Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network

Human Rights Defenders

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

 Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1



The Second Rape - Unequal Treatment

Crime victims’ rights laws strive to give victims’ standing in the
criminal justice system, which is all about them,
but has traditionally been without them.”
State Senator William, Van Regenmorter,
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.


The disregard of victims' needs by providers can so closely mimic victims' experiences at the hands of their assailants that secondary victimization is sometimes called "the second rape" or "the second assault." (1)

People may disbelieve the rape victim, ridicule her, abandon, blame, ostracize, sabotage, threaten, betray her, or side with the rapist against her. These painful and dangerous reactions can come from family, friends, and authorities as well as from people associated with the rapist. Many people fault the rape victim for what she may have done before, during, or after. The most important thing for a counselor/friend to do is believe the person when they tell you that they believe they were drugged and raped.

Because most victims of drug-facilitated rapes have no memory of the sexual assault, people may mistakenly minimize the trauma. Victims feel powerlessness, and humiliated by not knowing what was done to them. ( 2, 3)

It fact, it's particularly devastating to rape victims when you're treated badly by the very people you expected would help you. For many victims, witnesses and their family members, the emotional injuries may be the most difficult and long-lasting effects of being the victim of a crime. Many victims say the betrayal of these experiences is so painful that it was worse than the rape itself. That's why, in the literature on rape, this all too common abusive treatment of rape victims has been given the name, "the second rape".

Social injuries are those caused by society. (4) A social injury occurs when the victim is treated insensitively, does not think anyone cares or is not able to get the help she needs. Anyone can cause a social injury: a friend or family member, a law enforcement officer, a prosecutor, a member of the clergy, or a counselor or other service provider, who may not believe the victim who reports a crime, may not help the victim, or may not treat the victim with dignity, compassion and respect. If a victim is treated with dignity, compassion and respect, she may have less difficulty dealing with these immediate and long-term crisis reactions. If she is treated poorly, these reactions may be made worse. When such reactions are worsened, the actions of others are called the "social injury." Some examples of social injuries are as follows: The law enforcement officer or a family member may not believe the victim when she tries to report a crime. There is a tendency of the police to view complaints of rape as unfounded if they believe that the victim was intoxicated at the time (Lopez, 1992).  ( 5, 6, 7, 8)


For a crime victim with a disability, in particular, the social injury may occur when the victim realizes that other people may not believe her simply because of her disability. The story about the crime may be reported in the newspaper, on the television or radio, or may be a source of "gossip" in the community. This can embarrass the victim, especially if the facts are reported incorrectly, if personal information about the victim is given, or if the victim is made to appear foolish. Family, friends or even a clergy member may not be helpful or understanding. They may "blame" the victim (not always on purpose) for what happened or they may not want the victim to talk about it because it could cause the family shame. Doctors or nurses may not always identify physical injuries as being crime-related. Other sources of social injury include mental health professionals, social service workers, victim service workers, schools or educators, victim compensation systems, disability program workers, and employers.

Anyone who comes in contact with a victim can cause a social injury, through lack of information, lack of awareness of victim trauma, or by treating the victim without respect, dignity or compassion.

In addition to being terribly sexist and wrong, these all too common abuses of rape victims are also very dangerous to the victim. These abusive reactions drive rape victims into deepening isolation and despair. When these abuses gather steam, they can turn the victim's whole social or family group against her. This can easily or to the loss of the victim's connections to help. The disbelieving, blaming, and ostracizing of rape victims is also dangerous to all women and girls.  Driving rape victims into isolation and despair is one of the ways a male dominated society supports the ongoing existence of rape.

Here are some of the reasons that alone or in combination that people mistreat rape victims. Some people side with the rapist and mistreat the victim because: We still live in a male dominated society in which men and their organizations control most of the power. Rape itself is a crime of dominance. After a rape occurs, the sexist, male views of rape frequently resurface with a vengeance. These views easily gather steam, join forces with the authority of powerful male dominated institutions, and if not dealt with, will almost always lead to the protection of the rapist and an easy overwhelming of the victim.

In addition to the biases of sexism working against the victim, it's just plain easier for people to side with the rapist. Remember, in most rapes the rapist and the victim know each other. Once the victim makes the charge of rape, the people around both the victim and the rapist are forced to take sides. It's almost always easier to take the side of the rapist. If people believe the rapist, they can simply abandon the victim to fend for herself. But if people believe the victim, they then have to go up against the rapist and take action against him. Sadly, many people just don't have the courage or strength of conviction to stand up to the rapist and his powerful allies. The rapist has a criminal mentality and he is willing to lie, manipulate, threaten, and bully others once the charge of rape is made. The victim, on the other hand, is wounded and often too weak to defend herself. In addition, she is not a criminal and as such she is not willing to bully or intimidate others who don't support her. Once the rapist starts bullying, lying, and rallying his buddies to his side, even the victims' supporters often become afraid and fall silent in their defense of the victim.

Once the charge of rape is made all the old sexist stereotypes of rape begin to surface. The old ideas about what is proper behavior for a female are so extremely limiting that people can always find a way to blame the victim. She was out too late, acting too sexy, too innocent, too assertive, not assertive enough, drank too much, too bitchy, too stupid, or too aloof. It simply does not matter what the woman or girl was doing when she was raped. These old constrictions on female behavior provide ample and convenient cover for those who want a way out of having to stand up against a rape. Authorities too often don't take rape seriously. When authorities don't take the rape seriously, people around the victim get the message they don't have to take the rape seriously either. Once authorities show they aren't taking the rape seriously, any support the victim has been able to maintain generally begins to erode rapidly.

Taken alone or together, these continuing manifestations of sexism in society make it so much easier for cowardly people to accuse the victim of lying rather than to accuse a man of rape. Erosion of the rape victim's support usually doesn't happen right away. In fact, initial reactions to rape victims are often good. Authorities usually take an initial report. Friends of the victim usually start out by accompanying and supporting the victim, and family members often initially show great concern. It generally takes a little time for the perpetrator to start organizing his own support and begin bullying, lying, and retaliating in a way that erodes the victim's initial support. This lead time gives the victim and her advocates an opportunity to prevent the buildup toward targeting the victim. The negative reactions in the rape victim‘s vital relationships and social groups turn against the victim and then it's much more difficult to correct them.

Many rape victims have a very difficult time deciding whether or not to report the rape to police. In fact, in the United States less than one out of six rape victims report the rape to police. And very few of these victims report the rape right away. This is tragic because the criminal justice system has more power to help rape victims than any other institution. The criminal justice system, and only the criminal justice system, has the power and authority to do a criminal investigation of her rape, and to arrest, convict, punish, and remove the rapist from society. The criminal justice system is the only system that can intervene with force when her safety is threatened. The criminal justice system is also the only system that can put the criminal investigation findings and testimony on the public record. That record of truth finding is essential for justice. And justice is essential to her healing and to the healing of the community. Justice is also essential to stopping future rapes. As a rape victim she has a right to have this immense criminal justice system powers work for her.

The substantive criminal law contains one of the most crucial balances between human rights and public protection. Never will this balance be more delicate or important than in a law of sex offences.

(Wheldon, J. (2000) Implications of the ECHR for the Home Office Review of Sex Offences, in Home Office (ed), Setting the Boundaries, Vol. 2, London: Home Office. pg. 275)

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
― Leo Buscaglia

Medical Whistleblower Advocacy Network


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"Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself."  Confucius

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt- Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic", delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910