape” by those meant to support survivors, in turn trivializes the crime and results in apathetic and discriminating attitudes towards sexual assault survivors.
Although the scope of Campbell and Raja (1999) study I referenced earlier examined systems responses to sexual assault survivors, community responses to survivors also bear the same weight and negatively impact recovery. I’m a firm believer that movies showcase culture and represents societal norms and beliefs at a specific time to a certain degree. In quite a number of Nollywood movies, the ‘Oga’ (typically the man of the house) rapes a nanny (or house help/maid as they are often called), and in many of these movies the rape ends in the nanny getting pregnant. Instead of consequences for the man who raped/forced her, the nanny gets labeled as a slut, who cannot keep her legs closed or as a husband-snatcher. This behavior of blaming the woman does not only make it hard for the nanny in this example to receive adequate support and care after being assaulted, but also furthers a toxic rape culture.
Nigeria — like the rest of the world — has a toxic rape culture that is intrinsically tied to our culture and in order to prevent sexual assault or secondary victimization for those who have survived, there needs to be a dialogue surrounding rape in our communities. In my next post, I’ll talk more about what rape culture is, how we all participate in it and why it is crucial to eliminate rape culture, However, while the fight for more attention on aiding survivors and preventing sexual assault continues, there are things you can do to help survivors of sexual assault and support them.
I’ve adapted the following “principles of empowerment” (safety, resorted control and ongoing support) from the Cape Town Trust’s Rape Crisis Center. While it is targeted towards legal and medical service providers, it applies to all those who know or may come in contact with someone who has been sexually assaulted.
2. Reassure them that unless about confidentiality
3. Making the victim feel comfortable and safe.
4. For professionals: Explaining upcoming procedures in detail
5. Offering to call a family member or other trusted person.
1. Give information to the victim about their options if you can
2. For professionals specifically: Involve the victim in all decisions that affect him or her
3. For professionals specifically: Ensure that interventions happen with victim’s informed consent
4. For professionals specifically: Inform victim of his or her legal rights
1. Treat them with respect for their dignity
2. Affirm their strengths and let them know they have survived
3. Speak in their language if possible
4. Listen attentively and be present
5. Adhere to their wishes as far as possible, don’t force them to do or say something they don’t want to do
6. Respect diversity of language, culture, religion, race, sexual orientation and gender
1. Treat the person in a caring manner
2. Ask them how you can help them, and if they are comfortable with you checking in on them
3. Provide them access to available resources that you are aware about
4. Offer emotional and practical support to victims
5. For professionals specifically: Refer victims to other relevant services for further assistance
Consciously using these principles when interacting with those who disclose sexual assault will not only reduce secondary victimization, but also allow you to become aware of your own biases or moral judgments. Awareness of our biases makes us more conscious of how we any have in eh past perpetuated stereotypes or furthered the toxic rape culture. Instead of wallowing in self-loathe or embarrassment, vow to end rape culture and help victims you encounter (which is a process, but a necessary process to trust).