Funded PhD at Northumbria examining gender-based violence amongst older people

For further details and to apply please visit:

Gender-based Violence Amongst Older People (Advert Ref: RDF18/SSL/DAVIES)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

The project seeks to explore victimisation during an understudied period of the life-course. Dominant criminological research methodologies tend to truncate and contract the age range of those studied, leaving the elderly and unyoung under-researched and inadequately theorised criminologically and victimologically. This dearth of research on the elderly as victims of crime is particularly marked in the UK context and is surprising given the changing demographics and ageing nature of populations, which surely raises a range of interesting and important criminological and victimological questions. Taking homicide as an example, in the US context the term ‘eldercide’ is often used with reference to the killing of older people (Chu & Kraus, 2004). This term has not been used in the UK context to date but, as Roberts and Willits (2012: 185) point out, older victims of homicide ‘are likely to become more frequent in absolute terms, and represent a greater share of all homicides, as aging baby boomers create a much larger population of older adults’. Consequently, there is likely to be an ‘increasing prominence’ of elder homicide (Roberts and Willits, 2012, p.185). Though the project offers the opportunity to explore different types of violence that are experienced across the lifespan, the inquiry will specifically focus on Gender-based Violence Amongst Older People. Adopting a critical, yet sympathetic, approach, the inquiry will be contextualised within the life-course approach to studying crime and victimisation (Carlsson and Sarnecki 2016). It is anticipated that the inquiry will be steered towards the patterns of (sometimes-lethal) violence perpetrated against older women. The continuing experiences of domestic abuse into old age and the onset of it during older age is fairly absent in the domestic abuse literature and older women’s needs are not well served by specialist organisations which tend to focus on supporting young women to recognise coercive control and to leave violent partners. As the ageing population continues to grow, patterns of sexual violence and homicide amongst the elderly are worthy of much more criminological attention. The proposed research will draw on the ideas that criminology is age-limited (Cullen, 2011), biased towards a focus on those under the age of 59 and, at the older age end of the life-course, older people are subjected to ageist stereotypes linked to vulnerability and victimhood (Bows 2017). This project will commence from a victimological perspective. It starts from a position that sees the elderly as ignored in existing theoretical and empirical contributions to understanding violence against women and in the vast majority of studies of gender-based harms and violence. However, it will also explore further potential gender patterns to fatal violence that are thrown into sharp relief through for example, a close examination of the socio-economic demographics of fatal homicide. Using an innovative mixed method approach to the empirical research of this topic area, the research will explore invisible victims of bodily violence.
Eligibility and How to Apply

Please note eligibility requirement:
• Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF18/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 28 January 2018
Start Date: 1 October 2018


Research Planning and Writing Retreat Day

BSC Victims Network

Research Planning and Writing Retreat Day

The BSC Victims Network are proposing a Research Planning and Writing Retreat Day. This one-day event is open to anyone interested in: contributing to planning and drafting a research bid; presenting ideas on authored or edited books; preparing for a special issue of a journal or setting aside time to draft a specific output.

Anyone with an interest in setting aside time to join colleagues who have interests in criminal victimisation, experiences of harm and justice, victim-advocacy, safeguarding and support is welcome. We plan to engage in a range of scholarly activities, discuss, plan, innovate and set up work streams and project plans. There are limited spaces and funding towards the cost of travel to attend so we are seeking a strong commitment to attend on the day.

Additionally, we will also be running a parallel early-career postgraduate and PhD writing day with mentoring support provided by more senior members attending the research planning event.

The event will take place on Monday 26th March 2018 at Sheffield Hallam University.

Anyone interested in attending the Research Planning Day will need to submit a brief 150 words outline of what their personal contribution to the day is likely to involve, detailing their areas of expertise. For example, it might include one or more of the following:

  • Draft an authored, co-authored/edited book proposal
  • Share ideas for a special issue of a specific journal and securing contributors
  • Drafting the content of a book chapter
  • Develop an individual/joint/collaborative research proposal
  • Target a specific funded research opportunity

For PhD and early-career researchers we require a brief 150 word outline of what you intend to write and for what audience, including information on the subject area so we can match you with a suitable mentor.

A contribution of up to £50 is available towards the costs of your travel to the event (via re-imbursement on production of your travel receipt on the day). There will be refreshments (cake) and a light lunch.

Submit to: Dr Hannah Bows,

By: 30th November 2017

Decisions will be made and successful applicants will be notified before Christmas.

BSC Annual Event: Victim Policy and Support: Past, Present and Future

On 12th January 2017, the BSC Victims Network held a conference at Northumbria University with the overarching theme: Victim Policy and Support: Past, Present and Future. 

