Victims and Survivors of Psychopaths

from victim to survivor

Secondary Victimization

with 5 comments

In 1982 a study by Marquette University in Wisconsin introduced the term “secondary victimization.”  Secondary victimization can occur in people who are exposed to the primary victims trauma, from being exposed to and knowing the details of the trauma, from trying to help the victim, and from being exposed to the symptoms of a victims PTSD.  Since the early eighties, those who work with victims have become more aware of the existence of secondary victimization and the need for counseling and advocacy for the family and friends of the victim. 

The term “vicarious traumatization” was coined by McCain and Pearlman (1990).  Researchers have noted that continuous exposure to the traumatization of a victim, that those exposed to the dark side of humanity vicariously, can often develop the same or similar symptoms as those experienced by the victim.

Remer and Ferguson (1995) said that victimization can have a “ripple effect”.  That the damage to the primary victim can spread out in waves and have an effect on those with whom they have intimate contact, resulting in stress and trauma related symptoms in the person trying to help.  Dealing with the primary victim can awaken emotions in the secondary victim that need to be dealt with, and it can also be emotionally draining for the person, resulting in “compassion fatigue”. 

The secondary victim may find themselves questioning their own beliefs about other people and the world, and may have fears about their own safety and vulnerability.  Female family and friends of a rape victim may develop a heightened fear of being raped.  Children who are exposed to violence between their parents often have similar reactions and developmental problems as children who are growing up in war zones. (Berman 2000).  Studies have found that parents of a child who has been sexually abused suffer three times the level of clinical distress than the general population.

A person who has been victimized needs the support of their family and friends.  If the victim feels she or he can trust family and friends to respond to them in a positive manner, they may open up more about their victimization, disclosing further details that will help them heal.  Providing positive support for a person who has been victimized can be a rewarding experience, often resulting in forming a closer and stronger relationship.  However, those in close contact with a victim may need to seek assistance in helping them deal with their own emotions, and in coming up with healthy and productive ways to help both themselves and the victim.

Written by victimsofpsychopaths

January 24, 2009 at 3:05 pm

5 Responses

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  1. there is no doubt that this is what happened to me to a T. I had to go through intensive therapy for PTSD after helping who would finally become my wife get away from a sexual sadist. The exposure to the “darkest side of humanity” was just too much for me, the realization that evil exists and walks among us threw my vision of the world upside down and i became fearful and mistrusting of everyone, sucked up wit her in the hell she lived…….the fact good in the end won helped of course but secondary victimization is indeed part of the wake of destruction psychopaths leave behind wherever they “operate”.

    ale biglio

    September 21, 2012 at 8:48 am

  2. I am currently going through this trauma as I saw what was unfolding and was threatened by arrest from the police if I persisted to intervene. Now that my best friend, who was the victim is dead (most likely murdered) the police have white washed the investigation and are writing it off a suicide in accordance with the testimony of her assailant. This is something I will not stand for and can prove otherwise–but as it requires taking on the state it is daunting and destroying my health.

    As I recognized the danger the person represented I have a plethora of evidence to support my allegations, including damning video and audio recordings. I am not foolish enough to go through the usual channels that take years of litigation, I will be making all the evidence I have public in a video (that will be sent to government dept and the media) and putting letters addressed to adult members of households in the immediate area where he lives to inform the risk he poses to the community and the role of the police who are the real criminals and have nothing but contempt for their safety.

    I will not let my friend down. I will fight and I will win because I am right and my friend knew me well enough to know that I will never back down.

    David Dieni

    November 6, 2012 at 12:27 am

  3. PS. I have been arrested three times since my friends death protecting her property and other instance similar in nature.

    The judiciary worked out what was going on in 2 minutes and threw out the charges and passed on their sympathies, while the police continue to persecute me at every opportunity.

    David Dieni

    November 6, 2012 at 12:33 am

  4. My 15 year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by my 2nd husband. He is a former police officer with 3 children of his own. It has been nine months and I can’t look at myself in the mirror. My friends and family no longer speak to me. I don’t blame them. To empathize a person has to put themselves in your shoes, and for everyone close to me that was to awful. I did six months of weekly therapy and I am on the highest pissible dose of anti-depressants. I tried to kill myself. There just doesn’t seem to be an end to the nightmare. I’ve lost everything I loved and every pilar that defined who I was is gone. The shame and guilt are overwhelming. Victim’s compensation does not recognize the impact, they qualified me for three counseling sessions. The fact that my now ex-husband was able to buy his freedom (with the assistance of an expensive lawyer he was able to get probation) makes it feel like the justice system has victimized us all over again. As a woman I feel worthless and as a mother I feel like a failure. I trust no one. Safety and sanity are things of the past. As I fought for my daughter all of my pain built up until it was as if an emotional dam broke. I could only be strong for her for so long. I have experienced insomnia, over eating, severe depression, anxiety, suicial thoughts, and I suffer from P.T.S.D. Society doesn’t see me as a victim, and there are no resources for women in my position. The isolation makes healing impossible. There are AA meetings every night of the week, but a basic Google search only merits Christian websites preaching to forgive the predator and let him back in your bed. I did everything right. I kicked him out the moment my daughter disclosed. I divorced him. I got my daughter into therapy and onto antidepressants. I went to every court date and aided the police and the district attorney in every way. No matter what I do, I can’t make things better. I suffer in silence, doomed to be an invisible victim.

    Catherine St. Germain

    January 9, 2016 at 1:46 am

  5. It’s a long winding road from victim to overcomer, that’s for sure. It’s essentially taken me fifty years to recover and grow to full maturity . I’m a very blessed person though because the process has brought Christ into my life and everything I went through was worth it for that. Having gone through deacdes of prolonged and agonizing experiences has really given me a deep appreciation for true virtue . Suffering is not fun but there are so many lessons to be learned. Lessons that can be learned in no other way.
    May God be with you.

    Lisa T

    September 30, 2016 at 4:33 pm

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