Manier times people think that victims of violence, particularly gender-based violence stops with the "incident" and then, there is only room for rehabilitation or recovery. I read a research paper, as part of my M Phil dissertation, and found that victimization, actually begins with the "incident". I will discuss the paper first so that you can get a better idea of what I am saying.

The research paper “Secondary victimization of crime victims by criminal proceedings” by Uli Orth investigates the extent of secondary victimization among 137 victims of violent crimes. Participants were randomly selected and contacted through the victim assistance association, Weisser Ring. Uli Orth discusses two types of victimization: primary and secondary victimization and states that primary victimization is the violation of legitimate rights, physical and mental space of the victim whereas secondary victimization is the negative societal reaction consequential to primary victimization.

Uli Orth discusses secondary victimization in the context of outcomes of criminal proceedings primarily. She states that three unfavourable outcomes violate expectations of crime victims which lead to secondary victimization. Firstly, the punishment given to the perpetrator is expected by the victim to be suitably severe. Secondly, victims expect security from the perpetrators after the trial either by putting them in prison for the crime or by making sure they do not commit such crimes against anyone. Thirdly, recognition of their victim status is achieved with the perpetrator being punished. If the verdict declares the perpetrator as not guilty, recognition of the victim status of the victim is violated. Thus, Uli Orth states that if any of the three expected outcomes are not in favour of the victim, secondary victimization occurs. Uli Orth further discusses secondary victimization in the context of procedure of criminal proceedings. The victims’ appraisals during the court procedures are potential causes of secondary victimization. Firstly, procedural justice including consistency in following rules, accuracy, correctability, ethicality, etc. may lead to an imbalance in considering the victim interests in opposition to the perpetrator’s interests. Uli claims that a fair trial should be given to defendant but by doubting the perpetrator’s guilt implies an uncertainty of the victim’s testimony as well. Secondly, interactional justice which includes an interpersonal communication, blaming, debasement, etc. may cause severe negative effects on the victim’s self-esteem. Thirdly, psychological stress during the court trials including testimony, confronting the perpetrator, and facing the spectators are stressful to the victims especially if they are partially or fully blamed for the criminal offense. Uli Orth measured the victim’s experiential statements on the basis of outcome satisfaction, punishment severity, procedural justice, interactional justice, and psychological stress. She concluded her research paper by stating that secondary victimization is frequently by criminal proceedings.

This is very true in all cases I have read. Women fear the secondary victimization and remain silent. They fear society's judgmental looks and they fear that they have shamed their family. I was watching "satyameva Jayethe" on Television, where a woman brilliantly states the society's ironic and hypocritical view of rape victims. She says that the society slashes the women by proclaiming that she has brought shame on the family and on her self by "getting raped". The women questions this boldly: how can this be a shameful act on the part of the women? There are two people involved in the act where the men should be ashamed of inflicting this on a woman. He should be ashamed of being a criminal. Still, the women fear to speak up.

This is what we, as women need to know and change. We are victims here, and speaking that out and demanding justice for a crime done against us is not a shameful act. Those who inflicted the crime on us should be ashamed and brough to justice. I have tried to explain this to my students and I was surprised when some of them came forward and told me that they were sexually abused my their uncle or cousin or neighbour. Some of them even, included this as part of their essay where they state how the "incident" makes them want to stand up for women who do not know how to stand up for themselves.

But, I also have understood through my own experiences that we need to stand up for ourselves and voice our silence.


Comment on this Post


Hi Surya,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on secondary victimization and the information on Uli Orth's article. I agree with you and Orth that one reason that many women stay silent after an act of gender-based violence is the fear that the judicial system may not work for them, not to mention societal shaming as well.

It's beautiful that you are able to have these conversations with your students, and they feel comfortable opening up to you about their experiences. They are processing their own experiences, and it's encouraging that they are inspired to be allies for other women in their communities. Thank you for supporting them!

Warm wishes,