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Repeated Sexual Assault Victims Face Greater Psychological Consequences

Repeated Sexual Assault Victims Face Greater Psychological ConsequencesA new study shows that victims who experience repeated forms of sexual violence — including rape — experience greater levels of psychological and behavioral consequences than previously thought.

According to researchers, one in five adult women and one in 100 adult men report being raped. But that number jumps to two in five among women and one in five among men who have experienced other forms of sexual violence, such as repeated unwanted sexual contact and sexual coercion.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have determined that those victims who are repeatedly assaulted, but not necessarily violently raped, show greater levels of psycho-behavioral consequences, including lower self-esteem, higher psychological distress, and greater sexual risk-taking later in life.

Understanding these patterns of sexual victimization and related consequences could help develop strategies to combat the frequency of sexual assault among adolescents, according to researchers at the University of Missouri.

“Our findings are important because we are able to identify some of the weaknesses and potential fallacies in classifying survivors based on the violence encountered during the assault,” said Bryana French, an assistant professor of counseling psychology at the university.

“Indirect, repeated, or subtle manipulation tactics can lead to a lifetime of psychological consequences.”

She noted that researchers who study sexual assault typically assess victimization based on the severity of the attack, rarely examining individual patterns of victimization.

For her study, she used a scale of sexual coercion, including verbal coercion, using substances like drugs or alcohol to pressure the victims into sex, and forcible rape.

“Most sexual victimization research tends to focus on forcible, violent rape while the subtler forms of sexual assault, like manipulation and coercion, are less studied,” French said.

“Unfortunately, we know that people who are victimized often experience re-victimization by the same or different individual. Our research focuses on those individuals who receive multiple forms of unwanted sexual advances and the psychological toll those experiences take on the victims.”

“Information gained from the study could help start a conversation among parents, adolescents, and school administrators on the importance of consent and what steps to take to encourage preventative behavior,” she said.

The study, “Sexual victimization using latent class analysis: Exploring patterns and psycho-behavioral correlates,” was published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Source: University of Missouri

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Repeated Sexual Assault Victims Face Greater Psychological Consequences

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). Repeated Sexual Assault Victims Face Greater Psychological Consequences. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 24 May 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.