Repeat violent victimisation: evidence review

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

4. Conclusion

To conclude, this review has provided an assessment of the existing evidence on RVV, in Scotland and elsewhere. The RER examined 43 studies of varying quality, which have provided an insight into the extent, prevalence and nature of RVV. In particular, with regard to the research questions stated in the Introduction, this RER has demonstrated the following: 

  • Crime survey data indicate that RVV represents a significant proportion of all violent victimisation, both in Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally. 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.  
  • RVV has been demonstrated for a range of violent crimes, including assault, threats, robbery and theft. Domestic violence is also an important component of RVV
  • The evidence suggests that victims of RVV tend to have certain characteristics. In particular, they are often young, male (except in the case of domestic violence), and from deprived socioeconomic backgrounds. 
  • There are two key explanations for why RVV occurs in the literature, known as state dependence and population heterogeneity. The evidence suggests that both contribute to RVV
  • In the wider literature, it has been demonstrated that repeat victimisation often 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.  However, there is less evidence to suggest that it is applicable to RVV than other crime types. 
  • There is evidence to suggest that criminal behaviour is an important risk factor for experiencing RVV
  • The evidence regarding the nature of RVV suggests that a violence reduction strategy focused on reducing the extent of repeats should concentrate 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.

These findings should be considered in the context of the shortcomings of the evidence base. 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. 

Further, this review has also highlighted some key gaps in the evidence on RVV, in particular:

  • Although data from the SCJS provides a useful estimate of the proportion of violent crimes which are likely to be repeats, the small number of repeat victims in annual SCJS samples makes detailed analysis of their experiences challenging.
  • There is a lack of Scottish-specific evidence regarding the extent and nature of RVV, the characteristics of repeat victims of violence, the circumstances and context around RVV, and the extent to which state dependence and population heterogeneity factors contribute. 
  • The extent to which offending contributes to RVV risk is unclear. 
  • It is also unclear whether the time course of repeat victimisation is applicable to all types of violent crime. 
  • The literature on the prevention of repeat victimisation focuses on reducing repeats of property crime, such as burglary. There is less evidence indicating ‘what works’ for reducing repeated violence. 

Recommendations for Further Research 

Despite these gaps, there is evidence to suggest that a substantial portion of the remaining violence in Scotland may be explained by the fact that certain individuals experience multiple incidences of violence, which contributes disproportionately to the overall violent crime count. It is recommended that further research seeks to improve our understanding of RVV by addressing these gaps in the literature. In particular, further research should explore: 

  • The types of violent crime which are repeated in Scotland. 
  • The characteristics of repeat victims of violence in Scotland. 
  • The circumstances and context around RVV in Scotland. 
  • The extent to which state dependence and population heterogeneity factors contribute to RVV in Scotland.
  • The extent to which offending contributes to RVV risk, and how offenders might be supported with their experiences of violent victimisation. 
  • Victim’s experiences of seeking help and support with RVV
  • Whether a ‘time course’ of repeat victimisation applies to different types of violent crime.

Addressing these gaps will help to ensure that the violence prevention and reduction interventions being delivered in Scotland remain relevant and informed by evidence.   



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