University of Leicester
2015robertsjmphd.pdf (2.75 MB)

‘It was do or die’ – How a woman’s experience of domestic abuse can influence her involvement in crime: A qualitative investigation of the experiences of community-based female offenders.

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posted on 2016-01-11, 16:46 authored by Joanna Marie Roberts
Female offenders are far more likely to have experienced domestic abuse than the general female population. Yet despite wide acknowledgement of a relationship between domestic abuse and female offending there is a lack of research seeking to explore how this relationship operates. Therefore the central premise of this research was to examine ways in which a woman’s experience of domestic abuse may influence her involvement in crime. By focusing upon how women cope with their experiences of domestic abuse this research explored how women’s actions and reactions, in response to the abuse they experience, affected their offending. The study was approached from a combined feminist and symbolic interactionist perspective, drawing upon interviews with 25 community-based female offenders who had experienced domestic abuse, placing the women’s own voices and perspectives at the very centre of the discourse. A supplementary sample of 15 probation service practitioners were also interviewed to draw upon their experiences of supervising female offenders. The research findings reveal how women’s situated, subjective and individualised experiences within, and responses to, their abusive relationships can directly or indirectly influence their offending. Consequently, this research demonstrates that women’s criminal offences can occur in a much wider context than has previously been understood when examining the relationship between domestic abuse and women’s offending. Rather than women offending against, or with, an abuse perpetrator, or being forced or coerced by an abuse perpetrator to commit crime, this research illustrates the broader and longitudinal effects of domestic abuse. Significantly, women’s offences occur without their abuser present, after the relationship has ended, or even years after the abuse has ceased, yet their actions can still be attributed to their experience of domestic abuse. The findings have significant implications for criminal justice policy and practice including magistrates’ training, completion of pre-sentence reports and sentence compliance.



Hodgkinson, Sarah; Barnes, Rebecca

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of Criminology

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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