Individual, interpersonal and contextual factors
People who are sexually abused in childhood are two to three times more likely to be sexually revictimised in adolescence and/or adulthood.
Individual risk factors include a history of child sexual abuse, poor risk perception, emotional dysregulation, cumulative past abuse, family conflict and distress.
Broader contextual factors, such as perpetrator tactics, community and organisational attitudes, and social norms, are also risk factors for sexual revictimisation.
Those vulnerable to sexual revictimisation, including minority groups such as people with a disability; gay, lesbian and bisexual people; and Indigenous people may require greater support and advocacy in order to alleviate trauma and trauma symptoms, and increase their resilience.
Similar strategies used in the sexual violence primary prevention space may be used to prevent sexual revictimisation. This includes respectful relationships education, gender equity principles and a focus on important sites of social norm reproduction, such as sporting sites and the media, to convey messages of respect and equality.
There is a complex array of variables related to sexual revictimisation. Although prevalence is difficult to ascertain, several studies relate that people who have been sexually abused as children are two to three times more likely to be sexually revictimised in adolescence and/or adulthood. Much of the literature on sexual revictimisation focuses on the individual risk factors for the victim/survivor - their risk perception and emotional dysregulation resulting from initial sexual victimisation - and how these create vulnerability for sexual revictimisation. Broader contextual factors beyond the victim/survivor, however, are often ignored. These contextual factors are explored here with a particular emphasis on minority groups, such as people with a disability; gay, lesbian and bisexual people; and Indigenous people. This focus demonstrates that individual risk factors often do not account for how perpetrators may target vulnerable people who have previously been victimised, how community and organisational attitudes and norms may support sexual revictimisation, and how broader social norms create vulnerability for certain groups. A focus on these broader contextual factors helps to inform prevention strategies.
Authors and Acknowledgements
At the time of writing Mary Stathopoulos was a Senior Research Officer with ACSSA at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
The author would like to thank AIFS staff, particularly Daryl Higgins and Antonia Quadara for their guidance and feedback throughout the production of this publication.
Stathopoulos, M. (2014). Sexual revictimisation: Individual, interpersonal and contextual factors (ACSSA Research Summary). Melbourne: Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
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