Repeat violent victimisation: evidence review

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

1. Introduction 

Violence in Scotland

Over the past decade, there has been a significant reduction in non-sexual violent crime in Scotland. This trend is reflected in all established sources. For example, the 2017-18 National Statistics on Recorded Crime in Scotland show that despite a 1% increase in the last year, the number of non-sexual crimes of violence remains lower than all years between 1975 and 2012-13 (Scottish Government, 2018). Similarly, the latest Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) has demonstrated that violent crime has fallen by 46% between 2008-09 and 2017-18 (Scottish Government, 2019). Hospital admissions due to assault have also decreased by 55% between 2008/09 and 2017/18 (ISD, 2019).

Although significant progress has been made, preventing violence remains a key public health priority in Scotland. However, if a sustained and long-term reduction in violent crime is to be supported, there is a need to understand why the violence remaining in Scotland occurs. This will ensure that the violence prevention and reduction interventions being delivered remain relevant and evidence-based. 

One potential explanation for the violence remaining in Scotland is that certain individuals experience multiple incidences of violence, which contributes disproportionately to the overall violent crime count. This is known as repeat violent victimisation (RVV), and has received growing attention in the literature in recent years (e.g. Pease, 1998; Farrell, 2005; Graham-Kevan et al., 2015; Ignatans and Pease, 2015). Various authors, in Scotland, the UK and internationally, have argued that while violent crime has declined in absolute terms, the proportion of violence accounted for by those most victimised has in fact increased (AQMeN, 2018; Ignatans and Pease, 2015; Pease and Ignatans, 2016). 

The purpose of this review, therefore, is to enhance our understanding of RVV by providing a structured and rigorous search and assessment of the existing evidence base. It will seek to gain an overview of the density and quality of evidence in this area, and support the programme of work on non-sexual violence being carried out in the Scottish Government’s Justice Analytical Services (JAS) division.

Research Questions 

The research questions for the Rapid Evidence Review (RER) are as follows:

  • What is the extent and prevalence of RVV?
  • What types of violent crime are repeated?
  • Who are the victims of RVV?
  • Why does RVV occur? 
  • When does RVV occur?
  • Do victims of RVV also perpetrate violence? 
  • How can RVV be prevented? 

Report Structure

The RER will begin by providing an overview of the key terms and definitions used in the report. It will then describe the methodological approach taken to conduct the review, including the search procedures, inclusion and exclusion criteria, quality assessment and strength of the evidence. The findings from the evidence are then synthesised with reference to the research questions. The RER concludes with a discussion of the key findings, the strength of evidence on which they are based, the gaps in evidence identified, and suggestions for areas where further research would be beneficial. 

Terms and Definitions 

Repeat victimisation is defined as the experience of being a victim of the same type of offence more than once (Farrell and Sousa, 2001). The target of repeat victimisation can be an individual, a group of people, a property, a vehicle or another unit of analysis. Repeat victimisation is a subset of multiple victimisation, which is defined as the experience of being a victim of a number of different offences, regardless of the type (Office for National Statistics (ONS), 2013). Other terms used in the literature include re-victimisation, multi-victimisation, polyvictimisation and recidivist victimisation.

RVV, therefore, is the recurrence of violent crime against the same target. The target for RVV is the individual person, which allows for use of the more specific term ‘repeat victim’. Although ‘violence’ encompasses a wide range of offences, this review will focus specifically on non-sexual crimes of violence, including assault and robbery. 



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