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The Role of the Victim and Victim Advocate in Managing Sex Offenders. Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim’s Perspective. Learning Objectives. Identify mistaken beliefs about sexual assault; Discuss the prevalence of sexual assault and its impact on victims;

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the role of the victim and victim advocate in managing sex offenders

The Role of the Victim and Victim Advocate in Managing Sex Offenders

Section 2:

Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim’s Perspective

learning objectives
Learning Objectives
  • Identify mistaken beliefs about sexual assault;
  • Discuss the prevalence of sexual assault and its impact on victims;
  • Identify the different forms of intra-familial abuse and some of the family dynamics unique to incest cases; and
  • Identify the importance of cultural competency in working with victims of sexual assault.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

definition of sexual assault
Definition of Sexual Assault

“Forced or manipulated unwanted sexual contact between two or more adults or two or more minors, or any sexual contact between an adult and a minor, or between two minors with a significant age difference between them.”

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

myths and facts
Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers.

FACT: 3 of 4 victims know their attacker.

Assault is avoidable with care and alertness.

FACT: The attacker is usually someone the victim has reason to trust.

Sexual impulsiveness or frustration cause rape.

FACT: Most assaults are planned.

Myths and Facts

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

myths and facts5
Myths and Facts
  • Sexual assault is only harmful if there is visible physical injury.
    • FACT: Victims suffer regardless of whether they sustain visible injury; the violation of trust victims suffer can dramatically increase their level of trauma.
  • Child abusers usually find victims in places like schoolyards or playgrounds.
    • FACT: 90% of child abusers choose to victimize children they already know.
  • Women “cry” rape.
    • FACT: Less than 8% of claims of sexual assault are found to be unfounded.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

myths and facts6
Myths and Facts
  • The majority of sex offenders are caught, convicted, and in prison.
    • FACT: A small number of rapes are reported and a fraction of offenders apprehended and convicted.
  • All sex offenders are male.
    • FACT: The majority of sex offenders are male, but females do commit some sex offenses, particularly against children.
  • Youths do not commit sex offenses.
    • FACT: 1/5 of rapes and 1/2 of child molestations are committed by adolescents.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

cross examination of a robbery victim
Cross Examination of a Robbery Victim
  • How does this scenario relate to sexual assault?
  • Why are sexual assault victims more frequently blamed and not believed?
  • If a victim complies with the offender, does that mean she was not robbed?
  • Do people “ask” to be sexually victimized?
  • What would be a better, more supportive response to a victim of sexual assault?

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

fears resulting in non or delayed reporting
Fears Resulting in Non- or Delayed Reporting
  • No one will believe him or her.
  • She/he will not be treated fairly by criminal justice system.
  • Being blamed because of alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Exposing her/his private life.
  • Retaliation by offender or others.
  • When personal attachment exists, getting the offender in trouble.
  • In incest cases, breaking up the family.
  • If the victim is an illegal alien, deportation, criminal charges, or the removal of children by authorities.
  • Offender will act on previously made threats.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

other reasons for non or delayed reporting
Other Reasons for Non- or Delayed Reporting
  • Failure to recognize coercive sex as assault.
  • Failure to identify assault by friend or lover as criminal.
  • Memory loss, discomfort with details, or fear of exposing illegal behavior.
  • Desire to put the situation behind her/him.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

rape trauma syndrome the acute phase
Rape Trauma Syndrome: The Acute Phase

Physical reactions: soreness, fatigue, nightmares, loss of appetite, etc.

Emotional reactions: mood swings, anger, irritability, feeling of numbness, etc.

Denial or recoil phase: the victim tries to forget, seeks out the familiar, avoids talking about the incident or seeking help from doctors or police.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

rape trauma syndrome the long term phase
Rape Trauma Syndrome: The Long Term Phase

Psychological reactions: nightmares, fears, feelings of guilt, self-blame, and anger.

Social reactions: Changing of address and disruption of relationships.

Sexual reactions: Fear of sex altogether or an increase in sexual activity.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

understanding sexual assault from a victim s perspective

Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim’s Perspective

Child and Adolescent Victims of Sexual Assault

child and adolescent victims of sexual assault
Child and Adolescent Victims of Sexual Assault
  • Children do not fit neatly into theories or categories.
  • A child’s reaction varies depending on numerous factors including self-esteem levels, family support, etc.
  • Signs and symptoms are warning signs and are not definite indicators of abuse.
  • The absence of signs does not mean a child’s disclosure is false.
  • Children victims are prone to sexual dysfunction and abusive relationships in the future.
  • Children are NEVER at fault for abuse perpetrated against them.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

accommodation syndrome
Accommodation Syndrome
  • Secrecy
  • Helplessness
  • Entrapment and Accommodation
  • Delayed, Conflicted, and Unconvincing Disclosure
  • Retraction

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

traumagenic dynamics theory
Traumagenic Dynamics Theory
  • Traumatic Sexualization
  • Betrayal
  • Stigmatization
  • Powerlessness

