Read-React-Respond: An integrative model for understanding sexual revictimization
Psychology of Violence
Females who have been sexually abused in childhood are at significantly higher risk to be revictimized in adolescence and adulthood. Revictimization is associated with a raft of adverse mental and physical health outcomes, and so understanding why victims of childhood sexual abuse are more vulnerable to later sexual assaults has critical implications for their development. It has been hypothesized that sexual abuse in childhood results in reduced ability to recognize and/or respond effectively to sexual threats later in life, but studies examining these ideas have produced inconsistent results. Further, this research has failed to incorporate the powerful physiological reaction elicited by threats of imminent harm to the self, which has the potential to disrupt cognitive processing and coping behavior. In the present paper, we propose a model of revictimization that integrates contemporary theory and research on the biological stress response with cognitive, affective, and behavioral factors believed to be involved in adaptive responding to sexual threats. The model provides a conceptual guide for understanding why females with a history of sexual abuse are more vulnerable to revictimization and offers ideas for improving prevention programs designed to strengthen females’ ability to resist sexual coercion.