What Is Meant By Revictimization? :
Revictimization can be defined as harm done to an individual as a result of his/her inability to self-protect. It has also been viewed as an unconscious form of self-harm.
Why Are Survivors Of Traumatic Childhood Abuse At High Risk Of Revictimization?
Survivors of traumatic childhood abuse are at high risk of being revictimized. Indeed, sometimes such individuals seem to actually actively seek out situations within which revictimization is likely to take place (although this is likely to occur on an unconscious level). Why should this be?
Several theories have been advanced in an attempt to elucidate this, on the face of it, rather perplexing phenomenon.
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) proposed that revictimization could be explained by his theory of REPETITION COMPULSION whereby individuals are unconsciously driven to ‘re-enact’ past traumatic experiences in an attempt to ‘gain mastery’ over them – to read more about this you may wish to read my previously published article : SELF-DEFEATING PERSONALITY? ITS LINK TO CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.
Briere (1992) suggests two possible explanations. First, survivors of traumatic abuse have grown up ‘getting used to’ living in the context of problematic relationships so that, when they experience further dysfunctional relationships with others in later life, even if these again result in them being on the receiving end of further abuse, they are liable to accept it as ‘just the way things are’ ; indeed, they may assume that such relationships are an inevitable part of life and can’t be escaped (see my previously published article on LEARNED HELPLESSNESS, which is relevant here).
Second, those who have suffered childhood abuse frequently experience low levels of self-esteem as a result (see my previously published article : CHILDHOOD TRAUMA : A DESTROYER OF SELF-ESTEEM for more about this) which may lead them to develop a false belief that they are somehow unworthy of being part of a healthy, non-exploitative, mutually loving relationship (see my previously published article : THE PROCESS BY WHICH OUR ADULT RELATIONSHIPS MAY BE RUINED).
It has also been pointed out (e.g. Finkelhor, 1979), and this would seem a matter of common sense, that those who are abused as children are also at greater risk of being revictimized as they are liable to place themselves in dangerous situations when trying to escape their home environment.
In a desperate attempt to escape emotional pain , those who have experienced significant childhood trauma may attempt to dissociate from their suffering by becoming dependent upon dysfunctional coping techniques such as excessive alcohol intake, gambling or risky, promiscuous sex ; such self-harm may also take on a more direct guide in the form of self-cutting, self-burning etc.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)