[research] Victim Blaming Others: Rape Myth Acceptance and the Just World Belief

This is an interesting study published in the journal of Feminist Criminology recently. It’s the about the extent to which rape myths are accepted (i.e. rape is normalised and excused) if individuals subscribe to a “just world belief” whereby people “get what they deserve”. It’s a grim outlook, particularly in relation to rape, and it is a disgusting way to excuse rape (or, worse, argue that someone deserved to be raped) but as the study indicates, it is prevalent (though not necessarily as clear-cut as it first appears). I have the full PDF, by the way, if anyone wants it.

Feminist Criminology, July 2013 issue.

Abstract: Rape myth acceptance which are false beliefs regarding the incidence of sexual assault, and are more prevalent among males, may influence how victims are treated. Acceptance of the just world belief (JWB), which argues that individuals believe that people get what they deserve, may be a predictor of rape myth acceptance. The present study examined the relationship among gender, belief in a just world, and rape myth acceptance. Findings suggest that while gender remained a significant predictor of rape myth acceptance the relationship between just world belief and rape myth acceptance was more complicated than hypothesized.

From findings: These findings may be understood through several possible explanations. First, gender, especially in the context of rape myth acceptance, remains a significant predictor because of society’s insistence on the normalization of sexual violence due to patriarchal attitudes toward the construction of gender (Schwartz & DeKeseredy, 1997). Second, it is possible that victim blaming, even within the context of rape myths, needs to be separated out as victim blaming-self versus victim blaming-other. Third, it is also possible that JWB is a unidimensional construct and JWB-other is unnecessary. [Link to PDF.]

The bottom line is that saying there are differences in male and female brains is just not true. There is pretty compelling evidence that any differences are tiny and are the result of environment not biology,” said Prof Rippon.

“You can’t pick up a brain and say ‘that’s a girls brain, or that’s a boys brain’ in the same way you can with the skeleton. They look the same.”

Prof Rippon points to earlier studies that showed the brains of London black cab drivers physically changed after they had acquired The Knowledge – an encyclopaedic recall of the capital’s streets.

She believes differences in male and female brains are due to similar cultural stimuli. A women’s brain may therefore become ‘wired’ for multi-tasking simply because society expects that of her and so she uses that part of her brain more often. The brain adapts in the same way as a muscle gets larger with extra use.

“What often isn’t picked up on is how plastic and permeable the brain is. It is changing throughout out lifetime.

“The world is full of stereotypical attitudes and unconscious bias. It is full of the drip, drip, drip of the gendered environment.”

Prof Rippon believes that gender differences appear early in western societies and are based on traditional stereotypes of how boys and girls should behave and which toys they should play with.

- Men and Women Do Not Have Different Brains, Claims Neuroscientist (via thegendercritic, rhrealitycheck)

Violence against women: an EU-wide survey: main results report

This FRA survey is the first of its kind on violence against women across the 28 Member States of the European Union (EU). It is based on interviews with 42,000 women across the EU, who were asked about their experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence, including incidents of intimate partner violence (‘domestic violence’).

The survey also included questions on stalking, sexual harassment, and the role played by new technologies in women’s experiences of abuse. In addition, it asked about their experiences of violence in childhood. Based on the detailed findings, FRA suggests courses of action in different areas that are touched by violence against women and go beyond the narrow confines of criminal law, ranging from employment and health to the medium of new technologies.

Main findings from the report (link to pdf).

Extent of the problem

  • An estimated 13 million women in the EU have experienced physical violence in the course of 12 months before the survey interviews.
  • An estimated 3.7 million women in the EU have experienced sexual violence in the course of 12 months before the survey interviews.

Overall prevalence of physical and sexual violence

  • One in three women (33 %) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since she was 15 years old.
  • Some 8 % of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in the 12 months before the survey interview.
  • Out of all women who have a (current or previous) partner, 22 % have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15.

Characteristics of physical violence

  • Some 31 % of women have experienced one or more acts of physical violence since the age of 15. While women are most likely to indicate that they were pushed or shoved, excluding this form of violence has only a limited effect on the overall prevalence of physical violence, bringing it down from 31 % to 25 %. This result reflects the fact that many women who say they have been pushed or shoved have also experienced other forms of physical violence.

