Sexual Revictimization: Are you really more likely to be victimized a second time?

Key findings from several major studies (from 2000-2011) that explored the correlation between child sexual abuse (CSA) and subsequent victimization in adulthood, which illustrate a significant link between childhood and adulthood sexual revictimization (as well as related health problems).

Lalor, K., & McElvaney, R. (2010): Child sexual abuse, links to later sexual exploitation/highrisk sexual behavior, and prevention/treatment programs.

  • Numerous studies suggest that sexual victimization in adolescence significantly increases the likelihood of sexual victimization in adulthood. Studies suggest that sexual victimization in childhood or adolescence increases the likelihood of sexual victimization in adulthood between 2 and 13.7 times.
  • Several researchers speculate that mediating factors caused by CSA contribute to higher risk of sexual revictimization. Childhood abuse may interfere with normal development of interpersonal relatedness and affect regulation, which in turn decrease abuse victims’ awareness of danger. Negative long-term effects of CSA may be attempts to avoid or cope with negative emotional states, but that such emotional avoidance can create challenges in recognizing danger cues. Some female CSA victims may associate sexuality with pain, punishment, and other negative outcomes, leading them to believe that coercion and trauma are “normal” aspects of sexual relations. This, in turn, would leave CSA victims with a “higher threshold of tolerance” for coercive or forceful sexual advances.
  • Other researchers speculate that social and cultural factors, rather than personal variables alone, contribute to sexual revictimization. Victims’ experiences can be framed in an ecological model that takes into account the role of individual history, family, larger social systems, and cultural norms and institutions in facilitating sexual revictimization. Much of the literature on CSA prevention emphasizes a holistic, ecological approach that addresses the various systemic forces influencing children’s development.

Balsam, K. F., Lehavot, K., & Beadnell, B. (2011): Sexual revictimization and mental health: A comparison of lesbians, gay men, and heterosexual women.

  • 35.5% of respondents reported CSA, and 11.6% reported adult rape. Lesbians reported higher rates of both CSA (44%) and adult rape (15%) compared to gay men and heterosexual women.
  • 19.7% of respondents who experienced CSA reported adult rape.
  • Respondents who reported both CSA and adult rape were more likely to report psychological distress, suicidality and self-injury than respondents who had never experienced sexual victimization, or experienced either CSA or adult rape.

Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M. R. (2011): National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 summary report. 

  • 18.3% of female respondents and 1.4% of male respondents reported experiencing rape (including completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, and completed alcohol or drug facilitated penetration) during their lifetimes.
  • 44.6% of female respondents and 22.2% of male respondents reported experiencing sexual violence other than rape during their lifetimes.
  • Among female respondents who reported experiencing a completed rape before age 18, 35.2% also experienced a completed rape as an adult, compared to 14.2% of women who did not experience rape before age 18. Too few men reported experiencing rape in adulthood to examine revictimization rates.

Desai, S., Arias, I., Thompson, M. P., & Basile, K. C. (2002): Childhood victimization and subsequent revictimization assessed in a nationally representative sample of women and men.

  • Childhood sexual victimization was reported by 7% of women and 2% of men. Adult sexual victimization was reported by 11.5% of women and 1% of men. Finally, 8.7% of women and .4% of men reported having experienced sexual abuse by an intimate partner.
  • Women who experienced CSA were twice as likely to report adult sexual victimization as women who did not experience CSA.
  • Women who experienced both CSA and childhood physical victimization were three times more likely to report physical or sexual victimization in adulthood.
  • Women who experienced CSA were twice as likely to experience intimate partner physical victimization. However, women who experienced CSA were not more likely to have experienced sexual violence by an intimate partner in adulthood than women who had not experienced CSA.
  • Men who experienced CSA were almost six times more likely to experience adult sexual victimization than men who did not experience CSA.
  • Men who experienced both physical and sexual victimization in childhood were six times more likely to experience sexual victimization.
  • Men who experienced CSA were thirteen times more likely to experience adult intimate partner sexual victimization. Men who reported both CSA and physical victimization during childhood were 10 times more likely to report adult intimate partner sexual victimization.

Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000): Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey

  • Over half of the women and three-quarters of the men who reported attempted or completed rape were minors at the time of their first sexual victimization.
  • Women who reported being raped before age 18 were twice as likely to report being raped as an adult. Specifically, 18.3% of female respondents raped as minors also reported being raped as adults, compared to 8.7% of female respondents who were not raped as minors.

