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Helpful or harmful: The effects of criminal justice system contact on victims of sexual and physical violence

Alternative title: Hjelpsomt eller skadelig: Effektene av kontakt med rettssystemet på ofre for seksuell og fysisk vold

Awarded: NOK 8.0 mill.

Project Number:

344994

Project Period:

2024 - 2028

Funding received from:

Location:

The impact of physical and sexual violence on victims and their families can be devastating and persistent, with long-run effects on physical and mental health, educational attainment, employment, and welfare uptake. While the criminal justice system (CJS) is held to play an important part in a victim’s recovery process, there is limited empirical research on how it helps and/or hinders recovery along these different dimensions. We will address this knowledge gap using a combination of quantitative and qualitative research. The quantitative analyses will analyze rich longitudinal administrative register data with full population coverage using state-of-the-art methods for causal inference in combination with predictive machine learning techniques. The qualitative analyses will complement the quantitative analyses by providing context to a complex field of cases and victims and by identifying potential intervening mechanisms between CJS exposure and outcomes. Together, these supplementary approaches will yield a more robust, representative, and nuanced understanding of how contact with the CJS influences victim outcomes across multiple important life domains in both the short and long run. The project is led by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, with the Frisch Centre and the University of Oslo as partners. The project has an advisory board with members from the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS), ETH Zurich, the University of Oslo, the Frisch Centre, the University of Bergen, and OsloMet. In addition, the project will be carried out in dialogue with a user group consisting of persons and organizations who are in contact with victims of violence and abuse.

Victims of sexual and physical violence is one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. The criminal justice system (CJS) serves a critical role in providing assistance to victims of these crimes, enabling them to seek justice, protection, compensation, and closure. Yet, knowledge about whether the CJS helps or harms these victims is extremely limited. This project aims to remedy this by providing a comprehensive understanding of the role of the CJS in supporting and providing restoration for victims of physical and sexual violence in Norway. We will utilize a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods across disciplines to study outcomes across multiple important life domains, both in the short and long run. For the quantitative analyses we will use exceptionally rich longitudinal administrative register data with full population coverage combined with state-of-the-art quasi-experimental methods for credible causal inference and predictive machine learning techniques. The qualitative analysis will be based on narrative interviews with victims, providing context and insights into how interactions with the CJS shape life stories. The results will yield a robust and nuanced understanding of how the different stages of the CJS impacts victims. This is particularly urgent given how the current emphasis on legal responses to assaults has caused a sense of obligation and civic duty for especially women to report incidents, while the chances of legal closure remain small. In addition to advancing the methods for quasi-experimental designs and machine learning within quantitative criminology, this project will provide valuable insights for policymakers, stakeholders, and practitioners working in the field of victim support and rehabilitation and may inform current legal reform efforts aimed at addressing these issues.

Funding scheme:

FRIPRO-Fri prosjektstøtte