Repeat violence in Scotland: a qualitative approach

This report presents findings from a qualitative research study which explored peoples’ experiences of repeat, interpersonal violence. The research involved in-depth interviews with people who have lived experience of repeat violence and community stakeholders who support them.

1. Background


Within the official crime groupings in Scotland, interpersonal violence is categorised under 'non-sexual crimes of violence', which includes murder and culpable homicide, assault, robbery, crimes recorded under the Domestic Abuse Act 2018, threats and extortion, and stalking. Non-sexual violence in Scotland has fallen significantly since 2008/09 but remained broadly stable over the last decade (Scottish Government 2023a). The most recent data from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (Scottish Government 2021) suggests that the risks of violent victimisation are highest for men, those living in deprived areas, and those living in Urban locations. Victims of repeated incidences of violence account for most of the non-sexual physical violence experienced, accounting for almost two-thirds (65%) of violent crime in 2019/20. Experiences of partner abuse (including psychological and physical abuse) were highest amongst women, those aged 16 to 24 years, and those living in deprived areas. In 2018/20[3], three in ten respondents (31%) who experienced partner abuse within the 12 months prior to interview had experienced more than one incident; around two-thirds (67%) also experienced at least one incident prior to this period. In response to these patterns, the Scottish Government commissioned qualitative research to better understand repeat violent victimisation (RVV), by exploring the views and experiences of those who are victims.

This report documents the findings of the RVV research study. It provides information relating to the community context and individual characteristics of people with lived experience of repeat violence in Scotland, not all of whom identify as victims. This includes people with convictions and people facing multiple disadvantage. The research explores participants' experiences and understandings of repeat violence and its impact, as well as their experiences of seeking help and support. In developing a qualitative understanding of repeat violence, the report emphasises that such violence must be understood as a dynamic process, rather than a series of discrete events, in which different forms and contexts of violence interact and reinforce one another. The report also illustrates the dynamic and contested character of the categories of 'victim' and 'perpetrator', which overlap and shift across the life course.

The current chapter provides background and context for the study, covering: definitions and policy context; patterns and trends of violence in Scotland; research-based literature on RVV, trauma and harm; and the structure of the report. Subsequent chapters will cover the research design, findings, and recommendations of the study.

Definitions and policy context

The definition and conceptualisation of interpersonal RVV is contested. Interpersonal violence refers to violence between individuals, often subdivided into community violence and violence against women and girls, including domestic abuse. These two forms of interpersonal violence are often studied separately, using divergent theoretical and methodological approaches (Batchelor et al. 2019). Mainstream research on repeat violent victimisation is largely quantitative in orientation, counting recurrent incidences of the same type of violent offence against the same target and identifying risk factors that make some people more prone to victimisation than others. Feminist research on men's violence against women and girls more often draws on qualitative methods to explore experiences of overlapping and intersecting forms of violence, conceptualising repeat physical violence as part of a process of coercive control located within a context of gendered inequality and norms.

The Violence Prevention Framework for Scotland

Scotland's public health approach to tackling violence is set out in the Violence Prevention Framework, informed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) social-ecological model which encourages focus on reducing risk and increasing protective factors at the individual, relationship, community and societal levels (Scottish Government 2023b).

The WHO defines violence as:

The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation. (Krug et al. 2002)

By including the word 'power' in addition to 'physical force' the WHO definition is broader than a conventional understanding of violence as a physical act and includes neglect, alongside all types of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. The WHO have also created a typology of violence which offers a useful way to understand the contexts in which violence occurs and the interactions between types of violence:

  • Self-directed violence refers to violence in which the perpetrator and the victim are the same individual and is subdivided into self-abuse and suicide.
  • Interpersonal violence refers to violence between individuals and is subdivided into family and intimate partner violence and community violence. The former includes child maltreatment; intimate partner violence; and elder abuse. The latter includes youth violence; assault by strangers; violence related to property crimes; and violence in workplaces and other institutions.
  • Collective violence refers to violence committed by larger groups of individuals and can be subdivided into social, political and economic violence.

The current study is focused on (but not limited to) interpersonal violence, specifically non-sexual violence against an individual person.