Walsh, K., DiLillo, D., & Scalora, M. J. (2011): The cumulative impact of sexual revictimization on emotion regulation difficulties: An examination of female inmates. 

  • Over half (53%) of respondents reported experiencing CSA, and 56% reported experiencing at least one rape since age 14.
  • Respondents who experienced CSA were significantly more likely to have experienced rape after age 14. More than a third (37%) of respondents experienced both CSA and rape after age 14.
  • Respondents who experienced both CSA and rape after age 14 had higher levels of emotional dysregulation and difficulty clearly identifying emotions. Furthermore, respondents who experienced both types of sexual victimization also reported less acceptance of their emotions, greater difficulties engaging in goal-directed behavior, and limited access to emotional regulation strategies.

West, C. M., Williams, L. M., & Siegel, J. A. (2000): Adult sexual revictimization among black women sexually abused in childhood: A prospective examination of serious consequences of abuse. 

  • Respondents who experienced adult sexual revictimization were more likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse that involved physical force. Physical force experienced during childhood sexual assault increased the probability of adult sexual victimization by a factor of 4.3.
  • Revictimized respondents were also more likely to report having been hit by a partner than child sexual abuse victims who did not experience adult sexual revictimization.
  • Victims of adult sexual revictimization were more likely to report repeated vaginal infections, problems conceiving, painful intercourse, and sexually transmitted diseases than child sexual abuse victims who did not experience adult revictimization.

 

Summary: Research shows a significant correlation between CSA and adult sexual revictimization. The wider lifetime public health impact of CSA includes adult sexual assault, intimate partner violence, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems. The studies examined also suggest that certain populations of CSA survivors may be at greater risk for sexual revictimization due to the effects of oppression. People of color, gays and lesbians, people living in poverty and those who are incarcerated may be at greater risk for sexual exploitation and violence. The precise relationship between CSA and adult sexual victimization is complex, with researchers suggesting a variety of mediating and co-occurring factors.

 

 

***Disclaimer: the above findings were gathered by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (2012) and compiled in the research brief,  Sexual Revictimization.

 

References for the Above Findings, as listed in the original research brief:

Lalor, K., & McElvaney, R. (2010). Child sexual abuse, links to later sexual exploitation/highrisk sexual behavior, and prevention/treatment programs. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 11, 159-177. doi:10.1177/1524838010378299

Balsam, K. F., Lehavot, K., & Beadnell, B. (2011). Sexual revictimization and mental health: A comparison of lesbians, gay men, and heterosexual women. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26, 1798-1814. doi:10.1177/0886260510372946

Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M. R. (2011). National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 summary report. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/ NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf

Desai, S., Arias, I., Thompson, M. P., & Basile, K. C. (2002). Childhood victimization and subsequent revictimization assessed in a nationally representative sample of women and men. Violence and Victims, 17, 639-653.

Tjaden, P., & Thoennes, N. (2000). Full report of the prevalence, incidence, and consequences of violence against women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey (NCJ 183781). Retrieved from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/183781.pdf

Walsh, K., DiLillo, D., & Scalora, M. J. (2011). The cumulative impact of sexual revictimization on emotion regulation difficulties: An examination of female inmates. Violence Against Women, 17, 1103-1118. doi:10.1177/1077801211414165

West, C. M., Williams, L. M., & Siegel, J. A. (2000). Adult sexual revictimization among black women sexually abused in childhood: A prospective examination of serious consequences of abuse. Child Maltreatment, 5, 49-57. doi:10.1177/1077559500005001006

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6 thoughts on “Sexual Revictimization: Are you really more likely to be victimized a second time?

  1. I am one of these statistics. I was sexually abused as a child for roughly 6 years. When I was 19, I was raped by a co-worker. Because it really seemed so “normal” to me for someone to force themselves on you, I actually thought I had cheated on my boyfriend. It wasn’t until I started working through the years of childhood sexual abuse that I realized that what happened to me when I was 19 was indeed rape.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry about what you’ve had to experience, dear. Interestingly enough, I too thought that I had cheated on my partner after I was revictimized due to my trauma history.

      Liked by 1 person

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