Narratives of Transformation: Violent Crime Victims’ Experiences of Help and Helping

By Mark Cohan, Madeline Louise Lovell and Jacqueline Helfgott.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper presents some preliminary results from a pilot qualitative study of meaning-making in the aftermath of violent victimization. In-depth life story interviews were collected from ten victims of violent crime to explore their subjective narratives of trauma, healing, and personal transformation. Particular attention was paid to actions, events, or people that respondents deemed as pivotal in their experience of victimization and its aftermath, as well as elements seen as positive or negative to their experience of healing. The current examination focuses on respondents’ complex and double-edged experiences of help. Three core themes are explored: being helped by helping others, bad help, and getting stuck beyond help. The first showcases the diverse paths into and benefits received from victims’ helping work spurred by their experiences. The second highlights how victims can feel their recovery stunted by the well-meaning actions of others, and the third emphasizes a number of dynamics that victims see as blocking the reception of help. Collectively, they show how the provision of help to victims is inextricable from their biographies and illustrate the need for further investigation of victim-centered helping strategies. Limitations of the current study and avenues for future research are discussed.

Keywords: Transformation, Victimization, Healing, Qualitative Research

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 8, pp.13-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 618.131KB).

Dr. Mark Cohan

Visiting Professor, Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work, Seattle University, Seattle, WA, USA

Dr. Cohan is a sociologist specializing in social pyschology. He studies identity formation and has written previously on fatherhood, gender and social activism, and sexuality.

Dr. Madeline Louise Lovell

Associate Professor, Department of Anthrolpology, Sociology, and Social Work, Seattle University, Seattle, WA, USA

Dr. Lovell teaches in sociology and social work. The current study evolved out of a 3 year restorative justice study of seminars attended by offenders, crime victims and community members to explore the effects of crime and whether offenders could make amends. SHe has also done research in child welfare, child abuse, and disaster relief.

Dr. Jacqueline Helfgott

Associate Professor and Chair, Criminal Justice, Seattle University, Seattle, WA, USA

Dr. Helfgott conducts research in restorative justice, corrections, gender and crime, and public perceptions of crime. She directs the Department of Criminal Justice which houses 300 undergrauate and 45 graduate students.


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