A public health approach to violence prevention highlights that violence prevention needs to be addressed at multiple levels to reduce the risks that can lead a person to be a victim and/or a perpetrator of violence (Powell et al. 1999). The social-ecological model adopted by public health approaches regards interpersonal violence as the outcome of the complex interplay between individual, relationship, community, and societal factors:

  • Individual: The first level identifies personal factors, such as age, education, income, substance use or history of abuse, that increase the likelihood of becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence.
  • Relationship: The second level examines close relationships that may increase the risk of experiencing violence as a victim or perpetrator. A person's closest social circle of peers, partners and family members influences their behaviour and contributes to their range of experience.
  • Community: The third level explores the settings, such as schools, workplaces, and communities, in which social relationships occur and seeks to identify the characteristics of these settings that are associated with becoming victims or perpetrators of violence.
  • Societal: The fourth level looks at the broad societal factors, such as health, economic, educational and social policies, that help create a climate in which violence is encouraged or inhibited and help to maintain economic or social inequalities between groups in society. These factors include social and cultural norms that support violence as an acceptable way to resolve conflicts.

Risk factors associated with each of these levels are illustrated in Figure 1 (adapted from World Health Organisation n.d.). The overlapping rings of the model are intended to show how factors at one level influence those at another.

Figure 1: The ecological framework (adapted from World Health Organisation n.d.)

A diagram showing four nested rings, summarising individual, relationship, community and societal factors.

In acknowledging the different levels at which risk and protective factors exist, a public health approach suggests that in order to prevent violence, it is necessary to act across multiple levels at the same time. In other words, a sustained reduction in violence is only possible through a shared agenda across sectors and organisations.

Equally Safe: Scotland's strategy to eradicate violence against women

Scotland's approach to preventing violence against women and girls is set out in the joint Scottish Government and COSLA strategy, Equally Safe, which includes a definition of gender-based violence as developed by the former National Group to Address Violence against Women (and based on the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women). It states:

Gender based violence is a function of gender inequality, and an abuse of male power and privilege. It takes the form of actions that result in physical, sexual and psychological harm or suffering to women and children, or affront to their human dignity, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. It is men who predominantly carry out such violence, and women who are predominantly the victims of such violence. By referring to violence as 'gender based' this definition highlights the need to understand violence within the context of women's and girl's subordinate status in society. Such violence cannot be understood … in isolation from the norms, social structure and gender roles within the community, which greatly influence women's vulnerability to violence. (Scottish Government 2018a: 10)

This analysis shares some commonalities with the public health model of violence prevention, identifying violence as an abuse of power that occurs at individual, relationship, community, and societal levels, and which involves a continuum of connected behaviours including physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse. Crucially, however, it emphasises that VAWG is gendered, stemming from unequal power relations between men and women and cultural norms that reinforce aggressive and violent forms of masculinity. Rather than approaching violence as a discrete action, which is exceptional, external and threatening, it recognises the everyday, pervasive nature of VAWG, which means that women and girls make sense of individual actions in relation to a continuum of related experiences across the life course (Kelly 1988; Stanko 1990).

In line with the public health model, Equally Safe focuses on primary prevention as a core objective, challenging the notion that VAWG is inevitable. This involves changing societal attitudes and the structures which produce inequality, which in turn involves making links across different areas of Government policy, including health, education and justice.

Non-sexual violence in Scotland

According to all three key official sources – police recorded crime, the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS), and data on hospital admissions due to assault and assault with a sharp object – there has been a significant reduction in non-sexual violence in Scotland in the years following 2008/09, with broader stability seen more recently. Between 2008/09 and 2019/20, the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) found a 39% drop in the estimated number of violent crimes experienced by adults, including those not reported to the police (down from 317,000 to 194,000) (Scottish Government 2021). Between 2012/13 and 2021/22, NHS Emergency Hospital Admissions due to assault with a sharp object decreased by 40% (from 646 to 399) (Public Health Scotland 2022). The number of non-sexual crimes of violence recorded by the police in Scotland has decreased by 21% since 2008/09. Looking at the latest ten years as a whole, the number of non-sexual crimes of violence has remained broadly stable (increasing by only 1%), from 67,918 in 2013-14 to 68,858 in 2022-23. Between 2021-22 and 2022-23, the number fell by 1%, from 69,286 to 68,870 (Scottish Government 2023a).

Exactly why Scotland has witnessed overall reductions in (officially recorded and estimated) violent crime remains to be established, but this downward trend mirrors developments elsewhere, across the UK and in other high-income countries, and is therefore likely, at least in part, to be related to wider structural and cultural factors (including demographic changes, fluctuating patterns of socio-economic and other forms of inequality, changing tolerance towards violence, changing patterns of alcohol consumption and regulation, shifting drug markets – and so on) (Batchelor et al. 2019). That said, an analysis of police and survey data by Skott and McVie (2019) found that the biggest overall contribution to the reduction in violence in Scotland can be attributed to fewer incidents involving young people using weapons in public places. According to the same analysis, incidents involving intimate partner violence perpetuated in a domestic environment also declined, but not to the same extent.

