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Domestic violence: Incidence of secondary victimisation


Secondary victimization or revictimisation of domestic violence victims is resultant of attitudes and practices within the larger community, or by the social services, or within the criminal justice system, that lead to the victims re-experiencing additional trauma after the violence suffered by them. It can be defined as “the victim-blaming attitudes, behaviors, and practices engaged in by community service providers, which results in additional trauma for sexual assault survivors” (Campbell & Raja, 2005). Although, the above definition is given in context of sexual assault, it can also be applied to victims of domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence may undergo secondary victimisation when they report the crime to the police or social services. This victimisation may come from the larger community, which disapproves of a woman reporting against her husband (Gill, 2014). It may come from the social services, who may not be able to understand the problems faced by the victims or who try to persuade the victims to follow a process that the victim does not wish to follow. Secondary victimisation can even happen in family courts, which are focussed on finding resolutions to disputes that may lead to mediated settlements between the abuser spouse and the victim. As such, secondary victimisation is an important area of research, and the findings of such research can lead to changes in responses by the agencies or authorities, such as police and courts.

As the literature review below indicates, there is a paucity of research on this research problem. However, at the same time, the incidence of domestic violence remains high. In 2014-15, a reported 8.2% of women and 4% of men experienced domestic abuse (Woodhouse & Dempsey, 2016, p. 3). At the same time, there are many victims who do not report the crime of domestic violence at all (Derrick, Testa, & Leonard, 2014). One of the reasons for under reporting is the fear of revictimisation at the hands of the authorities or even social services (Derrick, Testa, & Leonard, 2014).

The research questions that are formulated for this research are as follows:

  • Do victims of domestic violence face secondary victimisation by their community?
  • Do victims of domestic violence face secondary victimisation by agencies?
  • Do victims of domestic violence face secondary victimisation by courts?

The hypothesis that is formulated at this stage are:

  • Victims of domestic violence face secondary victimisation by their community.
  • Victims of domestic violence do not face secondary victimisation by agencies.
  • Victims of domestic violence do not face secondary victimisation by courts.

Literature Review

Literature review on the topic of secondary victimization of domestic violence victims reveals a paucity of research on the subject matter. There are handful of studies on this topic and there are very few recent studies on this point. Many of the studies are more than 15 years old and therefore, recent research on this topic is missing.

An earlier study on this issue considered police responses to domestic violence (Hoyle & Sanders, 2000). The study also considered to a limited degree, the court responses to the victims of domestic violence. The study revealed that there are instances of secondary victimization both in the police as well as the court processes (Hoyle & Sanders, 2000).

Another study explores police perspectives and finds that victimisation may happen when the police respond to domestic violence complaints and question the victim (Watkins, 2005). At times, lack of sensitivity to the victim may lead to secondary vistimisation.

A recent qualitative study which explored the experiences of 22 domestic violence survivors made some relevant findings with respect to secondary or revictimisation of domestic violence survivors (Laing, 2016). The study demonstrated that the post separation period put the woman at a disadvantage within the family law system, where mediated settlements and shared parenting was also advocated within the family law system (Laing, 2016). Women who were victims of domestic violence shared their experiences of meeting skeptical responses, accusations of parental alienation, and pressure to agree to unsafe arrangements (Laing, 2016). The study argued that these experiences mirrored the actual experience of domestic violence leading to revictimisation of women.

Research Methodology


The limitations of time and budget will not allow the research to be conducted with a large sample. A small sample will be created for the purpose of interviews. The sample will consist of participants who respond to set characteristics. Participants will be married women between the ages of 20 to 45 who have reported incident of domestic violence with the police or social services, or have been a part of a case of domestic violence decided in a court of law. Due to the limitations of budget and time, only female residents of _______ will form the sample. This will allow accessibility to the participants within the constraints of time and budget.

Purposive sampling will help identify the participants for the interviews, where the particpants also show characteristics required for the objective of the study.

