Abstract: The Criminalized Survivor: Examining Systems, Policies and Practices That Reproduce Harm (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

The Criminalized Survivor: Examining Systems, Policies and Practices That Reproduce Harm

Friday, January 13, 2023
Paradise Valley, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Kathryn Bocanegra, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: Crime victims are at the center of public safety and criminal justice system agendas. Preventing further victimization and providing critical support for those harmed is of utmost concern for criminal legal practitioners, lawmakers, and the general public. Despite this emphasis, it is unclear the extent to which policy reform is informed by a comprehensive review of crime victim experiences. It has become increasingly evident that not all crime victims experience equal protection under existing policies or equitable access to victim supports. The study analyzes the translation and implementation of state policies intended to better serve and protect victims of violence in Illinois. The purpose for this study is to better understand how victimization is constructed by Federal and State policies intended to support victims and the translation and implementation of these policies by state agencies, law enforcement, and community stakeholders in two prominent Chicago neighborhoods.

Methods: The study’s methodology involves two related components for research inquiry. These include the following: 1) a critical legal review of existing legislation created to serve victims, and 2) a comparative case study of two socio-demographically different communities that have varied resources, histories, and levels of violence and victimization. In these communities both semi-structured in-depth interviews and focus groups occurred with survivors of violence, victim service providers, and community stakeholders such as law enforcement, funeral homes, and religious institutions. All interviews and focus groups (N=86 and N=12, respectively) use a constructivist grounded theory approach to learning about participants’ understanding and experiences with community violence, victims’ services and protections, facilitators and barriers to addressing harm, and the policies that guide, help, or hamper these processes and affect the experiences of survivors of violence and their families.

Results: Analysis reflects that poor, African American and Latinx victims in urban neighborhoods who have been impacted by gun violence experience little protection or support under the existing policy framework in support of victims in Illinois. State policies are consistently interpreted by both formal stakeholders (law enforcement, social service providers) and informal stakeholders (funeral homes, religious institutions) in ways that bar access to victim services and supports for survivors of community violence, particularly those with previous involvement in the criminal legal system.

Conclusion and Implications: The study highlights the gap between needs of victims and accessing services by examining how victims and community stakeholders interpret state legislation and resources intended to provide aid. Implications are discussed related to the contextual, ecological, and historical dynamics surrounding acts of violence, and how both social service providers and victim advocates must move beyond individualistic interpretations of violent crime that provide limited explanatory frameworks for differential access to crime victim services among victims of violence.