Research carried out by the Scottish Government, based on analysis of a random sample of police recorded crime at two points, 2008/09 and 2017/18, concluded that the fall in attempted murder and serious assault in Scotland was due to fewer cases in the West of Scotland, especially those involving young men and the use of a weapon (Scottish Government 2019a). The fall in serious assaults across Scotland came from fewer cases with a male victim, with little change in the number of cases with a female victim. The same study found no significant change in the proportion of serious assaults that occurred in a public setting or a private setting between 2008/09 and 2017/18 – with most still occurring in a public setting. A similar analysis of the changing nature of police recorded robbery in Scotland, however, found that reductions in this crime category were due to fewer cases of victims being robbed in public spaces by strangers (Scottish Government 2018b). The reduction in the number of those cases with a male victim was larger than the reduction in cases with a female victim, though this might be expected given that almost three-quarters (71%) of robbery victims in 2008/09 were male.

Patterns of victimisation

Whilst official data suggest that the level of violence experienced by people in Scotland has generally decreased, then stabilised, over the past 15 years, trends over time vary for different groups of people. Relevant findings from the 2019/20 SCJS are:

  • Looking at the victimisation rate,the SCJS estimated that 2.5% of adults were victims of at least one violent crime in 2019/20. Looking at trends over time, the proportion of adults experiencing violent crime dropped from 4.1% in 2008/09 to 2.5% in 2019/20.
  • Young people have seen the greatest reductions in their levels of violent victimisation but still have the highest levels of prevalence. Young people aged 16-24 years remain the age group most likely to self-report violent victimisation (5.4% prevalence, compared with 3.4% for the next highest group, 25 to 44-year-olds), but their victimisation rates have fallen greatly (from 12.0% in 2008/09), whilst prevalence rate for other age groups has remained more stable.
  • While men's rate of violent victimisation has fallen since 2008/09, they remain more likely to experience violent crime (3.1%) compared to women (2.0%). That said, rates of partner abuse, which are answered in a separate self-completion element of the survey, were higher for women (3.7%) than men (2.6%).
  • Prevalence rates in rural and urban areas have also narrowed over the past decade. Since 2008/09, the proportion of those living in urban areas experiencing violence have fallen (from 4.6% to 2.8%), whilst the prevalence rates for those in rural areas have remained more stable (from 2.2% to 1.4%).
  • Deprivation doubles the likelihood of experiencing a violent crime. Adults living in the 15% most deprived areas in Scotland were more than twice as likely to have been victims of violence than people living elsewhere in 2019/20 (5.3% versus 2.1%).
  • Victims of repeated incidences of violence account for the majority of violent crime. In 2019/20, 1.0% of respondents reported RVV (two or more violent crimes) and these repeat victims accounted for almost two-thirds (65%) of all violent crime reported over the period.

These findings show that there are distinct victimisation patterns and experiences that require differentiation. The SCJS pooled sample analysis, which combined responses to nine surveys from 2008/09 to 2019/20, found that there were no differences in victimisation for violent crime (as measured by the SCJS) between ethnic groups and the national average. However, this analysis is limited by the fact that ethnic minorities and those who experience violence both make up very small proportions of the Scottish population, indicating that focused research is needed to examine minority groups' experiences of violence and victimisation.

As McVie and colleagues note, a key factor in the overall crime drop in Scotland has been the substantial decline in one-off victimisations, mainly related to property offending, but also in violent offending. Using latent class analysis of the SCJS sweeps between 1992 and 2014/15, McVie et al. (2020) categorised the surveyed population into four groups:

  • 'Non-victims' were the largest class, 82.3% across this period, who have 'a very low (almost zero) probability of experiencing any type of crime'.
  • 'One-off Property Victims' were the next largest class, making up 12% of the population overall, comprising those who 'had experienced on average just over one incident of crime in the previous year, most commonly a motor vehicle or household crime'.
  • 'Multiple Mixed Victims' represented 5.4% of the population, and 'they tended to experience an average of around two incidents of crime per year, consisting of a mixture of motor vehicle crime, household crime, and assault and threats.
  • 'Frequent Personal Victims' were the final group, representing just 0.3% of the population overall, experiencing 'an average of 3.5 incidents of crime per year, mostly 'assaults and threats, personal theft and robbery'.