Under this organising theme, three sub-themes were addressed:

  1. Past – the history and development of victim policy in the UK and how this compares with European and international jurisdictions. The relatively short history of victim-oriented policy developments as compared with other criminal justice provisions and offender focussed perspectives means that present and the future directions are contingent upon the social and cultural traditions of the recent past.
  2. Present – the current state of affairs as regards victim policy and victim support and assistance. During this part of the conference we considered where we are now and shared new findings from cutting edge research and practice based areas. Evidence for new directions and developments was shared and debated.
  3. Future – Convergence/divergence – what are the future prospects for victim policy and support in light of Brexit? The closing theme for the day explored future directions for victim policy and support giving consideration to the socio-economic and political contexts that are likely to shape such developments.

The conference programme offered an exciting array of speakers and presentations, both academics, policy makers and practitioners.


The Great Hall was the perfect location for this timely conference:



After a welcome and introduction from Professor Peter Francis (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Northumbria University), Dr Pam Davies (Chair) and Dr Hannah Bows (Co-Chair), Dame Vera Baird opened the proceedings with a thought provoking overview of the developments of victim policy over the last few decades. In particular, whilst there have been promising legislative changes to domestic and sexual violence over the last twenty years, policy has not been as quick to develop. Dame Vera Baird considered the Police and Crime Commissioner’s role in helping to hold the justice system to account and push for changes in responses to victims, but noted that change is slow and many victim’s rights remain unenforceable. In particular, Vera noted the courts have not been as progressive as they could have been, as victim maligning and blaming and victim stereotypes still underpin rape trials.Whilst there have been significant developments, there is much work still to do when it comes to victim’s rights and policies.


Following this opening presentation, academics and practitioners gave papers on a range of topics, with some common themes emerging; there remain gaps in support for some victims, particularly in gender-based violence cases, and inconsistencies between what policy says and what practice does. The demands on services, including the criminal justice system, is growing and yet resources are declining. Important lessons can be learnt from previous mistakes and case reviews provide important opportunities to reflect and develop practice. In terms of research, we still don’t know enough about access to justice, or what justice means, for victims of gender-based violence offences. Other issues raised include the importance of housing in helping and supporting domestic violence victims. Examples of best practice were shared by practitioners, including Graham Strange and DCI Deborah Alderson and her team. There remain significant challenges around hate crime, in particular the recording practices, encouraging victims to report and preventative initiatives. Professor Matthew Hall asked us to consider the future of victimology research and policy after Brexit, which remains uncertain.


A strong theme emerging from the day was the benefits of evidence-based practice, where academics and practitioners work together to address issues relating to crime and victimisation.

You can see an overview of the key issues that got our delegates attention on our Storify, compiled by Alexandria Hall (doctoral student at Northumbria University):

Overall, the day stimulated much interesting discussion about the key challenges, and opportunities, for victimologists, policy makers and practitioners. Both Dr Pam Davies (Chair) and Dr Hannah Bows (Co-Chair) felt the day was engaging and a number of opportunities for potential future collaborations on research and practice emerged. The conversations continued over a wine reception after the formal proceedings came to a close and we hope these will continue to develop over the coming months with a view to special issues and collaboration on funding bids.

Thanks again to all who came and in particular our fantastic presenters who made the day so informative and enjoyable.

Hannah and Pam

Review of the BSC Victims Network 1st Annual Conference by Professor Matthew Hall

On 28th January Lincoln Law School was pleased to host the first research conference of the British Society of Criminology’s Victims Network. Entitled Future Directions in Victimology the conference brought together established experts in victimological research with new entrants to the field (including PGRs and ECRs) to foster collaborative outputs which will help drive the development of contemporary victimology in the UK and further afield. The event also attracted an number of external agencies from the restorative justice and policy spheres. The day began with a thought-provoking keynote address from Prof. Antony Pemberton: Stories of injustice and justice: narrative as a paradigm in victimology. Professor Pemberton argued that that victimology has much to gain from the incorporation and application of recent research into narratives and constructs and theory developed by researchers in this and adjacent fields: themes which would inform a great number of the discussion throughout the day. Other key areas of discussion included victims’ role in transitional and restorative justice systems; psychological approaches and the role of ‘trauma’ in victimisation, as well as victims of crime in UK government policy. The conference also focused attention on the gaps ion our knowledge concerning less widely researched areas of victimisation including sexual violence perpetrated against older people and victims of genocide.  
The day was an enormous success for the Network and the School, and we are particularly gratefully to the British Society of Criminology for its assistance in funding the event. Outputs from the day look set to include an edited collection of papers presented as well as strengthening still further research links around victimology in the UK and further afield. Several delegates representing NGOs have also expressed interest following the event of feeding back what they took from the day to their colleagues to see what they can learn for their own practice.   

