Australian Institute of Criminology

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The experience of crime can have far-reaching, and at times devastating, impacts on victims and survivors. This can extend beyond the direct physical and psychological effects of the crime, potentially affecting a person’s social, occupational, educational and economic functioning. It is therefore important that researchers and policymakers attempt to understand and address the nature and impact of victimisation to ensure that the full spectrum of needs and experiences of victims/survivors are not overlooked.

Primary barriers to undertaking research with victims/survivors of crime, particularly for those of violent crimes, are accessibility to these individuals, and the need to ensure that their involvement in research does not cause them further harm. Victims/survivors can be a particularly vulnerable group and being traumatised a seconnd time as a result of reliving their experience can be a very real and serious consequence of participating in research studies. A victim/survivor’s vulnerability can also be compounded by factors including their age, gender, cultural and linguistic background, or mental health. To protect these individuals, the Australian Government has strict guidelines that dictate how and when research can be conducted within this population. This is in addition to the ethical requirements set by the National Health and Medical Research Council when conducting research with human participants. Such guidelines help to ensure that research conducted involving victims/survivors of crime is ethical and reduces the risks to participants. However, they can also make it difficult for researchers to conduct the research needed to better understand the nature and impact of victimisation in Australia.

In 2013, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) and Victim Services NSW agreed to develop a database on victimisation experiences, using de-identified information collected as part of compensation claims lodged with Victim Services NSW. This process led to the development of the Database of Victimisation Experiences (DoVE). The primary aim of the DoVE is to allow researchers to more fully explore the nature and impact of violent victimisation by analysing de-identified psychological evaluations of victims/survivors of crime. The material recorded in the DoVE contains rich, qualitative information about the victim/survivor’s functioning prior to and after the act of violence. This resource allows researchers the opportunity to gauge the nature, and to what extent an experience, of violent crime can impact a victim/survivor, and to an extent, their families and friends.

Adam Tomison
Director, Australian Institute of Criminology