Giving Voice: Experiences and Needs of Sexual Assault Survivors Facing Multiple Adversities

Maria Hardeberg Bach*, Nina Beck Hansen, Courtney Ahrens, Maj Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Although specialized sexual assault services have been established throughout the world to better meet survivors’ needs, many survivors remain underserved. Survivors who are simultaneously experiencing additional adversities (e.g. survivors with mental illness and/or substance abuse) appear particularly underserved by formal support systems. The present study therefore set out to explore the formal help-seeking experiences and needs of survivors facing various adversities apart from the sexual assault. Interviews were conducted with five survivors seeking formal support for sexual assault in Denmark. Interviews were analyzed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. Five themes are presented: 1) “Sexual Assault as Lived Experience,” 2) “Survivors’ Needs,” 3) “Accessing Sexual Assault Services,” 4) “SAC-Therapy,” and 5) “The Criminal Justice System.” Theme 1 made evident that the experience of sexual assault and its aftermath is deeply personal and contextual. Themes 2–5 demonstrate how such personal and contextual aspects impact service utilization and needs. Implications and recommendations are provided. Above all, meeting survivors’ needs will require a more person-centered approach that acknowledges the unique context of survivors’ sexual assault experiences.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Psychology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)19-37
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • help-seeking behaviors
  • post-assault care
  • qualitative research
  • service utilization
  • sexual assault


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