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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Rural South African Children Exposed to Violence Are More Likely to be Victims, Perpetrators of Violence as Adults

In rural South Africa, children who experience violence as a child are more likely not only to experience sexual violence and interpersonal violence (IPV) as an adult but also to perpetrate IPV in their adult lives.

Ms. Sarah Treves-Kagan, doctoral candidate in health behavior at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, is author of a study on the topic, published online Feb. 8 in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Violence against children, IPV and nonpartner sexual violence are critical health issues in South Africa — and globally. While previous studies suggest that experiencing violence in childhood puts people at risk to perpetrate or experience more violence, including sexual violence, in adulthood, most of those studies have been conducted in high-resourced countries, or in urban areas of low- and middle-income countries, or within specific populations, such as pregnant women.

Ms. Treves-Kagan and her team addressed this gap by exploring the relationship between violence in childhood and violence in adulthood with a representative sample in rural South Africa. Using data from a population-based survey, the team measured childhood violence before age 15, experience of nonpartner sexual violence in adulthood, and IPV victimization and perpetration in the last 12 months. They found that men and women who experienced childhood violence (combined physical and/or sexual) were significantly more likely to experience forced sex by a nonpartner, compared with those who did not experience childhood violence. They were also 2.5 times more likely to perpetrate and experience IPV.

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