After an experience of sexual violence, victims will often judge themselves very harshly. They may feel guilty or ashamed. This is one of the many possible reactions they may have as they try to make sense of what has happened to them. How could such a dreadful thing have occurred? They are overwhelmed with thoughts of self-blame: “I should have…” or “It never would have happened if I…”
Victims are never to blame for the violence inflicted upon them. The perpetrator is the only person responsible for the act.
Negative self-judgment is a heavy burden to bear. Recognizing one’s feelings is one step on the road to recovery.
Victims also have to bear the judgment of others, as stereotypes that blame the victim are still prevalent in our society. These myths and prejudices contribute to victims’ mistrust of just about everyone, even those who want to help them.
People who work with victims sometimes have to obtain a great deal of information about the situation in order to be able to help them in the best way possible. Practitioners must be sensitive to the negative judgment the victim may be inflicting on themself.
- Psychological evaluations for the purpose of victim compensation: It is important to have a clear understanding of the victim’s situation in order to explain their needs to IVAC (Indemnisation des victimes d’actes criminels - compensation of victims of criminal acts) to ensure the program responds appropriately. A psychologist may therefore have to ask questions about what happened, the victim’s history of sexual violence, if applicable, and what they are currently experiencing in order to assess their needs and how best to meet them.
- Reporting the assault to the police: A victim who decides to report their sexual assault to the police will be asked many questions. They may be asked for specific details about the time and place of the incident, what they were wearing, what the people around them were doing at the moment of the assault, and so on. The victim may find all these questions intrusive and hard to answer. They may have forgotten certain details as a result of the trauma or drug or alcohol intoxication at the time of the assault. The purpose of the questions, however, is to improve the police’s chances of obtaining enough evidence to support the charge.
It is important to remember that these are professionals who are dedicated to supporting victims during the difficult process of reporting sexual violence and the ensuing legal procedures.