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Understanding the help-seeking decisions of sexual assault survivors in Hong Kong: A social constructivist approach Dr. Leung Lai Ching Department of Applied.

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding the help-seeking decisions of sexual assault survivors in Hong Kong: A social constructivist approach Dr. Leung Lai Ching Department of Applied."— Presentation transcript:

1 Understanding the help-seeking decisions of sexual assault survivors in Hong Kong: A social constructivist approach Dr. Leung Lai Ching Department of Applied Social Studies City University of Hong Kong 9 July 2012

2 Explanations for the Help-seeking Decision of Sexual Assault Survivors Rational choice model Social constructivist approach

3 Social Constructivist Approach Feminist scholars argue that the decision of sexual violence survivors to seek help after an assault is a social construction process, rather than a rational decision- making process. The knowledge that we have on violence and the availability of social support are socially constructed through culture, language and social processes.

4 The social discourses on sexual violence inform the victims’ understanding about their experiences. Women are often silenced by the perception of gender power and the dominant male discourses that reflect men’s ideas of what is acceptable sexual behavior.

5 Objective of the study It aims to explore the interactional factors that influence the decision of sexual violence survivors in seeking help and disclosing their sexual abuse to others.

6 Methods The research was divided into two parts: quantitative and qualitative studies. For the quantitative study, structural questionnaire interviews were conducted by phone to collect information on the experiences of the victims with disclosing or reporting, as well as on the social and personal factors that influenced their decision to seek help

7 All the participants were recruited from the CEASE Crisis Centre. Sixty adult female survivors were successfully recruited.

8 Semi-structured interviews were conducted to collect qualitative information, eg. perceptions of violent survivors on their sexual assault experiences, the dynamics that were involved in their help- seeking decisions, and how helpful they found formal and informal systems. Twelve survivors were invited for in-depth interviews on an individual basis.

9 Findings The results show that most of the survivors had not disclosed their experiences or sought help from formal systems immediately after the assault. Only 29.6% of the survivors disclosed their experiences to informal systems. 25% sought help from formal systems.

10 These participants were likely to seek help from informal and formal systems within one week of the incident, and among them, 44.4% disclosed their experiences to informal systems, while 30% sought help from formal systems.

11 Reasons Non-disclosure to informal sources Not seeking help from formal sources Number of people PercentageNumber of peoplePercentage The belief that no one will listen to them or that they themselves were responsible for the assault 2060.6%1653.3% Psychological and emotional factors1854.5%1240.0% Lack of knowledge about sexual assault 1442.4%2273.3% Concerns over the effect on their relationship with the family and the perpetrators 1133.3%413.3% Others515.2%620% Reasons for not Disclosing or Seeking Help after Sexual Assault (multiple entries)

12 Silencing: A Social Construction Process Knowledge on violence Patriarchal and family values Second victimization

13 Knowledge on Violence The lack of knowledge on sexual assault hindered the respondents from perceiving themselves as victims or survivors.

14 Sexual Assault happened in very young age When I was very young, I was…. perhaps sexually abused by my neighbor. He toke off my trousers and scrubbed my body with his penis….I didn’t know what had happened to me until I have grown up… maybe ten years ago, I learnt that from a TV documentary programme, which was about young children being sexually abused, I then realized what had happened to me….

15 Uncertainty over the definition of sexual assault He asked me to close my eyes…. I then followed his instruction….. I breathe in and out….. and suddenly I felt that two fingers pressed on the lower part of my body, and pressed again and again…..he said that he pressed my acupuncture point so that it would help better circulation of the energy in my body…..what he had said to me seemed very difficult to understand, but I tended to believe in him anyway……

16 Patriarchal and Familial Values Family is perceived as the most basic and profound social institution, and that the family should be protected by all means in Chinese society. If survivors perceive themselves as “unfaithful,” they have already experienced something “shameful and unspeakable”

17 My mom and dad just sided with him [elder brother]…. It was unfair to me, why I have to receive such humiliation….. they didn’t bother, just put the blame on me. They blamed me not to protect myself…

18 I thought that I had done something wrong…..I really thought that I had drunk too much, and had taken some drugs too…. had done something ridiculous….. after all, I am a married woman, how could I did something unfaithful to my husband…..

19 Second Victimization Some survivors reported that the social workers they had encountered neither took them seriously nor gave accurate information and adequate support. Few cases reveal that not all social workers possess adequate knowledge or sensitivity in handling sexual assault cases

20 I then asked the medical social work if I needed to report the case to the police….. the social worker said no, no need at the moment. But she asked me to report to the police two weeks after the incident….. but they [the social worker in the shelter workshop] said, it was too late to report to the police, it had happened few days ago, it’s difficult to gather evidence, no need to report to the police……

21 Implications for Social Work Practice Helping sexual assault survivors redefine their experiences, and have the courage to break silence. To prevent survivors from encountering second victimization, social workers should be sensitive to the differences in class, race, and sexuality that affect survivor experiences.

22 Social work programs should challenge the cultural meanings of sexual assault, which are embedded in the Chinese family Educating survivors’ family and friends may be helpful in establishing a social support network for survivors.

23 Reducing negative responses, resisting the social stigma attached to sexual assault, and increasing the motivation of survivors to seek help from professionals.

24 Thank You

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