New research being conducted at the University of Leicester aims to reduce criminal activity by female offenders by determining how domestic violence is a factor in women turning to crime.
PhD research student Joanna Roberts, from the University's Department of Criminology, is researching the connection between domestic violence and how it can affect female criminality.
Joanna won the Leicester-Mercury sponsored media prize at the University's Festival of Postgraduate Research in June 2013 for a presentation of her work.
The research will break new ground in a field that has been dominated by studies in the US and which has largely concentrated on the relationship in terms of violent crimes/murder of abuse perpetrators by abuse victims.
Joanna's research will build on findings of UK policy-based literature including figures released by Women's Aid which estimate that between 50%-80% of women in prison have experienced domestic and/or sexual abuse. Such figures are compounded by the recent Ministry of Justice publication Strategic Objectives for Females Offenders which indicated that the proportion of female prisoners that have reported experiencing abuse in their lifetime is double that of male prisoners.
Joanna said: "This research will take these findings a step further by examining how domestic abuse may directly or indirectly affect or influence women's involvement in crime.
"In doing so, the study could potentially inform future policy by highlighting the specialist needs of women who have been the victims of domestic abuse.
"What I hope is that the investigation will reveal how the types of abuse that women are subject to may relate to their offences. For example -- is a woman more likely to turn to fraud or theft when her partner controls and denies her access to money?
"By defining how domestic abuse affects the likelihood of women committing crimes, this study could help to prioritise initiatives that address domestic violence, safeguarding women and reducing offending."
Data for the study will be drawn primarily from interviews with female offenders who have been victims of domestic abuse and a smaller number of probation service practitioners. As such, the findings will give a voice to those women whose abuse influenced or led to their offenses and will also provide an overview of women in the criminal justice system from the people who work with them.
Joanna's study is undertaken under the guidance of Dr Sarah Hodgkinson, Senior Lecturer in Criminology.
Dr Hodgkinson said: "Joanna's research is the first of its kind to explore, in depth, the relationship between domestic abuse and offending in female offenders in the UK.
"Joanna's research is a timely and significant piece of research giving these women the opportunity to share their experiences in a way that reflects the complexities of the relationship between their suffered abuse and their criminal history. Her research will greatly enhance our understanding of these women, the choices and dilemmas they face, and how they can be best supported, so her research will have an important impact on future policy and practice in the field."
Prior to her PhD research, Joanna spent over five years working as a practitioner in the field of domestic violence.
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