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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

Ms. Sarah Treves-Kagan, doctoral student at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, is author of an article finding that exposure to childhood violence in rural South Africa is associated with those children, as adults, becoming victims and perpetrators of violence.  The study was published online Feb. 8 in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

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

Ms. Treves-Kagan and team addressed this gap by exploring the relationship between violence in childhood and violence in adulthood with a representative sample in rural South Africa. They measured childhood violence before age 15, experience of non-partner sexual violence in adulthood, and IPV victimization and perpetration in the last 12 months. They found that those who experienced childhood violence were significantly more likely to experience forced sex by a non-partner, compared with those who did not experience childhood violence. They were also 2.5 times more likely to perpetrate and experience IPV.

“An important difference between rural and urban communities is access to support and social services,” said Ms. Treves-Kagan. “This study area is characterized by high unemployment, high rates of poverty and overburdened social support systems. All of these contextual issues influence children’s and adults’ vulnerability to violence.”

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