Psychological changes expected and experienced by victims who communicate with offenders

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Law Faculty

Abstract

There is evidence that some victims of crime benefit from communication with offenders, at least some of the time, but little is known about how these benefits occur. Many have theorised about the mechanisms by which restorative justice produces outcomes for victims (Braithwaite, 1989; Christie, 1977; Dignan, 2004; Sherman et al., 2005; Tyler, 1989; Zehr, 1990), but few have empirically tested these theories (Bolitho, 2017; Strang et al., 2006). In my PhD thesis, I proposed and began to test a theoretical framework, suggesting that victims expect and experience five main types of psychological change when they communicate with offenders. Qualitative and quantitative data were analysed to determine whether victims expect and experience changes in their perceptions of 1) procedural justice, 2) punishment, 3) prevention, 4) the offender and 5) themselves. I found evidence that each of these five changes is at least sometimes expected and experienced by victims, although further research is required to better understand each one and its relative role in victim satisfaction and wellbeing.

The purpose of this ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship is to make my research findings accessible to a wider audience and to extend my analysis of quantitative data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) using advanced quantitative methods. To this end, I will produce four peer-reviewed journal articles, drawing on a combination of data collected during my doctoral research and advanced quantitative analysis of the most recent CSEW results. I shall also work in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Bates from the National Probation Service to produce a Policy Brief and Practitioner Handbook. I will share reflections on the methodology and findings of the project through a bi-monthly blog, as well as build a network of academic collaborators through an institutional visit.

The benefits of this project are multiple. First, it will enable me to make my doctoral research accessible to a wider audience of researchers, policy makers and practitioners. The four peer-reviewed journal articles will enable me to hone the presentation of my ideas through reviewer feedback, and then publish them in high-impact journals so they can be accessed by individuals and institutions throughout the world. This will make a specific and crucial contribution to the body of knowledge about the psychological impact on victims of communication with offenders. Second, I will enhance my own skills in quantitative data analysis, thereby also contributing to the field of quantitative criminology. I will bring some of the lessons learnt recently in psychology about the need for open, transparent and reproducible research to criminology - and to victimology in particular. Third, the networks I build with academics who have carried out similar research will enable collaboration, sharing of ideas and resources, and will advance the field. Fourth and finally, the importance of this research is primarily for the improvement of interventions for victims of crime. The vulnerable group have often been overlooked, and while this is currently changing, there is a pressing need for advancing our knowledge of victims' justice perspectives and recovery from crime.

Publications

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Description In her doctoral research, Diana proposed and began to test a theoretical framework, suggesting that victims expect and experience five main types of psychological change when they communicate with offenders. Qualitative and quantitative data were analysed to determine whether victims expect and experience changes in their perceptions of 1) procedural justice, 2) punishment, 3) prevention, 4) the offender and 5) themselves. Diana found evidence that each of these five changes is at least sometimes expected and experienced by victims, although further research is required to better understand each one and its relative role in victim satisfaction and wellbeing. The purpose of this ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship was to make the research findings accessible, and to extend analysis of quantitative data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) using advanced quantitative methods. Ultimately, the purpose is to benefit victims who may choose to communicate with offenders, and indirectly to benefit the offenders involved and the wider criminal justice system.
Exploitation Route The framework for understanding the possible benefits for victims has already been used by practitioners to improve practice (www.dianabatchelor.com/challenging-cases) and this has been taken up by other researchers as well. This is a strong foundation for future research and I hope it will enhance the field.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.dianabatchelor.com
 
Description I created a handbook for practitioners dealing with restorative justice cases in which the offender is not fully remorseful, doesn't take full responsibility or is unwilling or partially willing to participate. This has been the subject of several presentations and I have had feedback that it is useful for both practice and research.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Challenging Cases: A guide to helping victims achieve their restorative justice goals with different degrees of offender participation
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to new or Improved professional practice
URL https://www.dianabatchelor.com/challenging-cases
 
Title Pre-registration of a study - basic good practice in many fields but an unusual contribution to research on restorative justice 
Description Pre-registration a study analysing data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales. 
Type Of Material Data handling & control 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Described pre-registration at conference for Crime Survey Users (ONS) and alerted participants to the benefits of open science. 
URL https://osf.io/hr6cm
 
Description Complexities of restorative justice in cases of sexual harm: learning from practice and research in the Thames Valley 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Joint presentation with Andrew Bates (Chartered and Registered Forensic Psychologist, The Probation Service), and Helen Leney (Senior Restorative Justice Practitioner, Thames Valley Restorative Justice Service), about theory, practice and research drawing on their experiences of restorative justice in cases of sexual harm in the Thames Valley.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.minthouseoxford.co.uk/events/2021/9/8/complexities-of-restorative-justice-in-cases-of-se...
 
Description Evidence-based practice in restorative justice with sexual offences: helping victims achieve their goals with different degrees of offender participation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Collaborated with two practitioners to present findings from my PhD and current research. Restorative justice professionals engaged in debate about best practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://restorativejustice.org.uk/civicrm/event/info%3Fid%3D502%26reset%3D1