Understanding Trauma & Violence


How often does repeated victimization happen and how often is it by coincidence? Why does it happen?


Thank you so much for this question. Repeated sexual victimization, unfortunately, occurs more often than we would like to acknowledge. For example, a synthesis of revictimization studies as of 2017 found that almost half of those who experience sexual abuse as a child experience revictimization later in life. This phenomenon is not solely due to chance; rather, it's influenced by a complex interplay of factors. It's important to understand that repeated victimization is not the fault of the survivor but rather a result of various systemic and individual-level variables.

Several factors contribute to the occurrence of repeated sexual victimization. For example, past trauma, such as previous experiences of sexual assault or abuse, can increase vulnerability to further harm. Perpetrators of sexual harm often employ tactics to identify individuals who they perceive as vulnerable. These tactics may involve preying on individuals who appear isolated, have trouble setting boundaries, lack social support networks, or exhibit signs of low self-esteem. In addition, environmental factors, such as living in unsafe neighborhoods or lacking social support, also can play a role. Additionally, societal norms and attitudes that perpetuate gender inequality and minimize the seriousness of sexual violence contribute to a culture where repeated revictimization can occur. 

If you have experienced repeated revictimization, we want to repeat again that it is not your fault. If you experienced sexual harm, but haven't experienced revictimization, we also want to emphasize that this does not mean more harm is coming. Every situation is unique. 

To continue on your healing journey and create safeguards against revictimization, connect with trusted friends, family members, or support groups to provide the support you need to process the trauma you experienced.  You may also want to practice recognizing and asserting personal boundaries to help protect against manipulation and exploitation by perpetrators. Educate yourself about healthy relationships, consent, and warning signs of abusive behavior to recognize potential red flags and take proactive steps to protect yourself. Finally, listen to your intuition and trust your gut feelings about people and situations. If something feels wrong or uncomfortable, it's okay to remove yourself from the situation and seek support.

As survivors, it shouldn't be on us to "learn how to protect ourselves." Ultimately, we must all advocate for systemic change to create a world where perpetrators do not feel emboldened to perpetuate harm in the first place. Remember, you are not defined by what has happened to you, and you deserve support, compassion, and healing as you move forward, no matter how many times you have been victimized. Thank you again for asking this. You are not alone.

Safety Exit