Secondary wounding is the process that comes afterward the trauma. Secondary wounding occurs when the people, institutions, caregivers and others to whom the survivor turns to for emotional, legal, financial, medical or other assistance respond with disbelief, denial, discounting, stigmatization, ignorance, cruelty and denial of assistance. (Matsakis, 1996). The trusted individuals in the person’s life deny the traumatic event or minimize the effects of the traumatic event, which causes the person to experience a sense of self blame, shame and guilt. It occurs mostly when the people, who suppose to support the victim, ask questions, make comments or behave in ways that create a sense of doubt, blame, hurt or minimize, devalue and invalidate a person’s experience. Not only the trusted individuals, friends, helping professionals or close family members cause secondary wounding. Strangers, who sees the traumatic event occurring and does nothing, who doesn’t respond to your call for help and does nothing, who doesn’t understand your situation, cause secondary wounding.
Instead of supporting the victim, the person has been made to feel ashamed of experiencing the traumatic event, of developing symptoms of trauma as a result of the traumatic event, of seeking for help after the traumatic event. The pain of secondary wounding that comes after the traumatic situation may cause more pain on the individual than the traumatic event and have long lasting effects. 1.
2. Causes of Secondary Wounding Secondary wounding occurs as a result of the response of trusted individuals or institutions, whom the victim depends, trusts or asks help after the traumatic event. These responds may be in following ways: denial and disbelief, discounting, blaming the victim, denial of assistance, stigmatization or labeling, cruelty and ignorance. 1.
2.1. Denial or Disbelief Denial or disbelief occurs when the people deny that the victim has experienced the traumatic event or doesn’t believe that the event has occurred. They deny the reality of the trauma. Following statements are examples of denial and disbelief responses: That could never happen. I don’t believe it.
You are lying. A real life example of a denying response: Lara McLeod was raped when she was 19, she reported the rape to the police but the police didn’t believe her. When she was 23, she told her st “People say rape is serious and you should report it, but look what happened to me: I reported my rape, and they told me it never happened.” 1.
2.2. Discounting In discounting, people believe the victim’s story, they don’t deny that the traumatic event occurred,but they minimize the effect of the trauma on the victim, the reactions of the victim and the magnitude of the event. Following statements are discounting examples: Ok, it is bad, but what you are talking about wasn’t as bad as the girl down the road. You should be thankful. How could one little rape have affected you that much? It is not really that bad, stop whining. Well, life isn’t fair, get over it. 1.
2.3 Blaming the Victim It occurs when the victim is held completely or partially responsible for a traumatic event or any wrongful act. Following examples are the classic-lines of victim blaming: She was dressed provocatively. She should have been more careful. He caused it or brought it on himself. He didn’t fight back. You should have said no.
Did you expect him to read your mind? She had a bad reputation. 1.2.4 Stigmatization or Labeling Stigmatization occurs when the person is being labeled as a victim by the society. Once the person is labeled, there is a tendency of others to negatively judge the victim’s normal reactions, behaviors and emotions. They can ridicule the survivor, misinterpret the victim’s psychological distress as a sign of serious mental problem, interpreting the victim’s symptoms as a way of gaining attention, sympathy or financial help. An example of stigmatization would be not giving a promotion to the person, although s/he is filling the requirements, because the boss is aware of the person’s traumatic history and assumes that the person is unstable and neurotic. 1.
2.5 Denial of AssistanceDenial of assistance occurs when the victim’s help requests have been denied by people or institutions. The institutions, helping professionals and trusted individuals, which are supposed to protect and help the victim, turn their back on the victim. 1.
2.6. Cruelty It happens when the people use the reminders or effects of the traumatic event as a weapon against the victim. They embarrass, ridicule or humiliate the victim in front of others because the traumatic event has occurred. 1.2.7 Ignorance After the trauma victim usually experiences psychological, social and financial problems. People around the victim are ignorant about these possible consequences and problems of trauma.
2. Self Secondary Wounding 2.1. Definition Self secondary wounding occurs when the victim blames him/herself for the traumatic event, holds him/herself completely or partially responsible for the event.
It is a self-inflicted variation of secondary wounding. Self secondary wounding affects the person’s self-perception, self-worth, self-confidence. Some examples of self secondary wounding are: “I know I just never should have been there. I gave in to my needs to have a night away, and I paid for it. I was selfish and stupid. Now instead of being a calm mommy, I am a freak who can’t even go to sleep without locking the door a hundred times.” – A overwhelmed woman who went out alone to dinner and a movie and was raped on the way back to her car. “I’m an idiot for thinking this could never happen to me.
” – From a woman who was attacked while taking a shortcut home. “It’s just the way I am built. I was built broken and I was an easy target.
I always will be.” – From an adult survivor of child abuse and later, domestic violence. “I’m a horrible human being. I caused my mother pain by telling what happened. I will never forgive myself for being so selfish to tell her what happened to me.
” – From an adult survivor of sexual abuse from her father. (Spehar, 2012)2.2. Consequences of Self Secondary Wounding Self secondary wounding distorts the victim’s perception about self, the traumatic event and other people.
It causes low self-worth and self-confidence, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, shame, self-disappointment and guilt, it interferes with the trauma healing process and self-recovery.