Relation between childhood sexual and physical abuse and risk of revictimisation in women: a cross-sectional survey

Lancet. 2001 Aug 11;358(9280):450-4. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(01)05622-7.


Background: Women who are physically and sexually abused in childhood are at increased risk of victimisation in adulthood. Research has concentrated on sexual revictimisation, and has not included investigation of other abusive experiences, nor examination of prevalence and effects of abuse on adult revictimisation. We aimed to examine the relation between childhood trauma and adult revictimisation, and identify confounding factors.

Methods: We did a cross-sectional survey of 2592 women who were attending primary care practices in east London, UK, with self-administered anonymous questionnaires. We included questions on physical and sexual abuse in childhood; on domestic violence, rape, indecent assault, and other traumatic experiences in adulthood; and on alcohol and other drug abuse. We analysed associations between childhood and adulthood abuse with multiple logistic regression.

Findings: 1207 (55%) of 2192 eligible women were recruited and completed the questionnaire. Abusive experiences co-occurred in both childhood and adulthood. Repetition and severity of childhood abuse were independently associated with specific types of adult revictimisation. Unwanted sexual intercourse (<16 years) was associated with domestic violence in adulthood (odds ratio 3.54; 95% CI 1.52-8.25) and with rape (2.84; 1.09-7.35); and severe beatings by parents or carers with domestic violence (3.58; 2.06-6.20), rape (2.70; 1.27-5.74), and other trauma (3.85; 2.23-6.63).

Interpretation: Childhood abuse substantially increases risk of revictimisation in adulthood. Women who have experienced multiple childhood abuse are at most risk of adult revictimisation. Identification of women who have undergone childhood abuse is a prerequisite for prevention of further abuse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • London / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Rape / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires