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Who Receives Help Following Sexual Assault?

A new study will investigate access to services at Danish centers for sexual assault. The study will shed light on what happens to survivors who are not offered treatment at these centers.

By Marianne Lie Becker, , 8/16/2023

The Novo Nordisk Foundation has granted 2.26 million Danish kroner for a research project on sector transitions related to services provided following sexual assault. The research project, named "For-glem-mig-ej" (Forget-Me-Not), is led by Maj Hansen, associate professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Southern Denmark.

The aim of the research project is to investigate how survivors of sexual assault, who are not offered services at Danish sexual assault centers, perceive any subsequent treatment outside the centers and whether the assault is part of that treatment.

-Sexual assault can have serious consequences for the survivor, and therefore it is crucial that all survivors have access to specialized treatment for the assault, Maj Hansen explains.

Not Everyone is Offered Treatment​

In Denmark, the treatment for sexual assault is organized around nine centers.

All survivors of sexual assault who approach one of these centers are offered an assessment interview to determine whether they meet the criteria for psychological treatment at the respective center. However, not all survivors are offered treatment.

-When a survivor is not offered treatment, it may be because they have other complicated and co-existing problems that require other forms of treatment. For instance, if the survivor also has severe mental illness, active substance misuse, cognitive impairments, or is in an ongoing abusive relationship, some survivors are referred to other treatment facilities, Maj Hansen explains. 

Meet the researcher

Maj Hansen is associate professor at the Institute of Psychology and leader at the research unit THRIVE.


Difficulty in Accessing the Right Services

Other treatment facilities may include psychiatric units, substance abuse treatment, residential facilities, or crisis centers.

-It is unclear whether the sexual assault is taken into consideration in the subsequent treatment, or if the focus is solely on other aspects, potentially overlooking the assault altogether. Therefore, it can be difficult to determine where these survivors should receive help. Additionally, it is unknown how these survivors perceive the transition between different treatment options, known as sector transitions, Maj Hansen elaborates.

As a result, the "Forget-me-not" research project focuses on this particularly vulnerable group of survivors and their journey through the treatment system. The project aims to provide an overview of how potential issues with sector transitions can be minimized, ensuring the most continuity in the treatment process by investigating who is offered services at the centers, and what the path through the treatment system looks like for survivors not offered services at the centers. 

About the Project

The project is conducted by THRIVE, Department of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark, under the leadership of Associate Professor Maj Hansen, Project Coordinator Associate Professor Nina Beck Hansen, Department of Psychology, University of Southern Denmark & Center for Rape Victims, Odense University Hospital, and Postdoctoral Researcher Maria Hardeberg Bach, with participation from the Danish sexual assault centers.

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Editing was completed: 16.08.2023