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

family dynamics in parent child incest cases
Family Dynamics in Parent-Child Incest Cases
  • The child may still feel love for the abuser.
  • Secrecy is imposed by the perpetrator through the use of threats and coercion.
  • A child’s reaction to the abuse varies greatly.
  • Children may prefer the “special” attention to no attention at all.
  • They may consider the abuse as “normal.”
  • They may feel shame by experiencing sexual gratification during the abuse.
  • Negative emotions may lead to self-abusive or outwardly destructive behaviors.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

dynamics of non offending parents and children
Dynamics of Non-Offending Parents and Children
  • Victim feels angry toward non-offending parent for not protecting her/him.
  • Victim feels divided loyalty.
  • There may be concurrent abuse of the non-offending parent.
  • These parents may be previous victims making them unable to identify signs of abuse.
  • The non-offending parent may be dependent on the offender (e.g. financially, emotionally, etc.)
  • Even with the abuse, emotional ties between family members are still strong.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

child disclosure in incest cases
Child Disclosure in Incest Cases
  • Children disclose at great risk to themselves.
  • Recanting following a disclosure is a common response by a child victim.
  • A child’s style of accommodation or coping mechanisms may be used to discredit their disclosure.
  • Non-offending parents may not support the child if the parent is dependent on the abuser.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

similar dynamics in sibling incest cases
Similar Dynamics in Sibling Incest Cases
  • Victim has less power.
  • Offender may use force, coercion, or threats.
  • Victim may prefer the attention to no attention at all.
  • Victim may not disclose.
  • Parents may feel forced to choose between the offender and victim.
  • Victim may not recognize the situation as abusive.
  • Non-offending parents may collude with the offender, reinforcing denial or minimization.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

dynamics unique to sibling incest cases
Dynamics Unique to Sibling Incest Cases
  • Offenders may be victims of abuse (e.g. parent-child incest) themselves.
  • Environment is highly sexualized.
  • Difficult to distinguish between exploration and abuse when coercion is not explicit.
  • Parents reluctant to recognize abusive behavior.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

important dynamics in sibling incest cases
Important Dynamics in Sibling Incest Cases
  • Parents may resent intrusion of others into what they may view as a private family matter.
  • Parents should be involved in the treatment of both the offender and the victim.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

dynamics in partner rape
Dynamics in Partner Rape
  • Offenders use a variety of ways to control the victim.
  • Offenders try to isolate victim and increasingly demand secrecy.
  • There may be a pattern of violence followed by calmness and loving attention.
  • Abuse is long lasting, resulting in victim loss of power, self-esteem.
  • The victim’s resources and options for escape diminish over time.
  • Children, while sworn to maintain secrecy, may act out in destructive ways.
  • To the outside world, offenders may present themselves as upstanding citizens.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

disclosure of marital or partner rape
Disclosure of Marital or Partner Rape
  • Disclosure is difficult because offender uses threats and coercion.
  • Victims may choose to endure abuse because it is the least harmful alternative.
  • More likely to disclose physical abuse as opposed to sexual abuse.
  • May not even recognize violent sexual contact within the marriage as abuse.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

secondary impact of sexual assault
Secondary Impact of Sexual Assault
  • Those who share relationships with the offender or victim may experience reactions similar to victims.
  • They need their own support systems.
  • They need education to better support the victim.
  • The revenge reaction by those close to victim must be dealt with.
  • If they were also previously abused, they might be dealing with their own feelings triggered by event.
  • Their pain should not be underestimated.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

understanding sexual assault from a victim s perspective27

Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim’s Perspective

Cultural Competency: Responding with Sensitivity to Victims from All Backrounds

older victims
Older Victims
  • Age-related physical conditions may increase a victim’s risk of serious injury.
  • Physical coercion can be more easily applied to older victims.
  • Older people’s routines and reliance on public transportation can increase their vulnerability.
  • Limited income may limit their lifestyle choices and their response to crimes.
  • Older victims may be reliant on abusive caretakers.
  • They may be reluctant to discuss sexual matters and too ashamed to tell anyone about the abuse.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

people with mental illness
People with Mental Illness
  • The trauma of sexual assault may exacerbate their illness and their symptoms.
  • A mental illness can be used to discredit a victim’s disclosure of sexual abuse, especially in the criminal justice system.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

people with physical disabilities
People with Physical Disabilities
  • Reliance on family members or caregivers and limited mobility can contribute to a victim’s vulnerability.
  • Communities of people with disabilities can be small and limit a person’s personal care options.
  • Predictable routines and reliance on public transportation can also increase a victim’s vulnerability.
  • Family members and loved ones may become overly protective of the victim once an assault has occurred.
  • After a sexual assault, people with physical disabilities may experience a sense of helplessness and loss of confidence.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

people with developmental disabilities
People with Developmental Disabilities
  • People with developmental disabilities may not be able to understand the abuse, available intervention options, sexuality, or the engagement in sexual behaviors.
  • Their eagerness to be liked can make them easier to manipulate and more vulnerable to abuse.
  • They may be reluctant to report out of fear of not being believed or being blamed.
  • They may also be reluctant to disclose abuse by an abusive caretaker because they are dependent on that caregiver.
  • There are few community resources for those with developmental disabilities who are sexually assaulted.

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

life experiences of victims
Life Experiences of Victims
  • Survivors of racism/prejudice/homophobia
  • Mistrust of criminal justice/medical systems
  • Reluctance to betray her/his community
  • Citizenship status
  • Language barriers
  • Taboos
  • Anger
  • Gender and sexuality
  • Public disclosure

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective

conclusion
Conclusion
  • Questions

Coming up next:

  • Working with Sexual Assault Victim Advocates

Section 2: Understanding Sexual Assault from a Victim's Perspective