Characteristics of sexual violence

  • In total, 11 % of women have experienced some form of sexual violence since they were 15 years old,  either by a partner or some other person.
  • One in 20 women (5 %) has been raped since the age of 15.
  • Of those women who indicate they have been victims of sexual violence by a non-partner, almost one in 10 women indicates that more than one perpetrator was involved in the incident when describing the details of the most serious incident of sexual violence they have experienced.

Details of intimate partner violence

  • One third of victims (34 %) of physical violence by a previous partner experienced four or more different forms of physical violence.
  • The most common forms of physical violence involve pushing or shoving, slapping or grabbing, or pulling a woman’s hair.
  • Whereas in most cases violence by a previous partner occurred during the relationship, one in six women (16 %) who has been victimised by a previous partner experienced violence after the relationship had broken up.
  • Of those women who experienced violence by a previous partner and were pregnant during this relationship, 42 % experienced violence by this previous partner while pregnant. In comparison, 20 % experienced violence by their current partner while pregnant.

Details of non-partner violence

  • One in five women (22%) has experienced physical violence by someone other than their partner since the age of 15.

Violence against women: an EU-wide survey: main results report

New study finds that drinking doesn’t cause sexual aggression, predators target drunk women

A new study backs up what feminists have been saying for approximately ever about the relationship between drinking and rape. Namely, that alcohol–despite its impressive powers–neither magically turns well-meaning kids into sexual aggressors nor makes everything so topsy turvy that nobody has any clue what consent is and if they have it or gave it. Instead, sexual predators deliberately target intoxicated victims. 

NPR reports:

When researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of Washington observed young people’s behavior in bars, they found that the man’s aggressiveness didn’t match his level of intoxication. There was no relationship. Instead, men targeted women who were intoxicated. The researchers hired and trained 140 young adults to go into bars in the Toronto area and note every incident of aggression they saw. They found that 25 percent of all incidents involved sexual aggression. And 90 percent of the victims of sexual aggression were women being harassed by men.


New study finds that drinking doesn’t cause sexual aggression, predators target drunk women

Every single decent man I know is hugely offended by the idea that he doesn’t have enough self-control over his sexual urges and genitalia to avoid seriously traumatizing another human being. The idea that men are ruled by their impulses and cannot exercise critical thought to control themselves is hugely insulting to men. And the myth is not just misandrist, it’s also used to prop up misogyny, by saying that men cannot be truly blamed for their sexual violence anymore than one can be blamed for blinking. As portrayed under this viewpoint, both are natural phenomena that are simply out of human control. One just happens to result in violence, usually against women.

- Australian Survey Shows Dangerous Attitudes Towards Violence Against Women (via amenenema)

Study: Viewing An Ultrasound Does Not Dissuade Women From Abortion

Important to know this in continued fight against the war on women. On RHrealitycheck:

With various states passing mandatory ultrasounds and crisis pregnancy centers focusing more of their efforts on getting ultrasound machines, it’s important to ask: Do ultrasounds even work the way that anti-choicers claim? The whole justification for mandatory ultrasounds is the claim that women who get them will be so overcome with excitement at seeing the embryo in their uterus that they will leap up and say, “Why didn’t anyone tell me that I was going to have a baby? Well, I’m definitely not getting that abortion now!” Indeed, so sure are anti-choicers that the shock of discovering that there’s an embryo in there will jolt women out of the abortion decision that one anti-choice activist said 90 percent of women seeking abortions change their mind upon seeing the ultrasound.

Pro-choice experts immediately knew that claim was a lie, because, unlike most people out there, we know that abortion providers often already make viewing the ultrasound available to patients, and they aren’t reporting 90 percent of their abortions being cancelled. But, as Katy Waldman at Slate reports, researchers decided to go ahead and do a thorough, scientific examination of the question. Published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the study looked at a whopping 15,575 women coming in for abortion. All received an ultrasound and were offered a chance to look at it. Forty-two percent did. [Rest.]

Why should we focus on women in STEM?

It starts at A-levels, with fewer girls doing a-level in STEM subjects despite out performing boys at GCSE level. Fewer still continue to study STEM subjects at undergraduate level, and fewer at post-graduate. This trend continues through career progression, for example in academia, after PhD, fewer women become lecturers, then fewer become senior lecturers; on and on. Women disappear. Despite clear interest and aptitude in STEM subjects they vanish. But we don’t know why. This is the women in STEM problem.

