Characteristics of Disclosing Childhood Victimization and Risk of Revictimization in Young Adulthood

Michelle P. Desir, Canan Karatekin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Experiencing victimization in childhood increases risk of adulthood revictimization, and it is important to understand what may contribute to such risk. One factor that may help to explain the increased risk of future victimization is disclosure. However, the literature is mixed as to whether disclosure of prior victimization is helpful for protecting against adverse outcomes, and much of the research on disclosure focuses solely on sexual victimization. The current study examines the relationship between various forms of childhood and adulthood victimization and whether disclosure moderates this relationship. In addition, this study investigates whether characteristics of disclosure are associated with revictimization risk. The sample included 275 undergraduates (M age = 19.52 years; 75.6% female, 77.5% non-Hispanic White or Caucasian). Participants reported on previous history of various forms of childhood and adulthood victimization. They also reported whether or not they had disclosed childhood victimization, and, if so, characteristics related to disclosure. Results revealed that number of childhood victimization experiences significantly predicted number of adulthood victimization experiences, and nearly every type of childhood victimization significantly increased risk of experiencing each type of adulthood victimization. Disclosure did not moderate the relationship between childhood and adulthood victimization. Participants who disclosed were more likely to disclose crime and peer/sibling victimization and disclose to parents or friends. Positive reactions to disclosure were more common than negative reactions; however, 75% of disclosers received at least one negative reaction. Finally, revictimized individuals received more overall negative reactions than nonrevictimized individuals. They also received more reactions characterized by the person they disclosed to trying to take control of their decisions or treating them differently. Results highlight the importance of examining relationships between various forms of victimization, considering how characteristics of disclosure relate to risk of revictimization, and the importance of educating potential support networks about appropriate responses to disclosure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • child abuse
  • domestic violence
  • reporting/disclosure
  • revictimization
  • sexual assault
  • violence exposure

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