Barriers That Survivors Face

There are numerous barriers that make it difficult for survivors to disclose and talk about their experience. These come from the myths and stereotypes that exist in our society. There is fear of being blamed or judged, fear of not being believed, and fear of recourse.

There are certain groups that face additional barriers. These will be referred to as women (since they are the majority of victims/survivors), however, men who have experienced sexual violence also face barriers in our society.

Barriers Faced by Women with Diverse Cultural Backgrounds

  • Fear of racism.
  • Fear of judgment.
  • Feelings of extreme shame, stigma, fatalism.
  • Lack of racially appropriate counselling services.

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Barriers Faced by Refugee Women and Immigrant Women

  • Lack of knowledge of the Canadian legal system.
  • Lack of proficiency in the English language.
  • Threat of facing extreme isolation/abandonment from husband/partner, relatives, community, religious institutions.
  • Lack of culturally appropriate counselling services.
  • Feelings of extreme shame, stigma, fatalism.
  • Fear of deportation.
  • Systemic racism in institutions.
  • Fear of judgment.

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Barriers Faced by Senior Women

  • Discomfort talking about sexual matters.
  • May have kept sexual violence a secret for a long time.
  • More likely to have had a negative experience talking about sexual violence in the past.
  • Isolation.
  • Fear that disclosure will lead to loss of independence.

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Barriers Faced by Women Who Are Disabled

  • Difficult time escaping from abuser.
  • May depend on others for assistance with activities of daily living.
  • May have difficulty communicating, therefore, less likely to report or be believed.
  • Very few women’s shelters are accessible.
  • Physical means of fleeing assault (i.e. accessible transportation) are often unavailable on short notice.

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Barriers Faced by Lesbians and Bisexual Women

  • Homophobia, heterosexism.
  • Fear that her and/or her partner's sexual orientation may become public.
  • Fear of being diagnosed or "pathologized".
  • Fear of the consequences of disclosing sexual orientation.

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Barriers Faced by Young Women

  • Dependency on others (e.g., financial, transportation).
  • Often need permission from parents to access services.
  • Confidentiality may be difficult (parents often monitor whereabouts).
  • Reports of sexual assault sometimes not taken seriously.
  • Fear of blame, rejection, retaliation from parents and peers.
  • Fear disclosure may break up the family.

There are other women who may experience barriers because their credibility is questioned. These include women in conflict with the law, women with psychiatric diagnoses, exotic dancers and women in the sex trade industry.

(Sexual Violence: A Handbook for Survivors and Their Supports, Peel Committee on Sexual Assault, 1997)

For information about Halton agencies that provide services to victims of sexual assault or violence, visit our web page on Community Supports for Sexual Assault/Violence.

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Related Links

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