Abstract: Polyvictimization Risk Among North Korean Refugee Women in South Korea (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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740P Polyvictimization Risk Among North Korean Refugee Women in South Korea

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Boyoung Nam, PhD, Assistant Professor, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)
Jae Y. Kim, PhD, Professor, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)
Yujin Lee, MSW, Graduate Student, Yonsei University Graduate School of Social Welfare
BACKGROUNDS: North Korean Refugee Women (NKRW) are at a higher risk for polyvictimization in Sexual Violence (SV) and Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). However, little has been known about the possible link between the two types of violence. This study aims to: 1) examine the prevalence and sociodemographic characteristics of SV and IPV among NKRW; and 2) examine associations between exposures to sexual violence in a different setting (i.e., North Korea, intermediate countries, and South Korea) and IPV perpetrated by their current romantic/sexual partner.

METHODS: A sample of 140 NKRW was analyzed for this study. NKRW’s exposures to SV were assessed with five binary items ranging from sexual assault to rape. Respondents reported their exposure to SV with reference to three different settings, North Korea, intermediate countries and South Korea. Past year victimization of IPV was assessed using the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS2, Straus et al., 1996), which generated five subdimensions of IPV: psychological, physical, economic, and sexual violence. A set of logistic regression analyses was conducted to examine the link between SV and polyvictimization in various types of IPV. Age, household income, educational attainment, and gender role attitude were adjusted in logistic regression analyses.

RESULTS: More than half of NKRW in this study were exposed to at least one type of violence, and about 14% were victims of both SV and IPV. NKRW with history of SV reported a significantly higher rate of IPV (past 12 months, 46.5%) when compared to those without a history of SV (21.9%). Sexual violence victimization rate was highest in the intermediate countries (24.8%), followed by North Korea (18.7%) and South Korea (17.7%). Results from logistic regression analyses predicting various types of IPV from SV showed that NKRW with SV are significantly more likely to become victims of IPV. More specifically, SV victimization in the intermediate countries significantly increased the odds of being physically victimized by their male partners in South Korea (OR = 3.59, p = .047). In addition, SV victimization in South Korea significantly increased the odds of being sexually abused by their romantic or sexual partner (OR = 10.75, p = .002). SV victimization was not significantly associated with psychological violence or economic violence.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings of this study showed that victims of human trafficking and sexual assault on their journey to South Korea are at greater risk for physical IPV from their partner in South Korea. Society strongly influenced by patriarchal belief and Confucianism may stigmatize and shame victims of SV rather than protecting them from another type of violence. Male partners of NKRW with a history of SV may shame and physically sanction NKRW for breaching honor. Although causal mechanisms between SV and IPV cannot be determined, findings from this study suggest that NKRW with a history of SV may experience violent interactions with their current partners. Therefore, we need to screen potential risk for physical and sexual IPV among NKRW with prior exposure to SV and develop programs engaging in safety planning with NKRW experiencing SV and IPV.