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J Consult Clin Psychol. 1999 Dec;67(6):847-58.

Community services for rape survivors: enhancing psychological well-being or increasing trauma?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago 60607-7137, USA.


This research examined how contact with the legal, medical, and mental health systems affects rape survivors' psychological well-being. Although community services may be beneficial for some victims, there is increasing evidence that they can add trauma, rather than alleviate distress (termed secondary victimization). This study examined how secondary victimization affects rape survivors' posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms. Adaptive and snowball sampling were used to recruit a sample of 102 rape survivors. Victims of nonstranger rape who received minimal assistance from either the legal or medical system, and encountered victim-blaming behaviors from system personnel, had significantly elevated levels of PTS. This high-risk group of rape survivors had PTS levels significantly higher than all other victims in this study, including those who did not seek community assistance postrape. However, for these high-risk rape survivors, receiving sustained mental health services after these negative experiences was associated with a significant decrease in PTS.

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