Childhood Poverty and Trauma as Predictors of Future Victimization

Traumatic events in childhood can lead to a lifetime of psychological problems. People who have experienced an interpersonal trauma are much more likely to be re-victimized later in life than those who have no experience of trauma. “Women with a childhood abuse history are around 1.4 to 3.7 times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adulthood, and a majority (around 59%) of women with either childhood sexual assaults (CSA) or adult assaults have experienced both,” said Bridget Klest of the University of Oregon, author of a recent study that examined the effects of childhood trauma and poverty on future victimization. She added that multiple traumatic experiences add to the likelihood of future victimization and the development of post-traumatic stress symptoms. She said, “Preventing future victimization among individuals who have already experienced trauma would likely reduce this risk. Trauma-focused intervention, aimed at reducing posttraumatic symptoms including dissociation, might serve as a strategy for such prevention, given the links between symptoms and re-victimization.”

Klest reviewed data from over 400 individuals who were part of the Eugene-Springfield Community Sample (ESCS) in 1993. The participants ranged in age from 18-83 and were from various socio-economic statuses. Using several measures, including the Curious Experiences Survey and the Brief Betrayal Trauma Survey, the participants reported traumatic events, dissociative behaviors and poverty levels.
The study revealed that women experienced more betrayal trauma in childhood and adulthood than men, and the childhood experienced forecasted future victimization in adulthood. “Putting this in context, on average for every 2–3 types of childhood victimization a person reported, they experienced one additional type of victimization as an adult,” said Klest. She also noticed that participants who experienced the most traumas were from the poorest communities. She said, “It seems that efforts targeting people who were victimized in childhood who are currently living in poorer communities might have potential for reducing re-victimization.”

Klest, B. (2011, July 18). Childhood Trauma, Poverty, and Adult Victimization. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024468

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • lydia


    October 3rd, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Heartbreaking to know that not only are some people having to face such hardship as children but then they have to turn around and have even more thrown at them as adults. And the horrible thing is that these are good people who just have not been given the skills in life that they need to break this horrible cycle of victimization and abuse.

  • perry


    October 3rd, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    I would think someone who has been through an assault would be in a better situation to avoid it again in the future…but this report and its observations go in the exact opposite position…maybe it has to do with something in the victim’s mind that makes the victim even more vulnerable to another such event in the future.

  • Mark


    October 4th, 2011 at 4:21 AM

    While I find this informative and helpful, it also worries me that findings like this are only setting these communities up for more hurt.

    What if they read this and then think that they have no control over what is going to happen to them in the future? We can’t have them giving up so easily.

    We have to fight this trend. Life does not have to be this way, and should not have to be this way.

  • Lynn Renaldi-Hause

    Lynn Renaldi-Hause

    October 6th, 2011 at 5:19 PM

    The information outlined in this article is accurate and a common characteristic among child and adult victims. Also evident is how the cycle of abuse/neglect is perpetuated through perpetrators. These people have a knack for identifying and attacking victims. After witnessing 20 years of abuse and neglect, and observing the children grow to become adults, it leaves an unsettled feeling in the gut knowing that the cycle can only be interrupted via straight-forward intervention.

    Furthermore, a generation of informative technology fully contributes to victim and perpetrator awareness. It facilitates and welcomes information that can be helpful toward rescuing the victim and their family.

  • Stef


    April 27th, 2012 at 10:45 PM

    @Lynn I totally agree with your comment, I’m the victim of multiple assaults and violations. I recently spoke to my t about this. His response was that a sexual predator can read certain cues.and once they find the weak one, like a lion they move in for the kill. He says it’s like they have radar or something.
    I’m still working on accepting that fact that I am not a bad girl. I am not evil. I do not make me sick And what happened to me was inhumane and deplorable.. My daughter, whom I gave up for adoption as a very young teen was not just my daughter, she was my sister. Her grandfather,her dad. Experiences like that show. The eyes are the window to the soul. A practiced predator reads your body language and they know.

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