Method of data collection

The data for the research will be collected with the use of qualitative interviews. Victimisation in domestic violence is a complex phenomenon and may involve multiple narratives. Qualitative research is an ideal methodology for such complex social studies, due to the flexible framework of the qualitative research method, and its ability to respond to multiple narratives. Qualitative methods allow the researcher to respond to the demands of the study (Silverman, 2013).

Method of analysis

The research will be guided by grounded theory method. The method requires the researcher to collect data and base the creation of a theory on the data collected. The assumption is that the data is a true representation of the reality of the universe. The researcher’s “unique conceptualisation of existence and reality” is revealed to the world through this method (Birks & Mills, 2015, p. 1). Grounded theory is based on inductive approach where analysis of qualitative data leads to the construction of the theory from the data. The theory is grounded in the data as collected and analysed by the researcher (Charmaz, 2014).

Grounded theory allows the researcher to maintain flexible guidelines while ensuring at the same time that systematic procedures are followed by the researcher (Charmaz, 2014, p. 1). In the grounded theory method, the researcher follows a continuous process of data analysis from the beginning of the research and this allows the researcher to compare the data collected at all stages and also glean recurrent themes or codes in the data. By following the grounded theory approach, the continuous data analysis allows the researcher to uncover fresh paths of inquiries and follow them throughout the research process (Charmaz, 2014).

Ethical Issues

As the research involves data collection through qualitative interviews, certain ethical issues arise in the study (Orb, Eisenhauer, & Wynaden, 2001). Moreover, the topic of research First, the confidentiality of participants as well as anonymity will be assured to the participants before the start of interviews. Second, the purposes and objectives of the study will be informed to the participants at the start of the interview. This is important for gaining informed consent of the participants (Seidman, 2013). Without informed consent the interview process gets vitiated, therefore, this is an essential aspect of conformity to ethical norms (Brinkmann, 2014).


The outcomes of this research are likely to be relevant to the issue of how victims of domestic violence may be revictimised, that is made to undergo additional problems, after the actual incident or reporting of domestic violence. The outcomes may be useful in improvements in the role played by policy, agencies and authorities while responding to the victims of domestic violence.


  • Birks, M., & Mills, J. (2015). Grounded theory: A practical guide. Sage.
  • Brinkmann, S. (2014). Interview. Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology, 1008-1010.
  • Campbell, R., & Raja, S. (2005). The sexual assault and secondary victimization of female veterans: help‐seeking experiences with military and civilian social systems. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29(1), 97-106.
  • Charmaz, K. (2014). Constructing grounded theory. Sage.
  • Derrick, J. L., Testa, M., & Leonard, K. E. (2014, October). Daily reports of intimate partner verbal aggression by self and partner: Short-term consequences and implications for measurement. Psychology of Violence, 4(4), 416-431.
  • Gill, A. K. (2014). Introduction: 'Honour' and 'Honour based violence': Challenging common assumptions. In A. K. Gill, C. Strange, & K. Roberts (Eds.), 'Honour' Killing and Violence: Theory, Policy and Practice . Basingstoke: Springer.
  • Hoyle, C., & Sanders, A. (2000). Police response to domestic violence: from victim choice to victim empowerment? The British Journal of Criminology, 14-36.
  • Laing, L. (2016). Secondary Victimization: Domestic Violence Survivors Navigating the Family Law System. Violence against women.
  • Orb, A., Eisenhauer, L., & Wynaden, D. (2001). Ethics in qualitative research. Journal of nursing scholarship, 33(1), 93-96.
  • Seidman, I. (2013). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and the social sciences. Teachers college press.
  • Silverman, D. (2013). Doing qualitative research: A practical handbook. SAGE Publications Limited.
  • Watkins, P. (2005). Police perspective: Discovering hidden truths in domestic violence intervention. Journal of Family Violence, 20(1), 47-54.
  • Woodhouse, J., & Dempsey, N. (2016, May 6). Domestic violence in England and Wales, Briefing Paper Number 6337. London: House of Commons Library.

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