There isn’t enough understanding: the sexual assault of older women

Dr Helen Jones, Principal Lecturer in Criminology, Leeds Beckett University

The world is ageing. In the UK, the number of people aged over 85 doubled from 690,000 in 1985 to 1.4m in 2010 and is set to reach 3.6m by 2035. Since the mid-80s many forms of gendered violence have received increasing attention from academics, professionals and the media, including the sexual abuse of children and domestic violence.  Research across this broad spectrum tells us that sexual victimization and intimate partner violence disproportionately affect women. Intimate partners continue to be found responsible for much violence against women and rape is among the most underreported of crimes in many countries: yet when compared to other forms of violence across the life-course, sexual abuse of older women remains relatively hidden.

Arai (2006) in Japan argues that developing a general definition is problematic because of a lack of public awareness of elder victimisation. We may imagine that the rape of elderly women is a rare crime, but it is not.  While crime statistics make it appear practically non-existent, rape of the elderly does occur and when it does, it can turn deadly.  In June 2014 Mohammed Yassin Yusuf was convicted of murdering his mother-in-law by sexually assaulting her so violently she bled to death[1].


In the UK the term ‘old age’ has been broadly applied by government departments to those aged 50 and over although societal assumptions and many researchers would tend towards retirement (another contested term) as a marker for the onset of ‘old age’. The 2004 analysis of sexual violence reported to the British Crime Survey had a limited age range and excluded anyone over the age of 59. A more recent UK report suggests that older women are generally sexually assaulted by someone they know, often within the context of domestic violence and family situations contribute significantly to elder abuse. One worker in the UK said this:


“There isn’t enough understanding about dementia to see whether they are suffering violence. There is no training to take them seriously. I have supported a woman where the man who has dementia is raping his wife regularly. It is treated as a medical condition but if you looked at it, it was something he was doing before, no-one took any action against him and no-one offered her any support. Because she was an older woman, and his carer, her experience of rape by her husband was just ignored.”[2]


However, we should not imagine that the sexual violence experienced by elderly women is only an extension of domestic violence meted out by same-age partners or other family members. In 2011 the UK faced the news of two stark reminders of the reality of elder sexual abuse. One was the case of Delroy Grant, who was convicted of 18 separate incidents at homes around London over a 17 year period. The second was the case of 17 year old Maxwell Laycock who, on Christmas Day 2010, raped an 86-year-old resident of the care home where he worked as a kitchen assistant. If analysis of sexual abuse as a mechanism of power and control are correct, older people, who may have diminishing autonomy and power, must be seen as vulnerable to sexual violence.


Many abused elderly people will need medical care but in a recent study, published by the British Geriatrics Society, it was found that half of all medical students are not receiving training in spotting elder abuse (Community Care, 2010[3]). Only 47% of medical schools included the topic on the curriculum. The Care Act 2014 comes into force in April 2015. The Act contains mandatory requirements around adult safeguarding and explains how commissioners and providers of health and social care services should work together, collaborating with the public, voluntary and private sectors to consult service users, their carers and representative groups.


As countries in many parts of the world face increasingly aging populations, and justice systems begin to develop appropriate policies for dealing with allegations of abuse, there is much that we can learn from each other in creating elder abuse prevention strategies. If we are to break the taboo of sexual violence of the elderly, we must start to get serious about listening, understanding and responding.


Arai, M. (2006).  Elder abuse in Japan.  Educational Gerontology, 32 (1), 13–23.



[2] Commissioning services for women and children who are victims of violence or abuse – guide for health commissioners (2011:12)


Dr Vicky Heap reflects on the opportunities and challenges for teaching victimology

Teaching Victimology into the Future and the Accidental Victimologist…

The purpose of the recent ‘Teaching Victimology: Innovations and Issues’ event held at Sheffield Hallam University was two-fold: to share good practice in teaching victimology and provide a forum to debate some of the issues facing teaching the discipline into the future.

The afternoon’s proceedings concentrated on issues. Fuelled by cake, the final session of the day focused on unpicking some of the difficulties we face when teaching victimology. As a group we undertook a graffiti wall exercise (a fancy way of saying we used flip chart paper and gave everyone a pen).

