Repeat violent victimisation: evidence review

A rapid review of national and international evidence on the extent, prevalence and nature of repeat violent victimisation.

Executive Summary


Non-sexual violence in Scotland has fallen significantly over the last decade, but has remained broadly stable in more recent years. The Scottish Government are now examining the profile of violence in Scotland in order to drive further reductions. It appears that much of the violent crime in Scotland is concentrated on particular individuals, including those experiencing ‘repeat violent victimisation’ (RVV). As such, the purpose of this review is to enhance our understanding of RVV by providing a structured and rigorous search and assessment of the evidence. 


To conduct this review, a systematic process of search and assessment was followed, involving an evidence search, application of inclusion and exclusion criteria, a quality assessment and synthesis of the evidence. 43 studies were identified, including academic articles, government reports, surveys, evaluations, evidence reviews and books, based in the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and the US.

Many of these sources used robust and high quality methods. For example, 20 used nationally representative survey data. There were also at least 6 studies identified which employed qualitative methods. However, the evidence base also suffered from several key shortcomings. In particular, there is a lack of qualitative research on RVV, most of the research comes from outwith Scotland and many identified studies are now dated. 

Key Findings 

  • Overall, evidence from national and international crime surveys shows that violent crime is disproportionately suffered by repeat victims. Although there are limitations as to what crime survey data can reveal about RVV, complementary measures such as police recorded crime and qualitative research produce similar findings.  
  • The evidence base provides some indication of the types of violence which are repeated, with national and international crime surveys showing that RVV is common for crimes such as assault, threats, robbery and theft. 
  • In addition, while not the focus of the present review, there is evidence to suggest that domestic violence is an important component of RVV
  • The evidence shows that repeat victims of violence tend to have particular characteristics. Most commonly, it has been demonstrated that repeat victims are often young, male (except in the case of domestic violence), and from deprived socioeconomic backgrounds.
  • There are two main explanations for RVV in the literature. One perspective views repeat victimisation as the result of prior victimisation. This means that being victimised once can change individuals or their circumstances in ways that increase the risk of being victimised again. The second perspective proposes that the factors that led to the initial victimisation are the same factors that lead to subsequent victimisation(s). The evidence indicates that both perspectives contribute to RVV
  • There is evidence to suggest that RVV follows a ‘time course’: that is, a relatively short high-risk period following the initial incident, followed by a rapid decline and levelling off of risk. This has implications for when measures to prevent RVV should be implemented. However, it is unclear from the literature whether this pattern applies to all forms of RVV
  • Violent offending may be an important risk factor for RVV.
  • The evidence regarding the nature of RVV suggests that a violence reduction strategy focused on decreasing repeats should concentrate on enhancing the safety and protection of victims after the first violent offence. However, violent crime is yet to have been systematically addressed using such a strategy.


This review has examined 43 studies on RVV. The evidence provided a range of insights into the extent, prevalence and nature of RVV, but must be considered in light of some limitations. In particular, there is a lack of qualitative research on RVV, most research comes from outwith Scotland and many studies were conducted over ten years ago. It is recommended that further research seeks to improve our understanding of RVV by addressing these gaps in the evidence. This will help to ensure that the violence prevention and reduction interventions being delivered in Scotland remain relevant and evidence-based.



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