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Sexual assault is a seriously under-reported crime. Victims and survivors do not report their assault to law enforcement for several reasons; such as, fear of retaliation from perpetrators; feelings of shame and embarrassment; a belief that the rape, abuse or harassment was a minor incident and not a police matter; and a concern that police and prosecutors would question their veracity and credibility. Victims who report the crime and are willing to cooperate with police and prosecutors as the case moves forward may encounter criminal justice officials who are skeptical of their allegations and who question their credibility. Sadly, victims experience these negative outcomes all too often. There is much to be done, there is much that can be done if sexual assault is to be treated as the violent crime it is and if victims of sexual assault are to be treated with respect and dignity. We had a…

Stigma is a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something; a mark of disgrace or dishonor – Merriam Webster. Stigma—it’s an ugly word and it’s even uglier to experience. Yet a large number of survivors of sexual violence have endured the pain of stigma. It includes: Stereotypes: to believe unfairly that all people or things with particular characteristics are the same. Prejudice: a feeling of like or dislike for someone or something especially when it is not reasonable or logical. Discrimination: the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or group of people. Stigma often brings experiences and feelings of shame, blame, hopelessness, distress, misrepresentation, and reluctance to seek and/or accept necessary help. The impact of stigma is twofold. Public stigma is the reaction that the general population has toward victims and survivors…

The festive season or holiday can be a stressful time for many people and for survivors of sexual assault, it can feel particularly challenging. All of us have our unique set of strategies – usually on a spectrum between healthy and less healthy – which help us to cope with difficult times. This is a time when it might be helpful consciously to consider what existing coping strategies are going to serve you well, what you might adopt to get you through and what feels possible to you. Here are some thoughts of what might help: 1.   Being realistic: The myth of the perfect holiday always disappoints one way or another, there really is no such thing as the perfect holiday, unless you choose to see and experience it from that perspective. Setting realistic expectations of how things might be will protect you from feelings of disappointment and a sense of…

Secondary victimization is characterized by engagement in victim-blaming attitudes, behaviors, and practices, which result in additional trauma for sexual assault survivors. Secondary victimization minimizes the significance of a crime, which leads to apathetic and discriminative attitudes. Far-reaching political, legal, and social implications result from these attitudes, ranging from low conviction rates for sexual assault cases, to victims’ hindered psychological recovery. In order to combat secondary victimization, it is vital to understand and then challenge these prejudicial attitudes. Some of the elements that influence secondary victimization including hyper-masculinity, gender-traditionality (GRT), relationship closeness, the participant gender, level of belief in a just world, and religiosity on victim-blame attribution are explored below: Hyper-Masculinity. One factor that influences secondary victimization is attitudes around hyper-masculinity and gender-role traditionality. Research has found that males are more likely than females to blame a victim. An explanation is that females tend to empathize with victims, whereas males often…

For victims of rape, sexual abuse or sexual assault, especially those who are courageous enough to brave the trauma and stigma to bring their case to trial, undergoing the rigors of a trial especially facing their perpetrator and reliving the terrible ordeal, can be quite overwhelming. This is why it is necessary to dispel some of the myths and focus on some of the truths of what victims of rape or sexual assault can expect from the justice system. It is necessary to state at this point that some of the issues which will be discussed are what would transpire in an ideal setting where the justice system works as seamlessly as it should. In Nigeria, cases of sexual assault that actually go to trial are very minimal in relation to actual cases of sexual assault. This makes discussing what to expect at trial a bit difficult as there are…

The subject of rape is a very sensitive one, both for the victim and the culprit. We read about different experiences the victims go through. Worse, our society has over time learned to tilt the table in favor of the culprit, while further victimizing the victim. Although there have been numerous instances where people have used the false accusation of rape as a weapon, causing havoc in the lives of many, tarnishing their reputation and damaging the credibility of those who are actual victims of rape. Findings from a National Survey carried out in 2014 on Violence Against Children in Nigeria confirmed one in four girls reported experiencing sexual violence in childhood with approximately 70% reporting more than one incident of sexual violence. In the same study, it was found that 24.8% of female victims, between 18 to 24 years old,  experienced sexual abuse prior to age 18 of which…

Sexual response or orgasm during sexual assault is the best-kept and most deeply shameful secret of many victims and survivors. Unfortunately, some people believe that if a victim experiences arousal while being raped, that person must have enjoyed being raped. Some others believe that arousal is synonymous with consent. However, consent is not given by a person’s body parts, it is verbally given by a sober, informed, non-coerced partner. And since vaginas and penises can’t speak, it’s safe to say that they cannot give consent. If you are a survivor, and you experienced pleasure, no matter how little, it’s important that you understand that sexual response in sexual assault is extremely common, it is also well-documented and nothing for you to be ashamed of. Below is some information from researchers and professionals about sexual arousal and sexual assault: Rape and Sexual Arousal: Rape is not always violent. Some survivors surrender…

“A while ago?” her friend asked. “Yes, he raped me a while ago. Exactly nine months and two days ago. What’s that? Nine months or nine minutes. It’s the same thing. And it is in the past, you say? Then why is it still happening, every day, every time I close my eyes? Every time I hear someone behind me, and I don’t know who it is; or someone touches me, and I didn’t see it coming? How is it that I get an almost irresistible urge to punch anyone who happens to touch me unexpectedly? Tell me, sis, how do I forgive, let alone forget, something that is still happening, that keeps happening over and over? How? How do I do that?”  – A Survivor. People who are traumatized, like sexual assault survivors, have good reason to feel that they should be hyperaware of possible danger. Hypervigilance is an…

I was 19, just walking home from a friend’s, it was only 11 o’clock at night. It happened so suddenly, I didn’t fight, I just froze. For a long time, I did not know if it was ‘really’ rape, I never said no, I never said anything. It was surreal, it almost felt like I was watching it happening to someone else from above. For months I had severe nightmares, everything played over and over in my mind, “I should have done something,” “I should have fought,” it would not stop. I couldn’t talk about it to most people. I felt so numb and empty, like something had been taken away from me but at the same time it did not seem real. I couldn’t do anything; my world came to a halt. I felt so disgusted and ashamed of myself. And it was not just me who was affected,…