“Victim-blaming is actually something that comes up all the time in sessions,” says Dr. Anju Hurria, a psychiatrist and assistant clinical professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at University of California–Irvine. “It’s really considered a secondary trauma or a secondary assault.” She says those who are blamed for abuse they experienced “report greater distress, increased amounts of depression; [it] usually complicates their post-traumatic stress disorder, if they’re experiencing that, because they’re dealing with two different assaults. Often we’ll see an increase in suicidal ideation, and then it often decreases people’s chances of reporting future abuses, because there is a fear they won’t be believed, or that they’ll have to deal with the negative feedback of reporting it.”
Hurria adds that victim-blaming can also worsen symptoms of anxiety. And experts say it can increase shame, leave a person more disconnected from their own feelings as well as make it harder to connect with other people and ultimately stand in the way of recovery.