Reasons for Returning to Abusive Relationships: Effects of Prior Victimization

Document Type

Review Article

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Studies have demonstrated that women with a history of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) are at increased risk of revictimization, but research has not yet examined whether a history of CSA may affect patterns of remaining in or returning to abusive relationships in adulthood. This study examines the impact of a CSA history on decisions to return to abusive relationships in a sample of 104 adult domestic violence survivors. Participants were interviewed about the number of times that they had previously separated from and returned to their abusive partner, the factors that influenced their decision to return (both psychological/internal and environmental/external factors), and their perceived likelihood of returning in the future. As predicted, CSA survivors (n = 34) reported a significantly greater number of past separations than non-CSA survivors (n = 70). CSA survivors were also significantly more likely to report that their decisions to return were influenced by emotional attachment to the batterer. CSA survivors did not perceive themselves to be at greater risk of returning in the future, suggesting that they may be more likely to underestimate their vulnerability to returning to the battering relationship. Clinical implications of the findings are discussed.



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