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The process of revictimization for women with sexual abuse histories

Julia Beth Hunt, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Childhood sexual abuse is a pernicious problem that is frighteningly common in our society, as when abuse is defined as fondling and intercourse by a person at least five years older than the victim, about 20% of children in the United States are abused. One factor that is typically related to childhood sexual abuse is the experience of multiple victimizations or what some researchers term revictimization, a phenomenon which has strong empirical support in the literature. There is some research to suggest that the coping mechanism of dissociation is related to revictimization. Becker-Lausen, Sanders, and Chinsky (1996) conducted the only study that empirically tested the link between dissociation and revictimization using path analysis and found that childhood abuse was related to dissociation and depression as well as negative life experiences. A study was formulated to explore this link between dissociation and revictimization in-depth with a theoretical model. The factors in the model are processing into consciousness, memory, self-esteem, and learned helplessness. Subjects were female undergraduates, 60 subjects with a childhood sexual abuse history and no adult victimization experience, and 60 with childhood sexual abuse and adult victimization. Processing into consciousness, was measured by scenarios of abusive situations and non-abusive scenarios, after which the subjects filled out measures of affect. Memory was measured by autobiographical memory during which subjects were asked to recall their memories that are provoked by a prime. They were also given measures of self-esteem, learned helplessness, dissociation. Significant results were found for all for four factors and dissociation. Socio-economic status was used in the analysis, but was not related to this factors. Clinical implications for this research effort are outlined in the study. In conclusion, it may be that childhood abuse causes dissociation which leads to revictimization by the four factors in the model. However, this causality cannot be ascertained from the this research study. Further research using a prospective design is needed.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Hunt, Julia Beth, "The process of revictimization for women with sexual abuse histories" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9909173.