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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

December 17, 2001 Contact: Anne Dybek, (312) 996-8279, adybek@uic.edu


University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have found that the majority of rape survivors who reported their assault to legal or medical systems did not receive needed services, adding to their trauma.

The research, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, is published under the title "Preventing the 'Second Rape': Rape Survivors' Experiences with Community Service Providers" in the December issue of the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Rape survivors said reports of their assaults received reactions ranging from apathy to victim-blaming attitudes to voyeuristic interest from medical and legal professionals whose job it is to help deal with the aftermath of their assault. The phenomenon is so widespread that researchers have dubbed it the "secondary victimization" or the "second rape," a term many women who participated in the research used to describe the treatment they received.

"This research examined how post-assault contact with a variety of community systems aggravated rape victims' psychological and physical health outcomes," said Rebecca Campbell, associate professor of psychology, who directed the research. "We interviewed a representative sample of 102 rape survivors in Chicago about their post-assault contact with the legal, medical and mental health systems, as well as rape crisis centers and religious communities."

Campbell said the research shows that while the top priority must be to prevent sexual assaults, it is also important to prevent any further trauma to those already victimized.

Other findings:

  • The greatest difficulty occurred with the legal system: only 25 percent of the cases reported to the legal system were prosecuted; 10 percent of the reported cases were tried but did not result in convictions, 10 percent were tried and resulted in convictions, and 5 percent were resolved by a guilty plea from the assailant.

  • The percentage of cases that were prosecuted differed according to the race of the victim: 70 percent of prosecuted cases had white women victims, 30 percent were minority victims.

  • Assaults that fit a more classic rape profile (stranger rape, physical injury, and weapon use) were also more likely to be prosecuted: 80 percent of the prosecuted cases involved stranger rapes, 20 percent were non-stranger rapes.

Victims who sought post-rape medical attention were able to access many of the services they desired. But less than half of the victims received information about the risk of pregnancy, the availability of the morning-after-pill or information on sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Furthermore, white women were more likely than minority women to receive HIV information, and victims of stranger rape were more likely to be told of HIV risk and testing options than victims of non-stranger rape.

Victims who contacted mental health professionals, rape crisis centers or their religious communities did not experience similar gaps in service delivery.

"It is reassuring that resources exist that are helpful to rape victims and their recovery," said Campbell. "Hopefully, someday all community resources will measure up to this standard, so that victims can seek help without the fear of adding insult to injury."

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