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Factors Contributing to Ongoing Intimate Partner Abuse: Childhood Betrayal Trauma and Dependence on One’s Perpetrator

Rebecca L. Babcock and Anne P. DePrince

Journal of Interpersonal Violence

May 2013, vol. 28, no. 7, 1385-1402



Identifying the factors that contribute to ongoing intimate partner abuse (IPA) among survivors of childhood abuse is essential to developing appropriate interventions. The current study assessed prospectively whether childhood betrayal trauma (BT) history and women's potential dependence on their perpetrators (unemployment, number of children below 13) increased women's risk of ongoing victimization, while controlling for trauma-related symptoms (PTSD, depression, dissociation). Women survivors of IPA (N = 190) from an urban U.S. city were recruited based on an IPA incident reported to the police. At the initial interview, women reported on childhood betrayal trauma experiences, their employment status, number of children, and current trauma-related symptoms. Women returned 6 months later and reported on ongoing events of victimization (physical, sexual, psychological aggression, and injury) in their relationships with the initial IPA perpetrator. Results showed that higher levels of childhood BT were associated with ongoing victimization over the course of 6 months. Women's unemployment status predicted greater physical and sexual aggression and injuries. Higher levels of depression and lower levels of PTSD symptoms were also associated with increases in physical, sexual, and psychological aggression, and bodily injury. The findings have important implications for interventions by demonstrating the need to process women's betrayal trauma experiences, target depression symptoms, and increase women's economic opportunities to prevent further victimization.




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