From aroomofourown:

Cross-posted with permission from The Psychology Supercomputer:

 on Psychology, Science Communication, Women in Science and feminist issues. I also tweet as 


So, the question posed as the title for this post prompted a twitter discussion between myself and a friend the other day. The discuss got a bit heated, which some could see as a bad thing, personally I see it as a consequence of debate between passionate people. What came out of that debate though, is that I’ve thought about this question a lot, I assumed that everyone understood why this is an important issue and why we should be focussing on it now, but it seems that assumption May be wrong. I’ve been thinking about how best to explain it, and so I approached my friend to see if he’d be ok with me writing a post on this subject. I want to make clear, this is in no way a continuation of some imagined disagreement. He’s happy for me to write this, and I’m looking forward to coffee with him soon. There’s no personal vendetta here.

Right, so that’s the disclaimer out of the way. :)

Before I explain the why. I suppose I’d better explain the what. What is the women in STEM issue. For those that don’t know STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. And currently we have a problem in STEM subjects and careers. That problem is the low uptake of women. This is not just a recruitment problem, in fact you could argue it’s not a recruitment problem at all. Since girls tend to like and do well in STEM subjects through high school. The women in STEM problem is being referred to as the “leaky pipeline” – at each further stage of education and career progression the proportion of women to men drops. It starts at A-levels, with fewer girls doing a-level in STEM subjects despite out performing boys at GCSE level. Fewer still continue to study STEM subjects at undergraduate level, and fewer at post-graduate. This trend continues through career progression, for example in academia, after PhD, fewer women become lecturers, then fewer become senior lecturers; on and on. Women disappear. Despite clear interest and aptitude in STEM subjects they vanish. But we don’t know why. This is the women in STEM problem.

So, the why? The question raised in the discussion was why are we (as scientists, engineers etc. those involved in public engagement, the media, institutions and the government) placing such an emphasis on this problem? [Rest.]


Be Wary of Studies That Claim Men and Women’s Brains Are Wired Differently

A heads-up, just in case any of you were still inclined to take these studies at face value. On newrepublic:

The Wall Street Journal reported this week on a spate of controversial new studies suggesting behavioral differences between men and women are due to “hard-wiring” in the brain. In the most comprehensive study, published this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, biomedical scientists at the University of Pennsylvania compared brain images of nearly 1,000 men and women aged 8 to 22 and found that the connective tissues between the two hemispheres developed differently in men and women, particularly during adolescence—with significant behavioral consequences.

Women are mostly better connected left-to-right and right-to-left across the two brain hemispheres…Men are better connected within each hemisphere and from back-to-front. That suggests women might be better wired for multitasking and analytical thought, which require coordination of activity in both hemispheres. Men, in turn, may be better wired for more-focused tasks that require attention to one thing a time. But the researchers cautioned such conclusions are speculative.

The study has, unsurprisingly, attracted plenty of criticism—some of it informed, some of it less so. We shouldn’t ignore research whose implications we don’t like—but that seems to be the premise of one camp of critics, who call the study “too depressing to blog about” or claim that the researchers “threw a wet blanket on gender equality.” More convincing rebuttals come from scientists like Christian Jarrett, who argues that the researchers exaggerated the statistical significance of the differences between the male and female brains, and Cordelia Fine, author of Delusions of Gender, who suggests the differences the researchers identified might have more to do with differences in brain size than function. [Read the rest.]


Study Finds White Americans Believe They Experience More Racism Than African Americans

I shall let these findings speak for themselves but I think that the first thing that the respondents need to do is a crash-course on the nature of -ism and -obia and the power dynamics therein and think critically about how majority groups cannot, ever be on the receiving end of the racism (or sexism etc.) experienced by minority groups.

There’s a saying that “the new racism is to deny that racism exists.” If that is the case, it may explain a study conducted by researchers from Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. Their findings claim that self-described white Americans believe they have “replaced blacks” as the primary victims of racial discrimination in contemporary America.

