Shari Davies was once a carefree, optimistic young woman. This all changed one night twenty years ago, giving way to an unexpected course of injury, pain, fear, and anger.
On November 5, 1986, Shari was abducted, raped, and almost killed (Davies, 1997, pp. 3-4). Rape is a very horrible crime that affects its victims both physically and psychologically, and these affects can last for years (Cooper, 2004). Shari even admits in the book that she still experiences grief, pain and confusion and shares that elements of these emotions will never leave her and her family (Davies, 1997, p 3).How family, friends, and authorities react to a victim has a major impact on how she will deal with the pain and heal. Rape victims who feel ignored or treated negatively may encounter what is known as secondary victimization. When police and other legal and medical providers put the needs of their agencies in front of the needs and psychological boundaries of the victim, victims often feel violated.
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The disregard of victims’ needs by providers can so closely mimic victims’ experiences at the hands of their assailants that secondary victimization is sometimes referred to as “the second rape” or the “second assault” (Schultz, 1999).Two sources of frustration and pain to Shari and her family were the police and the media. In this paper I will share how I interpreted Shari to be treated by these entities during her recovery process and the possible implications of such treatment. I will also delve into the issue of the scarcity of resources that Shari and her family encountered and how this has changed both in Australia and the United States. Police, both in Australia and the United States, are often lacking the training and experience to deal with victims of rape in a compassionate way. They simply follow department procedures and do not know how to adhere to the victim’s feelings (Rape Crisis Information Pathfinder, 2007). This is unfortunate because many rape victims, throughout the world, refrain from reporting their attack due to the belief that they will not be taken seriously.
The police charged with Shari’s case acted very insensitive throughout the whole process. When Shari was admitted to the hospital, she was treated merely as an object. The police showed no regard for her or her family’s feelings. In Ivan Davies’ own words, “the police treated Shari as if she was a piece of meat….they were devoid of love and compassion” (Davies, 1997, p 41).Another act of insensitivity came when the police insisted on interviewing Shari about the attack just days afterward (Davies, 1997, p 50).
Shari was even at a medically induced coma at the time! Because the doctors had told the police that they did not expect Shari to live, they were panicking. They were focused only on apprehending the offender and did not take Shari’s condition, or her family’s feelings and wishes into consideration. This happens all too often in both Australia and the United States. An even further source of frustration and pain often caused by the police is the mishandling of information (Rape Crisis Information Pathfinder, 2007). This very thing happened to Shari when a high police official prematurely leaked her attacker’s name to the media, allowing the offender to go on the run before the police had a chance to get to him (Davies, 1997, pp 50-51).Another source of frustration and pain for Shari and her family, and for thousand of other rape victims in both Australia and the United States, was the media. In its rush to be the first with the news, the media can often inflict further victimization on the rape survivor.
Common complaints that victims have include the following: interviewing survivors at inappropriate times, searching for ‘dirt’ about the victim, seeking interviews with friends or neighbors, and printing victim’s names and addresses (Rape Crisis Information Pathfinder, 2007). As you can tell from reading these complaints, the media often suffer from the lack of compassion that the police are inflicted with. In Shari’s case, the media showed insensitivity by constantly hounding Shari and her family. Everyone wanted a scoop and they acted as though they had the right to the exclusive story (Davies, 1997, p 49). Shari even stated that the media had the uncanny ability to make her feel as if she had an obligation to them and a responsibility to the public to talk to tell them her story (Davies, 1997, p 84). I witness this a lot her in America. Reporters often display an air of superiority and often act as if they are entitled as American citizens to invade victim’s privacy to get the story.
Stories like Shari’s are seen as extraordinary. She lived when she wasn’t supposed to and the media, and society as a whole, feed off of experiences like that. Unfortunately, this can have a devastating affect on the victim’s self-esteem and sense of security. At.