In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Sexual Revictimization

  • Introduction
  • Terminology
  • Extent of Recurring Sexual Victimization
  • How Quickly Does Sexual Victimization Recur?
  • What Type of Incident Follows an Initial Sexual Victimization?
  • Consequences of Recurring Sexual Victimization

Criminology Sexual Revictimization
Leah Daigle, Andia Azimi
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 August 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0187


It is well established that a portion of individuals are sexually victimized each year. More recently, it has been discovered that a subset of these victims experience multiple incidents of sexual victimization, often within a short period of time. This sexual revictimization has begun to be studied by academics in many fields including psychology, sociology, women studies, public health, and criminology. These researchers have identified the extent to which sexual revictimization occurs, the characteristics of sexual revictimization, the risk factors for sexual victimization, explanations for sexual victimization, the outcomes of sexual revictimization, and ways in which sexual revictimization may be prevented. Before discussing the many facets of sexual victimization, the terminology used within this area must be understood.


The literature on recurring sexual victimization is becoming well developed. To understand these research findings, it is important to first be familiar with the different concepts and terms employed. Recurring victimization is a catchall term for when a person or place experiences more than one victimization incident of any type over any time period. Repeat victimization occurs when a person or place experiences the same type of victimization, generally within the same developmental time period. Farrell 1992 and Farrell and Pease 2001 use repeat as the catch-all term. Revictimization occurs when a person or place experiences more than one victimization incident, typically across developmental time periods (e.g., from childhood to adulthood). Finkelhor, et al. 2007a and Finkelhor, et al. 2007b identify polyvictimization as when a person or place experiences more than one different type of victimization, generally within the same developmental time period (e.g., rape and bullying during childhood). Listwan, et al. 2014 also examine poly-victimization in a study of parolees. A final type of recurring victimization is a near-repeat incident. Near-repeat incidents occur when a place is victimized after a location nearby has been targeted by a victimization. Townsley, et al. 2003 find that near repeats are likely for burglaries, in that a home is burglarized after their neighbor’s house was burglarized. Youstin, et al. 2011 establishe that near repeats also occur for shootings, robberies, and auto thefts. Bowers and Johnson 2004 note that near-repeat incidents are more likely to be similar in terms of modus operandi than other types of incidents.

  • Bowers, K. J., and S. D. Johnson. 2004. Who commits near repeats? A test of the boost explanation. Western Criminology Review 5.3: 12–24.

    Findings from the study point to the dependency between events in terms of victimization risk. Specifically, crimes committed near each other in space and in time are more likely to be committed with similar modus operandi compared to other crimes.

  • Farrell, G. 1992. Multiple victimization: Its extent and significance. International Review of Victimology 2:85–102.

    Using data obtained from the British Crime Survey, the authors found that 70 percent of all victimization incidents were reported by 14 percent of respondents who were multiple victims. The study demonstrates the importance of accounting for multiple victimizations when studying victimization.

  • Farrell, G., and K. Pease. 2001. Why repeat victimization matters. In Repeat victimization. Edited by G. Farrell and K. Pease, 1–4. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice.

    This is the editors’ introduction to the text. The introduction discusses repeat victimization and hot spots, and discusses the phenomenon of repeat victimization and highlights its importance.

  • Finkelhor, D., R. K. Ormrod, and H. A. Turner. 2007a. Poly-victimization: A neglected component in child victimization. Child Abuse & Neglect 31:7–26.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2006.06.008

    Using a national-level study of 2,030 children ages two to seventeen, poly-victims (children who experienced four or more different kinds of victimizations in a single year) were found to comprise 22 percent of the study sample. Poly-victimization was found to be highly predictive of trauma symptoms. When accounted for in the model, poly-victimization also greatly reduced the correlation between individual victimizations (e.g., sexual abuse) and symptomatology.

  • Finkelhor, D., R. K. Ormrod, and H. A. Turner. 2007b. Polyvictimization and trauma in a national longitudinal cohort. Development and Psychopathology 19:149–166.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0954579407070083

    This study is based on two waves of data from the Developmental Victimization Survey. The analysis revealed that 18 percent of the children experienced four or more different kinds of victimizations (poly-victims) in the most recent year. Poly-victimization was found to be predictive of trauma symptoms at the end of the year.

  • Listwan, S. J., L. E. Daigle, J. L. Hartman, and W. P. Guastaferro. 2014. Poly-victimization risk in prison: The influence of individual and institutional factors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 29.13: 2458–2481.

    DOI: 10.1177/0886260513518435

    From a sample of 1,600 recently released inmates, the authors confirmed environmental and individual-level factors were related to poly-victimization in prison (experiencing more than one victimization type). Those inmates who perceived the prison environment as hostile were more likely to report multiple forms of victimization. Individual factors, such as race, age, and mental illness, were also significant in predicting a greater number of victimization types experienced in prison.

  • Townsley, M., R. Homel, and J. Chaseling. 2003. Infectious burglaries: A test of the near repeat hypothesis. British Journal of Criminology 43.3: 615–633.

    Near repeats were found more likely to occur in suburban areas with homogenous housing. The authors conclude that in areas with little housing diversity, the prevalence of victims should be higher compared with areas that have very diverse housing. Diverse areas allow offenders with a choice of targets, making near repeat less likely in these areas.

  • Turner, H. A., D. Finkelhor, and R. Ormrod. 2010. Poly-victimization in a national sample of children and youth. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 38.3: 323–330.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.11.012

    This study examined the relationship between poly-victimization and trauma symptomology among children and youth. Almost 66 percent of the sample experienced more than one type of victimization, 33 percent experienced more than five or more types, and 10 percent experienced more than eleven or more types. Poly-victimization was associated more with trauma symptoms compared to repeat victimization of a single type.

  • Youstin, T. J., M. R. Nobles, J. T. Ward, and C. L. Cook. 2011. Assessing the generalizability of the near repeat phenomenon. Criminal Justice and Behavior 38.10: 1042–1063.

    DOI: 10.1177/0093854811417551

    This study examined the extent to which the near-repeat phenomenon applies to shootings, robberies, and auto thefts. The results showed that near repeats occur within all crime types, but each type has its own distinct near-repeat pattern.

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