The Department of Health Research (DHR) has drawn up guidelines on addressing psychological aspects of sexual violence. The new rules focus on bracing a victim of sexual assault for ‘secondary victimisation’ resulting from inadequate support from family, friends, service providers, and the criminal justice system. According to the guidelines, a counsellor must tell a victim what might happen in court and discuss methods by which they can handle the situation . Visualisation techniques can be employed to help the victim recover from the trauma soon after being questioned; conversations with friends and family can be used to prevent the victim from thinking about the ordeal.
The guidelines suggest the survivor may feel a sense of injustice resulting from lack of information; perceived lack of interest by the police or courts, delay in the legal process; or loss of income or job resulting from the impact of the assault.
She may have been treated disrespectfully by hospital or police personnel, or she may have lacked support from her friends and family.
In India, where ‘honour’ is considered sacred , ‘secondary victimization’ by family and society is not uncommon. Such treatment may have a great negative impact on a woman’s mental health and increase feelings of vulnerability. She may feel shunned by family, friends, or others who may blame her for the incident or fail to understand her mental state.
They may underestimate the problem or her reaction to it.
According to the guidelines, the counsellor/nurse/doctor should provide the victim with clear, accurate, unbiased information regarding her medical options and then, regardless of her choices, be supportive and non-judgmental of the decisions she makes. It will also be important to explain clearly to the woman as to why the examination is required.