Sexual assault and domestic violence in the context of co-occurrence and re-victimisation: State of knowledge paper

Wednesday, 28th October 2015

This state of knowledge paper examines the intersection between sexual assault and domestic violence, focusing on two forms of concurrent victimisation: re-victimisation (when a woman, over her lifetime, experiences both sexual assault and domestic violence) and intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV). The paper looks at the complexity of these experiences to identify the common impacts of domestic violence and sexual assault, and to critically examine how re-victimisation and IPSV can shift the ways in which we think about, and provide services for, women affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. 

Key findings include:

  • The lack of longitudinal studies of re-victimisation reduces our ability to make conclusions about causal factors or the nature of victimisation over time.
  • Much of the available research on IPSV and re-victimisation is unable to be extrapolated to findings about the general population, as it focuses on non-representative groups such women who were attending psychology clinics.
  • Research indicates that women who experience child sexual abuse (CSA) are more likely to experience IPSV than women who have not experienced CSA. Similarly, women who have experienced CSA are more likely to experience DV (not limited to sexual violence) in their adult relationships.
  • IPSV generally occurs in the context of other forms of violence and was often part of a larger pattern of coercive control in a relationship. IPSV should be considered a tactic of DV, and not a separate phenomenon.
  • Heteronormative beliefs and conservative gender norms were associated with acceptance and experience of sexual coercion for both men and women.
  • IPSV victims are less likely to seek help than victims of other forms of DV.
  • Drug and alcohol use may be a precursor, consequence or risk factor associated with IPSV and re-victimisation. Similarly, emotional distress and psychiatric conditions may increase a person’s vulnerability to violence, place them in high risk contexts and/or may be a consequence of violence.
  • A wide range of communities, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and women with a disability, have discrete patterns of victimisation, including distinct behaviours and norms that may increase the risk of victimisation.
  • Normative understandings of what constitutes “real rape” affect how victims, perpetrators and bystanders interpret experiences of sexual assault. These norms particularly affect interpretations of IPSV incidents.
  • Both IPSV and re-victimisation had significant physical and mental health consequences.

Download Landscapes Issue Thirteen PDF (5.12 MB)

This work is part of the ANROWS Landscapes series. ANROWS Landscapes (State of knowledge papers) are medium length papers that scope current knowledge on an issue related to violence against women and their children. Papers will draw on empirical research, including research produced under ANROWS's research program, and/or practice knowledge.

This paper addresses work covered in ANROWS research project 1.6 "State of knowledge on the co-occurrence, intersection and differences between forms of, and responses to, violence against women and their children".