The role of childhood sexual abuse sequelae in the sexual revictimization of women: an empirical review and theoretical reformulation

Clin Psychol Rev. 2003 Jul;23(4):537-71. doi: 10.1016/s0272-7358(02)00203-9.


There is now widespread empirical evidence that child sexual abuse (CSA) survivors are at greater risk for sexual revictimization in adulthood, but less is known of the mechanisms underlying this relationship. Despite the lack of a conceptual framework to guide research, there has been a recent influx of studies examining explanatory variables, with most focusing on the psychological sequelae of CSA: alcohol and drug use, sexual behavior, dissociation, posttraumatic symptomatology, poor risk recognition, and interpersonal difficulties. With the exception of sexual behavior, the studies reviewed here provide limited or mixed support for the role of intrapersonal factors in revictimization. Future research may benefit from a focus on the function of psychological distress that is expressed as psychological vulnerability, as opposed to individual forms of psychopathology or maladaptive behavior. An ecological framework may be useful as a guide to future investigations, as this model focuses on factors outside of the victim, including childhood factors such as family environment, contextual factors including the behavior of the perpetrator, and societal and cultural factors that impact revictimization. Future investigations should focus on the interaction between victim vulnerability and perpetrator behavior. Implications for prevention programming, clinical intervention, and future research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Conditions
  • Survivors / psychology*