In an attempt to develop preventive strategies, this report examined two studies to determine if women abused during childhood and adolescence were at an increased risk of being victimized later in life.
Most studies investigating the causes of violence against women have focused on the perpetrators’ behavior as opposed to identifying risk factors among victims. However, in identifying risk factors in the victimization of women, specifically sexual and physical abuse in childhood and adolescence, preventive strategies can be developed. This report summarizes two studies funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice that used different methodologies and samples to identify factors that could determine which women were most likely to become victims of violence. The first study examined and interviewed female college students for 4 years and found that by the end of 4 years of college, 88 percent of women had experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual victimization in their lifetimes. The second study interviewed urban and low-income women who had substantiated child sexual abuse about their adolescent and adult victimization. The study found that childhood sexual abuse was a risk factor only when combined with sexual abuse during adolescence. The findings from both studies were significantly similar, in that being sexually or physically abused both as a child and as an adolescent was a good predictor of future victimization. Women who were victims of both sexual and physical abuse before adulthood were more likely to become adult victims of the same abuse. Results from both studies indicate a need for directing interventions toward boys and girls who either witness or experience violence.