Purposing and repurposing harms: the victim impact statement and sexual assault 


Author(s)Miller, Karen-Lee
Title Purposing and repurposing harms: the victim impact statement and sexual assault
Source Qualitative Health Research, published online 11 October 2013, pp 1-14
Date 2013
Document type Journal article
Coverage Canada
Summary This article examines victim impact statements (VISs) written by women who had been sexually assaulted. For the study, qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with victims, victims' services workers, feminist advocates and prosecutors. The author was also provided with copies of VISs, trial transcripts and relevant newspaper clippings. It was found that the workers and advocates saw the VISs as providing a novel means of harms claiming, and the VIS could be used by the victim to describe crime impact as well as to achieve recognition by others of her status as victim. For many victims expressing harms was insufficient and they repurposed harm descriptions by strategically disclosing information to obtain particular outcomes from others. For example one victim wanted her VIS to be used to protect others from harm. Another key finding from the study was harm peddling, where the victim believed that if the VIS was accepted in court it became objective evidence that could be used for other purposes such as obtaining damages.
Keywords VIS; victim impact statement; sexual assault; coping; repairing harm

Victim impact statements