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Journal Article


Patterson D, Greeson M, Campbell R. Health Soc. Work 2009; 34(2): 127-136.


School of Social Work, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.


(Copyright © 2009, Oxford University Press)






Few rape survivors seek help from formal social systems after their assault. The purpose of this study was to examine factors that prevent survivors from seeking help from the legal, medical, and mental health systems and rape crisis centers. In this study, 29 female rape survivors who did not seek any postassault formal help were interviewed about why they did not reach out to these systems for assistance. Using qualitative methodology, this study found that survivors believed that formal social systems would or could not help or would psychologically harm them. Specifically, survivors thought that systems would not help because survivors themselves believed that they were unworthy of services or that their rape experience did not match stereotypical conceptions of rape. Survivors did not see how the systems could help or protect them from their assailants. Finally, survivors anticipated that systems personnel would cause them further psychological harm by not believing they had been raped or not caring about them. Survivors feared that system assistance would have intensified their painful feelings beyond their coping skills. Therefore, survivors who do not seek help may be attempting to protect themselves from perceived psychological harm. Implications for social work practice are discussed.

Language: en


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