While the non-victim group increased over the study period (from 76% to 82%) and the one-off property victim and multiple mixed victim groups decreased (from 17% to 12% and 6% to 5% respectively), the frequent personal victim group remained stubbornly persistent at around 0.5% of the population. Also, levels of victimisation amongst the groups reduced for all groups except frequent personal victims. Examining these findings alongside data from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), McVie et al. (2015) found a significant relationship between area deprivation and violent victimisation at the national level, with frequent personal victims more likely than other groups to be living in areas across Scotland characterised as highly deprived using both health and education measures.

Implications for understanding repeat violent victimisation

International data on violent victimisation consistently show that RVV constitutes a large proportion of all violent offences (Kesteren et al. 2013). Existing quantitative analyses also show that re-victimisation rates vary for different types of violent crime (Hough 1986) and amongst different demographic and social groups – with men, young people, those who are single, those who are unemployed, and those living in deprived areas identified as most at risk of community violence (Buss and Abu 1995; Cooper et al. 2000; Jansson et al. 2007; Mukherjee and Carach 1993; van Reemst et al. 2013). Whilst providing important information on levels and individual-level correlates of RVV, these quantitative analyses do not contribute to our understanding of the dynamics or the consequences of RVV, nor do they consider the interplay of individual, relationship, community and socio-structural factors identified in both the Violence Prevention Framework (Scottish Government 2023) and the Equally Safe strategy (Scottish Government 2018a) as essential components of violence prevention.

While quantitative measures like police recorded crime and survey data provide important insights into patterns and trends of victimisation, there are limits to what such data can tell us about RVV for a number of reasons – some of which are well-rehearsed in the literature on official crime statistics but include others which relate to the specific nature of RVV. It is widely acknowledged, for example, that police official data tend to underestimate the extent of crime, as not all incidents are reported. This is compounded in the case of RVV since most people experiencing violent victimisation do not report this to the police (around 52% in the 2019/20 SCJS) and repeat victims are less inclined to report than other victims (Weisel 2005). Analysis of data from the 2008/09 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey demonstrates a striking overlap between variables predicting non-reporting and violent victimisation risk, suggesting that those who face the highest incidence of violence victimisation are least likely to report such incidences to the police (Fohring 2014). Possible reasons for non-reporting include a combination of shame, fear of reprisals, feelings of self-blame, or because routine forms of violence often become normalised as long-suffering victims-survivors become resigned to a certain amount of abuse, e.g. as an expected consequence of 'difference' (McBride 2016). Of course, the difficulty here is that the invisibility of this group makes them difficult to access and study, as no official record of their RVV exists (Davies 2001), and in some cases they may not consider themselves 'victims' (Fohring 2018a, 2018b).

This invisibility is heightened for specific social groups, including disabled people (Pearson et al. 2022), people who are homeless (Borysik 2019), people with convictions (Jennings et al. 2012), and those with mental health issues (Pettitt et al. 2013) or drug and alcohol dependency (Hammersley et al. 2020; Neale et al. 2005; Stevens et al. 2007). Often these groups do not enjoy positive relations with the police, or they may live in institutions such as prisons, care homes or hospitals which make access to reporting difficult. Crime victimisation surveys further marginalise their experiences because they are based on private residential households (including private and social rented housing) and therefore exclude those living in institutions or communal residences, alongside those living in hostels, temporary accommodation or with no fixed abode, all of whom are particularly vulnerable to violent victimisation (Peelo et al. 1992). One of the most consistent findings in the literature in this area is the overlap between offending and victimisation (Jennings 2016), with people convicted of violent offences more likely to experience violent victimisation, sometimes because of their own offending (Farrall and Maltby 2003). Being a victim of violence is also associated with reconviction (May 1999).

Limitations of official data in assessing the nature and extent of RVV are also linked to the 'snapshot' they provide of a problem which is characterised by an ongoing and complex pattern of behaviour. For example, research by Walby et al. (2015) has highlighted how the practice of 'capping' incidents of repeat victimisation in survey research (intended to allow for consistent monitoring of crime trends) has served to conceal vast amounts of violence against women, which in contrast to violence against men has increased since 2009 in England and Wales. Additional problems associated with crime surveys are that they are time-based, asking individuals about their experiences during the past 12 months, and tend not to provide adequate data on the wider context and impact of such violence (Davies et al. 2017). This means that some victimisations can appear to be one-off, single incidents when they are in fact part of a series of crimes suffered for years (Shaw and Pease 2000). As a range of feminist researchers has demonstrated, framing domestic violence in terms of incidents not only serves to minimise the scale of the problem but also its essential nature – meaning the 'everydayness' of such violence is hidden, minimised and trivialised (Kelly and Westmarland 2016). Qualitative research is necessary to explore these experiences and to situate them within the context of people's everyday lives and routine activities, as well as entrenched social relations of unequal status and power.