As you can see from the photo, a variety of topics were covered, ranging from whether we should pursue the creation of stand-alone victimology degrees, to how we can protect students when teaching and discussing potentially upsetting/difficult areas. One of the matters discussed was whether victimology should be delivered as a stand-alone topic, or embedded across numerous criminology modules. The short answer appeared to be that it should be both, but accusations of this being something of a cop-out response led to deeper discussions about what this might actually entail. We agreed victimology should play a major part in any criminology degree (we were perhaps a bit biased!), but we also uncovered a range of structural issues that make translating this into practice far from simple.


Barriers to realising the ideal centred on staff expertise, with the suggestion that some departments lack victimology specialists, while others have staff that lack confidence in teaching this area (myself included and I’ll come back to that later). There were also concerns about an absence of institutional buy-in towards victimology and the perception that it is an inherently feminist domain (Pam Davies will be talking about the latter at the Lincoln event). The other issues were student-centred. It was felt that victimology was sometimes unpopular with students, possibly because they don’t know enough about it to select it as an elective module, or because other areas of criminology appear a bit ‘sexier’, such as violent crime or drugs. There was also a conversation about the strategic motivation of many current students, with career pathways into victimology-related jobs not quite so well known or clear-cut as traditional criminal justice professions such as the police, which may affect student decision making around module choice. Needless to say, we didn’t quite generate a solution to these issues, but in many respects it felt like a problem shared was a problem halved.

The conundrum of where and how victimology ‘fits’ is particularly pertinent for my Department at present, as we are currently re-writing our criminology programme to align with the latest QAA benchmarks. Since I joined Hallam in 2012 we have only ever offered victimology as an option (with that not running this year due to staff changes), alongside modules considering specialist areas such as hate crime. Victimisation in general is currently covered in many of the core modules, albeit in a fairly briefly, with the overarching theoretical perspectives being predominantly aetiological and penological.

As I’m part of the Course Planning Team involved in shaping the new criminology programme, I revisited the QAA benchmarks after the Teaching Victimology event with my head full of all the arguments outlined above. Draft curriculum structures at that stage were a little light on victimology, so I (perhaps foolhardily in retrospect) suggested we try for the ideal; a stand-alone core victims module as well as embedding elements of victimology across the programme. Numerous people from Hallam were at the ‘Teaching Victimology’ event and support for my suggestion was strong. So we are going to have a new core second year ‘Victims, Offenders and Vulnerabilities’ module from 2016! The foolhardiness aspect relates to the fact I’m now charged with leading the development of this module, despite being one of those on the less-confident side of teaching victimology. I’m really an ASB, crime prevention and research methods nerd, with victimology being an area I’ve stumbled across through my work relating to victim-focused shifts in ASB policy. So now this accidental victimologist is going to be fairly busy developing the new module, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. This is also a warning that I may well be asking for your help in the not too distant future!

NEWS! Forthcoming victimology conference

The BSC Victims Network is pleased to announce that registration for the forthcoming victimology conference at the University of Lincoln on January 28th is now open. You can register for the conference here: There is a £10 fee for non-speakers to attend to cover catering costs and because this is a requirement of the conference funding.

A full programme can be found here: BSC VN Lincoln Conference programme

Please send any queries to Professor Matthew Hall who is lead organiser of the conference –

Dr Pamela Davies offers an update about two scholarly events that she has participated in this month

First, on Thursday 6th November, as part of the Institute for Public Safety, Crime and Justice (IPSCJ) seminar series, I gave a paper entitled: ‘Supporting Those Indirectly Affected by Child Sexual Abuse’. This followed the IPSCJ inaugural seminar where several high profile speakers contributed and I was delighted though daunted to be next in line after such an auspicious beginning to the series.

image for bsc victim network blog

As the title of my talk suggests it was sobering and serious, and according to the tweets – not that I’m a tweeter – ‘thought provoking’. At this talk I shared some original research findings from a research project that uniquely addresses the needs of, and support for, families of child sexual abuse. I discussed how a number of significant others – men, women and other children – are suffering as a consequence of a child/children experiencing abuse. I talked about the ‘ripple effect’ emanating from child sexual abuse and specifically focussed on the impact such offending and victimisation has on one indirect ‘victim’ group – non-abusing parents as well as grandparents, siblings, friends and teachers though the wider project also explored the experiences and impact on the friends and families of sex offenders. Drawing on my findings about who is affected and how, I discussed the insidious concept of ‘mother-blaming’, the diverting of attention from the perpetrator and I remarked upon one very unusual, new and small scale initiative called the Kelly Trust Project emerging from an organisation called GROW. I concluded by suggesting that gender sensitive research is essential in understanding the needs of those affected and for gender sensitive approaches to interventions and support.

