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Towards a Recognition Mechanism: Healing for Victims of Sexual Violence

The Netherlands, as is the case globally, is still struggling with an approach to sexual harassment and sexual violence. There remains an obvious need for a change in norms in society, but the current legal system is not yet contributing to this. Victims experience the current legal process as further weakening their position and well-being and too many perpetrators remain unpunished, often re-victimizing victims. Victims often do not dare to report crimes, especially compared to victims of other forms of crime. At the same time, consequences of sexual violence are dire and require a comprehensive approach that addresses the (ongoing) harm they have been forced to endure.

One area of focus is the need for recognition of this suffering. Where there is sufficient recognition for the victim and moral condemnation of the perpetrator’s actions, and the chance of recurrence (without punishment) is excluded, a sense of satisfaction for the victim can be achieved. Where victims feel recognized – whether by the formal system, the perpetrator, friends and family, society or support professionals – they are likely to report better well-being, higher self-confidence and fewer thoughts around self-blame.

Our aim

There is a gap that may be filled through an alternative process – in addition to criminal sanctions – that provides recognition and leads to greater healing for victims of sexual violence. Several initiatives, organizations and programs currently exist in the Netherlands that have a large positive impact on victims and survivors in terms of recognition. Yet, fewer focus specifically on this concept as a final goal and no initiative yet exists that ensures the community and society itself plays an important role in responding to the aftermath of sexual violence through a recognition outcome.

For this reason, this project aims to better understand the need for a recognition mechanism that can help survivors to feel that they are supported by those around them and that the harm they suffered and are currently suffering is acknowledged. The project aims to carry out this first exploratory phase with survivors, to understand if there is a need, which others organizations are providing services or tools for recognition and what a recognition committee could theoretically look like.

Project Implementation

Funder: Frank ter Linden Foundation

Project period: September 2023 – January 2024 (Phase 1)

Budget: : € 6.000