The authors say that their study highlights how the expectations of a “post-racial” society, predicted or imagined in the wake of Barack Obama’s presidency, has far from been achieved.

The study finds that while both Caucasian and African Americans agree that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years, whites believe that anti-white racism has increased. Moreover, the study finds that the majority of Caucasians believe that anti-white racism is a “bigger problem” than what African Americans face. [Rest: politicalblindspot]

Teachers’ concerns at child sexualisation (research)

An indisputable trend now, I would say:

New research has revealed that many teachers are becoming increasingly concerned about the sexualisation of children, with a growing number of their pupils displaying behaviour that they view as inappropriate.

A team at Alder Hey Children’s Foundation Trust in Liverpool interviewed 22 teachers from primary, secondary and special schools. They found that a majority reported an increase in the frequency and intensity of sexualised conduct, including lewd language and pressuring behaviour.

Social networks and the wider media were seen as contributing to this, with children’s ideas of right and wrong being changed by cultural and technological influences.

The study also suggested that not enough is being done to help teachers in fighting this.

Presenting the findings at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology in York, lead author Dr Frank McGuire said: “Teachers want to help, but despite examples of good practice, they report that a lack of training and guidance [limits] their ability to meet the needs of pupils.” [Rest.]

New study shows surprising trends on how people are lured into sex trafficking

From alternet:

Human trafficking is a serious problem in the United States that is complex and frequently misunderstood. The sensationalist trafficking narrative commonly depicted in the media and by activists has been fraught with exaggerated data and themes, which has often detracted from potential remedies.

A new  report released Wednesday by the Polaris Project helps to humanize the issue by providing a stark look into human trafficking trends in the United States, revealing that modern-day slavery is more prevalent in everyday life than most people realize. The study reveals that 9,298 cases of human trafficking have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), a 24-hour national hotline call center servicing the United States for the last five years.


The report unearths some interesting statistics with regard to pimp-controlled sex trafficking situations. Of the 5,932 cases of sex trafficking, 42 percent were in a pimp-controlled situation, with over 40 percent of victims minors or under 18 years of age. Recruitment occurred mostly socially through a friend (32 percent of cases),with homeless shelters, rehab facilities and foster homes the next most common places for recruitment. The most common methods pimps used to recruit victims was to show romantic interest by acting as a boyfriend or girlfriend or intimate partner (51 percent of cases) or posing as a benefactor and offering necessities such as food (17 percent). While the narrative of abduction is popular in the media, forced abductions only accounted for a small percent of documented trafficking situations.  [Rest.]


Children learn sexism at school – so that's where we should begin to fight it

On theguardian:

High-profile cases in Rochdale and recent reports into gangs suggest that the sort of girls who are harrassed and abused are weak and friendless, girls whose chaotic homes lives leave them vulnerable. Yet, while law-abiding parents are reading these stories as if they are missives from Mars, harassment and sexism has become an everyday reality for their daughters.

What is new and most worrying about today’s report from the biggest girls’ youth organisation in the country, Girlguiding UK, is how prevalent sexism still is among children. While it is still fair to say that those at the margins of society are suffering the most egregious injustices – girls dragged into gangs and made to feel that rape is “normal”, refugees sold for sex to pay for their fare – here is a report that is difficult to explain away as marginal. Nearly 1,300 girls, some as young as seven, took part in the survey, and come from every part of the country and each social class.

Nearly three-quarters of the girls aged 13 and over admitted to suffering sexual harassment; 75% of girls aged 11-21 say sexism affects their confidence and future aspirations. Even more shocking, perhaps, is the fact that much of the harassment – from sexual jokes or taunts, to unwanted sexual attention, touching or images that made them uncomfortable – happens at school; the last place in the world many parents, sick with fear over the new dangers of the internet or the increased sexualisation of music videos, would look. [Rest.]


Victims of sexual coercion are often blind to the crime

From commentisfree:

We have known for some time that the number of convictions for rape and sexual assault are only the tip of the iceberg. Now, thanks to a survey of more than 15,000 women and men across Britain, we have a clearer idea of the true scale of the problem. In Britain one woman in 10 and one man in 70 have experienced sex against their will since they turned 13. More than half of them have never told a soul.

