The Critical Need to Understand and Address Polyvictimization

Polyvictimization refers to the experience of multiple types of victimization such as sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, bullying, and exposure to family violence versus multiple episodes of the same kind of victimization.

Understanding and addressing polyvictimization is critical because childhood victimization is widespread and the consequences are severe. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 4 children will experience some type of trauma or victimization before they reach the age of 16. And there is a growing collection of research that shows that the impact of polyvictimization is more powerful than even multiple events of a single type of victimization.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study found that exposure to adverse events in childhood (including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, family violence, parental substance abuse, parental mental illness, or an absent parent) are strong predictors of later-life health problems and early mortality. Such victimization is responsible for a variety of physical and mental health-related consequences affecting children well into their adult years, including cognitive delays, impaired development, poor academic achievement, mental illness, substance abuse, diseases such as cancer, and more.

Current efforts to help victimized and traumatized children are fragmented and typically focus on one type of trauma; for example, interventions and prevention efforts focusing on bullying or abuse. However, research suggests it is now time for these fragmented fields, services, and programs to incorporate an integrated, holistic approach to child victimization.

By focusing on polyvictimization, teachers, counselors, child advocates, and other youth-serving professionals can provide better, more effective interventions and prevention practices.




The Monique Burr Foundation for Children is a nonprofit organization founded in 1997 to protect children from all types of maltreatment and exploitation by providing evidence-based/evidence-informed comprehensive prevention education based on polyvictimization research. MBF offers primary prevention programs that educate and empower students (K-12th grade) and all relevant adults with information and strategies to prevent bullying, cyberbullying, the four types of child abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, neglect), relationship abuse, sexual assault, digital dangers, exploitation, and child trafficking.