The talk was well attended and included a range of delegates making astute observations and comments including Iain Britton – Chief Executive, Office of Police and Crime Commissioner, Northamptonshire, UK, as well as counsellors, practitioners, academics and students.

Do contact me directly if you’d like to learn more about the research projects that have informed this talk: Also contact the IPSCJ if you’d like to be on their distribution list or perhaps you’d like to offer a paper as part of their seminar series. Their next seminar is on 5th February 2015 when Jon Garland from the University of Surrey will discuss ‘Difference, Vulnerability and Prejudice: Key Findings from the Leicester Hate Crime Project’.

The second event Teaching Victimology: Innovations and Issues took place – very fittingly – on Armistice Day, Tuesday 11th November at Sheffield Hallam University where we were all observers of the Two Minute Silence. The British Society of Criminology (BSC) Networks for Learning & Teaching and Victims joined forces to host this one day event to explore and share good practice in the teaching of victimology. Following a welcome to Sheffield Hallam and the Department of Law and Criminology from Sital Dhillon, Dr Helen Jones, Chair of the Learning and Teaching Network, gave a very upbeat introduction urging us all to abide by her own three core simple but effective values: Ask, Be tenacious and Be kind! The day comprised a variety of sessions including: ‘Innovations’ where members of the criminology team from Sheffield Hallam discussed the teaching approaches that secured success in the 2014 BSC Excellence in Teaching Criminology Award, ‘Teaching Victimology and Professional Practice’ where Anne Robinson discussed ‘Probation Views on Victims and Victimisation’ and Liz Smart explored how to turn threats into opportunities in the provocatively titled paper ‘How swingeing legal aid cuts threatened the basic right of victim’s to seek legal redress and risked breaching their fundamental human rights’.

second image for blog

After a very tasty lunch from our Sheffield Hallam hosts I was proud to say a few words at a launch for a brand new book jointly co-authored by M. Duggan (University of Kent) and V. Heap (Sheffield Hallam University) (2014) Administrating Victimisation: The politics of anti-social behaviour and hate crime policy, London: Palgrave Pivot (with a Foreword by me!) After badly quoting what I remembered to be from Agatha Christie, ‘By the Pricking of my Thumbs Something Wicked this Way Comes’ (more accurately should have been Shakespeare) – which was my own summing up of the years of victim-policy they unpick in this book – I urged all to buy the book read it, ‘Cite Them Right’ and submit a book review for publication.

Two papers followed: ‘Teaching Victimology in a Global Context’ by Dr Bankole Cole (a Northumbria defector and now Reader at Sheffield Hallam University) and Marian Duggan’s brilliantly titled paper ‘The Only Victimologist in the Village? Rendering Victimology Relevant in Criminological Degrees’. Emerging as key themes were the victim-offender dyad, marginalisation and vulnerability, the limits to, and boundaries of, crime based discourse and, potential avenues for moving into and beyond a critical Victimology to a place which encompasses the global and international reach and significance of victimological agendas. Phew, after all of this we had fun taking part in a cake cutting extravaganza and indulged eating it. This is fast becoming a BSC Victims Network tradition and we multi-tasked in our cake tasting by also participating in a research café and roundtable where we gathered information about the challenges associated with teaching victimology and considered potential solutions to enhance victimology provision. The method used was via a ‘graffiti wall’ information gathering exercise. We produced plenty of food for further thought and with close to 40 very interested participants engaging in this event from the far flung reaches of north, south, east and west of England we look forward to continuing the dialogue and turning ideas into tangible projects. From Chairs of sessions, to presenters, authors, lecturers and PhD students alike, we were very excited to be part of this joint event.

Below are a few photos from the event:


Sital Dhillon – Head of Department for Law and Criminology


Dr Helen Jones, welcome address


Nichola Cadet, criminology team from SHU talking about the teaching award


Anne Robinson


Liz Smart


Dr Marian Duggan and Dr Vicky Heap, book launch


Dr Pam Davies, speaking at book launch


Dr Bankole Cole


Dr Marian Duggan


Dr Pam Davies and Dr Helen Jones cutting the cake


more cake


graffiti walls


graffiti walls


Photos: Copyright Stephen Bulley

Do subscribe to the VICTIMS NETWORK jiscmail list to keep up to date and consider being part of the BSC Victims Network. Look out for the next BSC Victims Network Research Seminar Day: Future Directions in Victimology, on Wednesday 28th January at Lincoln Law School, University of Lincoln.