For those who support victims of sexual violence, these findings – from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, published on Tuesday – will be a bleak confirmation of what they already suspected. For the rest of us, they are sobering statistics that indicate for the first time just how prevalent sexual coercion is among ordinary people living ordinary lives.

The public debate about sexual violence invariably alights on police handling of cases and on prosecution and conviction rates. Much progress has been made in recent times, althoughBaroness Stern’s independent reviewof rape and the justice system concluded that implementation of best practice was patchy.

But tackling non-consensual sex through the police and courts alone can never be enough. We must think of sexual coercion as a public health issue too, as something not only to be prosecuted, but also to be prevented. To do that, we must first reach a shared interpretation of the meaning of sexual coercion so that victims can properly understand what has happened to them, and we can all work harder to stop it from happening to others. [Rest.]



I am determined to blog properly more often and here is as good a place to start as any. A report – It’s Wrong But You Get Used To It – on sexual violence and attitudes to sex has been compiled by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. Sue Berelowitz, the deputy children’s commissioner, discussed the report with John Humphrys on Radio 4 this morning. Some headline findings (handily compiled by the Guardian) are:

- Girls as young as 11 are being systematically groomed, exploited and raped in the worst gang-affected areas of the UK, with the peer-on-peer violence going undetected, unreported and ignored.
- In some areas the level of sexual violence and the types of violence inflicted are comparable to how sexual violence is used in war-torn territories.
- Of the 188 young people and 76 professionals questioned, 65% shared examples of young women being coerced into sexual activity; as one 18-year-old put it: “Once they’ve implemented that fear into them it’s easy to get what you want.”
- Half of respondents shared examples of girls having sex in return for status or protection, while 41% identified examples of rape and 34% of gang rape.

The findings speak for themselves (to most sentient beings) so I am not going to discuss them; rather it’s the report’s coverage on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that I am finding almost as troubling at the moment.

While Berelowitz discussed the report, Humphrys asked a very worrying question. I paraphrase: are you sure that it is really rape? Are you sure that it’s not just young people going out and drinking too much and having consensual sex?

Berelowitz reiterated (because the first time she made the point clearly wasn’t enough) that there is considerable evidence that young girls are being raped – repeatedly and systematically – in parts of the UK. Let’s unpick what Humprys was implying with his question. First, you can tell when it is real rape because a victim fights back, is probably being attacked by a stranger, and will probably show physical signs of rape. In the absence of some/ all of the above, it’s not real rape, right? Wrong. Second, it can’t be real rape when either alleged victims or alleged perpetrators are drunk or high because, in such cases, there was probably just confusion around consent. Right? Wrong. Third, if a victim knows her rapist(s), and she was drunk/ high and didn’t resist (per se) then she was probably consenting by default and/ or asking for it anyway. Right? Wrong. Fourth, if the victim was drunk/ high, she probably consented at the time and her accusations of rape after the fact are more likely buyer’s remorse. Right? WRONG.

It’s not easy to fit four rape myths into one question but Humphrys managed it. Victim-blaming, which forms the basis of almost all rape myths, is never acceptable and never appropriate. Indeed, if one were to be scientific about it, it’s never logical either. Yet it is without doubt the most common reaction to accusations of, and evidence about, rape. Reducing cases of rape to something that must be wrong with the victim (her outfit, her behaviour, her presence) is our go-to response because that is more comfortable to us than addressing the very real issue of extreme violence towards women and girls. And, in turn, we are beside ourselves when we hear about findings such as those above because we cannot continence a society in which such shocking and misogynistic attitudes to women, their agency and their bodies are so prevalent. Yet we reinforce them ourselves every time we hear about a case of rape and ask of victims, “what really happened? No, really, what happened.”

There is no gradient of rape, there are no “blurred lines” around consent, there is no such thing as “real rape”. If we are ever to address rape, it’s about time we looked within to see how our own attitudes – and those myths we ourselves perpetuate – feed the problem.

“Blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now”.

On blogs.lse:

LSE’s Public Policy Group already run two academic blogs and you are preparing to launch two more in the coming months. Yet many academics are still sceptical about the value of blogging. What is it that gives you so much confidence in academic blogging as a means of dissemination and engagement?

