Victims Are Doing It from Themselves: Examining the Move from Sexual Victimization to Anti-Sexual Violence Advocacy

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Guila BENCHIMOL, university of guelph, USA
Conversations about sexual violence have been front and center since 2016 in both Canada and the United States. Victims’ voices have fueled the global conversation around sexual violence and many have characterized themselves or have been characterized as activists or advocates (Brothers 2016; Houpt 2016; Yashari 2016; Kort 2015). While victims raising awareness about sexual violence is not a new phenomenon, the experiences involved in the move from victim to advocate have yet to be studied. Therefore, this study asks: How do some victims of sexual violence become anti-sexual violence advocates?

Drawing upon labeling and stigma theories, it examines the parallels between primary, secondary, and tertiary deviance (Lemert 1951) and primary, secondary, and tertiary victimization (Kenney 2002). Primary and secondary deviance can explain the process of becoming a victim through the conceptual counterparts of primary and secondary victimization (Karmen 2007; Taylor et al. 1983). Tertiary deviance, in which those who have been shamed, silenced, and marginalized demand recognition and rights, can explain victims’ move to advocacy (Kitsuse 1980; Kenney 2002).

To examine the avenues out of victimization and the new identity that may be found in the tertiary stage (Lemert 1951; Osborne 1974), narrative interviews were conducted with participants who have experienced sexual victimization and are currently anti-sexual violence advocates or activists. Interviews captured participants’ life stories beginning with their experiences of victimization, including their disclosures and reactions to these disclosures, and their subsequent involvement in advocacy (Kenney 2002; Kitsuse1980). Discussions around the tensions in being both victims/survivors and advocates/activists provided an understanding of how participants manage competing identities. The life stories shed light on how participants’ advocacy work has been affected by their experiences of victimization at each stage as well as how they construct and claim their identities as they continue to evolve.