Repeat violent victimisation, psychological trauma, and social harm

A recent rapid evidence review of RVV conducted by the Scottish Government (2019b) found that qualitative studies of interpersonal RVV were rare, with most research conducted over 10 years ago. A 2015 study by Graham-Kevan et al. explored the relationship between traumatic experiences, violent crime victimisation and re-victimisation suffered throughout life drawing on qualitative interviews with 54 victims of police reported violent crime in England and Wales. Findings showed that participants reporting a greater number of types of trauma exposure exhibited lower emotional stability, higher trauma symptomology and re-victimisation. Those victims with childhood traumatic exposure reported more trauma symptomology exposure than those without prior exposure. Trauma and symptomology experienced were associated with higher subsequent police recorded victimisations. Qualitative interview data illustrated how different people responded to victimisation in different ways, with participants' comments referring to time-limited and long-lasting impacts including anxiety, depression, sleep problems, intrusive thoughts, and avoidance. Responses also indicated how police and judicial processes can often sustain the effects of trauma via 'secondary victimisation', pointing to the need for trauma-informed services.

Drawing on the same sample of victims of violent crime, Bryce et al. (2016) explored experiences of engagement with victim services after victimisation. They found that the vast majority of interview participants did not engage with victim services offered when reporting their experiences to the police. Lack of engagement was explained in relation to a number of factors: the inability of services to provide assistance, perceived ability to cope alone, and the availability of existing social support networks. The role of trust in facilitating engagement with support services was also highlighted as significant, alongside the timing of contact, with effective points identified as directly after the incident, as well as before and during court attendance. The research also suggested that re-victimisation was frequently undetected and unsupported by general victim support services, increasing the risk of experiencing complex and long-term symptoms of trauma.

This emphasis on trauma reflects increasing recognition of this concept as central to understanding the experience of criminal victimisation (Spalek 2017). The psychological literature on trauma, especially on complex post-traumatic stress disorder (complex PTSD), provides important insights into the experience of RVV. Judith Herman was the first to conceptualise complex PTSD in her 1992 book, Trauma and Recovery, where she described the complexity of exposure to prolonged and repeated trauma, which often occurs in a state of physical or psychological captivity, in which the perpetrator has power and control over the victim. Herman argued that the nature of this relationship puts particular victims at increased risk of a complex traumatic response, particularly those exposed to childhood abuse, sexual victimisation and domestic violence – though she also makes reference to state violence and institutional violence, including prison violence. The many symptoms of complex PTSD fall into three main categories:

  • Hyperarousal: a perpetual state of high alert defined by a high startle response, intense responses of anger and irritability brought on with minimal provocation, and disrupted sleep.
  • Intrusion: the reliving of events with the same vividness and emotional force as if they were happening in the present, caused by a seemingly insignificant reminder.
  • Constriction: avoidance, attempts to withdraw from others, and a narrowing of perception.

Recovery from trauma unfolds in a progressive, identifiable series of stages, based on the empowerment of the victim/survivor and the creation of new meanings and new connections:

1. Establishing safety through self-care, recognising and stabilising symptoms, and securing a safe living situation.

2. Remembrance and mourning, involving exploration and integration of traumatic memory, with careful attention to issues of timing and pacing.

3. Reconnection, including reconciliation with self and the active pursuit of mutual, non-exploitative relationships with others.

A range of research has highlighted the impact of trauma on memory and recall (Clifford et al. 2020). For example, after trauma a person may get triggered and experience overwhelmingly painful emotions, resulting in seemingly unprovoked emotional outbursts or dissociative amnesia. Trauma can also shut down episodic memory and fragment the sequencing of events, meaning victim/survivors often have difficulty remembering the exact details of particular incidents. These impacts have important implications for research on RVV, suggesting in-depth exploration of traumatic experience can only commence when people are safe, stable and supported. Open-ended questions which offer victim/survivors control over where to start and what to recount are preferred over requests for a chronological account, exact timeline, or other specific facts or circumstances, helping victim/survivors to feel relaxed and supported – and therefore more able to retrieve meaningful information about traumatic experiences.