One of the recurring themes (from many different contributors) on the Impact of Social Science blog is that a new paradigm of research communications has grown up – one that de-emphasizes the traditional journals route, and re-prioritizes faster, real-time academic communication in which blogs play a critical intermediate role. They link to research reports and articles on the one hand, and they are linked to from Twitter, Facebook and Google+ news-streams and communities.  Soin research termsblogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now.

But in addition, social scientists have an obligation to society to contribute their observations to the wider world – and at the moment that’s often being done in ramshackle and impoverished ways, in pointlessly obscure or charged-for forums, in language where you need to look up every second word in Wikipedia, with acres of ‘dead-on-arrival’ data in unreadable tables, and all delivered over bizarrely long-winded timescales. So the public pay for all our research, and then we shunt back to them a few press releases and a lot of out-of-date academic junk. [Rest.]


The worst breastfeeding initiative I've ever come across

Heard this yesterday morning. Nearly fell off chair. As cynical and manipulative initiatives go, this ticks several boxes.

It adds insult to injury that the scheme is being tried out among “disadvantaged” women on low incomes, whose breastfeeding rates are lowest of all. The thinking seems to be that these are the people who can be told what to do.

, theguardian:

Unless you’ve been living on another planet the last few years, here’s one thing you’ll be certain about. Breast is best. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to get infections in their early months; probably won’t get diarrhoea or constipation, which is virtually unknown; and are at lower risk of eczema. When weaned, they are more likely to enjoy the taste of solid food. As they grow up, their IQ is higher, and they are less likely to need orthodontic treatment. As adults they have lower cholesterol, and a reduced risk of diabetes or obesity.

It’s not just babies: mothers who breastfeed are healthier. They’re at lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and postnatal depression. If ever nature gave us a key to improving health now and into the future, this would surely be it. So it has to follow that as a society we should be doing all we can to encourage every new mother to do it.

That presumably is the thinking behind a study being run in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire where, we learned today,mothers are being offered shopping vouchersworth up to £120 if their babies are breastfed to six weeks, and a further £80 if they’re fed to six months.

I fed each of my four babies until the age of three. I think it’s tragic that more women don’t do it, and I believe low breastfeeding rates in Britain are a scandal. In fact, I never imagined I’d end up writing a piece against a project designed to promote the practice. But I think this idea is just about the worst pro-breastfeeding initiative I’ve come across. In fact, I don’t think it’s pro-breastfeeding at all: I think it’s a patronising, naive, ill-thought-out gesture. [Rest.]


Why women leave academia and why universities should be worried

A recent report finds that only 12% of third year female PhD students want a career in academia (the report applies to the sciences). The characteristics of academic (e.g. constant pressure to get research funding), are unappealing particularly to women who “see academic careers as all-consuming, solitary and as unnecessarily competitive“:

Young women scientists leave academia in far greater numbers than men for three reasons. During their time as PhD candidates, large numbers of women conclude that (i) the characteristics of academic careers are unappealing, (ii) the impediments they will encounter are disproportionate, and (iii) the sacrifices they will have to make are great.

This is the conclusion of The chemistry PhD: the impact on women’s retention, a report for the UK Resource Centre for Women in SET and the Royal Society of Chemistry. In this report, the results of a longitudinal study with PhD students in chemistry in the UK are presented.

Men and women show radically different developments regarding their intended future careers. At the beginning of their studies, 72% of women express an intention to pursue careers as researchers, either in industry or academia. Among men, 61% express the same intention.

By the third year, the proportion of men planning careers in research had dropped from 61% to 59%. But for the women, the number had plummeted from 72% in the first year to 37% as they finish their studies.

If we tease apart those who want to work as researchers in industry from those who want to work as researchers in academia, the third year numbers are alarming: 12% of the women and 21% of the men see academia as their preferred choice. [Rest: theguardian]


Research: experiencing very long term imprisonment from young adulthood: identity, adaptation and penal legitimacy

Haven’t had a chance to read all of this page yet (it’s bookmarked for later) but wanted to flag it now. We still don’t know a great deal about experiences of long-term imprisonment (and its effects) so this is very timely research.

