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Am Psychol. 2008 Nov;63(8):702-17. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.63.8.702.

The psychological impact of rape victims.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1116, USA.


This review article examines rape victims' experiences seeking postassault assistance from the legal, medical, and mental health systems and how those interactions impact their psychological well-being. This literature suggests that although some rape victims have positive, helpful experiences with social system personnel, for many victims, postassault help seeking becomes a "second rape," a secondary victimization to the initial trauma. Most reported rapes are not prosecuted, victims treated in hospital emergency departments do not receive comprehensive medical care, and many victims do not have access to quality mental health services. In response to growing concerns about the community response to rape, new interventions and programs have emerged that seek to improve services and prevent secondary victimization. The contributions of rape crisis centers, restorative justice programs, and sexual assault nurse examiner programs are examined. Strategies for creating more visible and impactful roles for psychologists and allied professionals are also discussed.

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