Whilst the trauma literature provides important insights into the individual experience and impact of RVV, it rarely considers the wider ecological contexts of victims, limiting our understanding of recovery to that which can be provided by a medical or psychologically trained professional. By contrast, approaches to understanding violence rooted in social justice and social harm draw our attention to the disproportionate impacts on marginalised groups, linked to structural and cultural factors, and the value of participatory and community-led responses to tackling violence and inequality.

Billingham and Irwin-Rodgers' recent book, Against Youth Violence (2022) adopts a social harm perspective. Whilst the focus is on violence between young people and not repeat violence, it provides a useful analysis of the social harms that predictably generate interpersonal violence, i.e., poverty and inequality; declining welfare support; harms within the educational system (e.g. school exclusions); unemployment and marginal work; inadequate housing; and punitive state responses to violence. These social harms are important not only in themselves but because of the role they play in undermining young people's sense of mattering, both in the sense of feeling that they are socially significant (being an important feature of the world as recognised by others) and feeling that they have agency (being a feature of the world and making a difference to it). As an illustration of this, Billingham and Irwin-Rodgers refer to the adverse impact of police use of stop and search on young people's sense of well-being, on community relations, and on public safety (for evidence on the impact of stop and search on young people in Scotland see Murray 2014). This points to the role of policy decisions and institutional practices in fostering a sense of alienation, humiliation and anti-authority sentiment in marginalised communities, which in turn has an impact on violent offending (as well as police reporting and access to victim support).

A recent peer study into RVV amongst people with recent experience of sleeping rough in London illustrates this last point (Burysik 2019). Commissioned by Revolving Doors, a national charity working to improve services for people with lived experience of criminalisation, the research sought to understand the extent of the victimisation faced by people with recent histories of sleeping rough, alongside barriers faced in reporting crime, progressing through the criminal justice process, and accessing support. This participatory piece of research was conducted by three peer researchers with lived experience of sleeping rough, who completed semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 26 participants (21 men and 5 women). The majority of participants faced multiple disadvantage, including mental ill-health, learning disabilities and/or learning difficulties, and drug addiction, as well as histories of domestic violence, imprisonment, and rough sleeping. The research found that participants had commonly experienced severe RVV often on a daily basis, including being held at gun or knife point, physical threats and assault, sexual harassment and abuse. Those victimised on the street continued to be victimised in supported accommodation but were reluctant to approach staff to report the crime, even when they had life-threatening injuries, partly due to fears about being labelled 'a grass' but also because previous experiences with state services and institutions made them fear they would not be taken seriously. According to the report,

they remain silent in response to crime and passive to injustice because they have internalised the disadvantages they have experienced. They do not see themselves as part of an equal society; they don't feel they deserve the same rights and privileges. (Burysik 2019: 14)

The report concluded by recommending peer support as means to help people access assistance since those with lived experience were not seen as part of the 'establishment'. The research team also advocated for the involvement of 'user voice' in service delivery and policy development.


This chapter has outlined the background, context and research methods for the study, describing the public health approach to violence adopted in Scotland, which views violence as complex and multifaceted, shaped by individual, relationship, community, and societal factors. Official crime statistics were presented to demonstrate that the risks of violent victimisation in Scotland are highest for men (excluding domestic violence), those living in deprived areas, and those living in Urban locations. Victims of repeated incidences of violence account for most of the non-sexual physical violence reported, which raises important questions for the development of violence prevention policy and the delivery of services. Relevant literature suggests that victims of RVV experience profound and long-lasting psychosocial impacts, some of which contribute to further violent victimisation, but that they tend not to report such victimisation due to distrust of authorities linked to internalised disadvantage.

The following chapter, Chapter 2, provides an overview of the research design to demonstrate how the study seeks to address the aim of developing the evidence base about RVV in Scotland. Subsequent chapters will introduce the findings of the study, structured as follows:

  • Chapter 3 presents key contextual features of our case areas, as described by stakeholders and lived experience participants.
  • Chapter 4 focuses on themes related to trauma and harm before presenting a typology of lived experience of repeat violence, alongside four vignettes which represent archetypal life history narratives of our participants.
  • Chapter 5 explores understandings and experiences of repeat violence, focusing on young people, the night-time economy, neighbourhood disputes, the drug economy, sexual violence, and domestic violence.
  • Chapter 6 presents participants' experiences of police and criminal justice.
  • Chapter 7 examines the impact of repeat violence and considers participants' preference for informal and community-based support.

The concluding chapter, Chapter 8, summarises the key findings and offers related policy recommendations.



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