(c) Dr. Ben Crewe, Dr. Susie Hulley, Serena Wright (researchers)

Having been ‘in the field’ since February this year, we concluded a long period of prison-based fieldwork at the start of September. In that time, we visited 11 different prisons, both ‘closed’ and ‘open’, and both in the adult (aged 21+) and Young Offender (aged 18-20) estate. During this time, we conducted in-depth interviews with 87 men, all of whom were serving a life sentence with a tariff of 15 years or more, given to them when they were aged twenty-five or under. We have interviewed selectively: in the early phase of their sentence (having served less than four years), in the middle phase (halfway through their tariff, plus or minus two years), and in the late phase (either a year from their tariff point or beyond it). In most of the prisons, we approached everyone who met these sentence-stage criteria to request an interview, but this was not possible in the two category B training prisons, where a large number of prisoners fell within these categories. In part to mitigate this, and to gather data from a larger sample, we distributed questionnaires in all of the establishments to all prisoners who met our broader criteria. While we wait to receive security clearance in order to enter two high-security establishments – a hiatus that might last for a couple of months – we have begun the analysis of the 147 surveys that we have so far received, alongside a review of the emerging themes from the interviews.

The questionnaires comprise three sections: an initial section which asks for background and demographic data (including sentence length and, whether the conviction is for Joint Enterprise, for example), followed by sections which ask prisoners about a) the various problems of imprisonment that they are experiencing; b) their experiences of change (both positive and negative) across the duration of the sentence to date, and c) their attitudes towards prison staff, and the prison system.

Our initial inspiration for the questionnaire was Barry Richards’ (1978) exploratory study into ‘the problems of long-term imprisonment’. Richards’ own impetus for his study was a concern about longer prison sentences, and a desire to know more about the ‘psychological effects of such long-term “storage”‘ on those serving them. His study was designed to explore some of the ‘psychological stresses’ associated with the phenomenon of long-term imprisonment, and the ‘methods of coping’ that prisoners might adopt in response to this experience. Richards therefore devised 20 ‘problems’ of long-term imprisonment, examples of which include ‘Feeling that your life is being wasted , ‘Feeling angry with yourself ‘, ‘Worrying about how you will cope when you get out’, and ‘Being bored’.

[Rest on: crim.cam.ac.uk]

Of Method and Freedom: How to re-shape the restrictive dynamic between researcher and participant.

The ever more clinical ways of extracting and analysing ‘data’ from human research ‘subjects’ are cause for concern, not only for ethical reasons, but also because the process itself limits insight. Shamser Sinha and Les Back argue for a form of research that shifts the ordering of dialogue, where researchers can make observations about participants’ personal worlds and participants can shed light on how issues in their personal worlds connect with public issues, opening up more public possibilities for social research.

The first time I met Dorothy was in a narrow, quiet and official looking interview room of a Third Sector organisation. Her son was in a pram and looking around the room. I tried to ease generally into conversation in the manner the methodology textbooks advise – general questions first, build affinity etc. So I began with enquiries into what part of London she had travelled from and how she first heard of the organisation. Inside two minutes this had turned into a rendering of deeply personal information as a list of facts, times and places; the death of a beloved grandma; abandonment when pregnant by her mother; and incarceration following working under a false national insurance card. Dorothy had been interviewed before.

[More on: blogs.lse]

The Future of Scholarly Publishing

All very current and up for grabs.

On sociologicalimagination:

What does the future hold for scholarly publishing? Most would agree that the present system is unsustainable yet there remains little consensus on what could and should replace it. Patrick Dunleavy at the LSE Impact Blog makes a compelling case as to the widening scope for disintermediation. Or in other words: what’s the point of scholarly publishers when universities are increasingly able to perform these functions themselves?

Yet now journal articles are all online, most serious or major books will move into electronic format, and scholarly work will become a fully digital product (Weller, 2011). Add in open access and the possible scope for disintermediation widens dramatically. Many large publishers are still charging around $2700 for an open access paper in a good journal, while the sustainable future rate will probably be around $600. This is a huge premium, and it is not going to do academic publishers’ already battered reputations any good at all to try to defend it. Serious, big universities will be thinking, are already thinking – why don’t we publish digitally and open access ourselves?  All that academics at (for instance) Stanford, Harvard, Imperial or LSE get from being published in prestigious journals is the certification of peer review, itself an increasingly battered and replaceable currency.

[Rest: sociologicalimagination]