Chair: Stephanie Fohring

Stigma and Constructing the Victim

Building: D
Room: 01


Author: White Rob, University of Tasmania

Title: Advocates & Authorities: Who should speak for and about Nature?
Nature is defined in its broadest sense to include ecosystems, non-human animals and plants. This discussion explores social constructions of expertise, tradition, intimate and emotional knowledge, experience, science, values and ideology in regards the natural world, in which humans are a significant and integral part. It asks the questions 'how do we know what we know', and 'whose knowledge is or should be valued and/or privileged', both in reference to speaking on behalf of nature and having expert knowledge about nature. Such matters are essential considerations in claims pertaining to eco-justice, courtroom and legal processes, and determinations of environmental, ecological and species harm (and victimisation).
Keywords: Constructions of victimisation, green criminology, harm, victim status
Author: Fohring Stephanie, Napier University

Title: Understanding Stigma: Characterising Crime Victims
Research suggests there is a strong motivation, both social and psychological, to avoid being labelled as a victim. However, aside from standard dictionary definitions, there is little insight into exactly what constitutes a victim of crime, or the main characteristics of such a person that make the concept or label so aversive. The literature assumes a certain negative stereotype, but with little empirical evidence to support this. As such, this project is the first to establish exactly what characteristics constitute a victim in the public’s mind and thereby begin to explain the stigma attached to victimisation. This has been done via a Prototype analysis; a useful approach for measuring hypothetical concepts such as ‘disorder’, or in this case ‘victim’, in a convincing and valid way. Data collected via an online survey was factor analysed to determine key dimensions of the victim construct. The impact of victimisation and demographic variables were also tested for. Results are presented and discussed in relation to key victimological concepts such as the ideal victim and stigma, particularly as they impact on crime reporting.
Keywords: Victim status, characteristics, stigma, ideal victim
Author: Asquith Linda, Leeds Beckett University

Title: Life After Miscarriages of Justice: Stigma and Identity
Those who experience miscarriages of justice are neglected, both by the state and wider society, and their stories are rarely heard outside the focus of special interest groups or campaigns. This paper examines the post-exoneration narratives of individuals who have experienced miscarriages of justice. By focusing on the life afterwards, this paper explores how individuals reconstruct their identities following exoneration and the challenges that they face. In particular, this paper focuses on the lack of support provided for those who have experienced a miscarriage of justice and the stigma that being an exoneree produces, noting the frustration and anger that exonerees experience post-release from prison. The narratives of exonerees show a marked similarity in terms of the emotions expressed (in particular, anger and frustration) and this research examines the ways these emotions can both aid and hinder recovery and identity reconstruction. By focusing on the life afterwards, this paper draws attention to experiences rarely considered and argues for a more effective support mechanism to be put into place for those who are wrongfully convicted once they are released from prison.
Keywords: Miscarriages of Justice, Narrative, Stigma
Author: O’Leary Nicola, University of Hull

Title: A very public private tragedy: Stigma, victimisation and community identity
Recent and high-profile crime events in the UK - as diverse as the case of Henry Vincent, a burglar fatally stabbed by the resident homeowner in south east London and the poisoning of former a Russian secret agent and his daughter in Salisbury - have fostered much public and political discussion. Foregrounded by the media, and in their very different ways, these cases have illuminated contested issues for victimology around victim/offender identity, memorialization and meaning and impact on the community of public grief. Despite a wealth of research regarding the impact of crime on indirect victims, surprisingly little is known about the impact of ‘high-profile’ crime on a community and their identity. Considering these recent events, this paper utilizes a unique set of interviews with members of another such community and explores the victimising experience, the impact of the media and social reaction and the processes by which identity and victimhood can be formed in the wake of such a high-profile crime. This paper situates these issues within cultural victimology. More explicitly, it lies where cultural victimology foregrounds exposure to suffering, how it is presented and how we make sense of it (McGarry and Walklate, 2015). Empirical findings highlight the ways in which private tragedy becomes public property and how some community members are stigmatised, manage or are sometimes resilient to, the impact of wider societal reaction. Consideration of a ‘sense of place’, whether physical or symbolic, has implications for collective victim identity and speaks to wider victimological debates around stigma, the ownership of grief and the contested nature of community (spaces).
Keywords: victims; community; identity; stigma; grief
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