Coercion and Women Co-offenders
A Gendered Pathway into Crime


This publication explores the legal, media and social constructions of coercion as a pathway into crime for some co-offending women. Coercion has been increasingly acknowledged as a pathway into crime for female offenders, particularly those whose relationship with their male partner/ co-offender is characterised by abuse, control and/or obsession (Barlow, 2015; Jones, 2008; Richie, 1996; Welle & Falkin, 2000). However, the construction of such women within the law and media and the consequential ways in which they are understood is often limited to over-simplistic explanations and dichotomies, which are usually rooted in gendered assumptions and expectations. Informed by newspaper articles and materials accessed via case and court files, this publication will analyse four cases of co-accused women, all of which utilised the notion of ‘coercion’ (by their male partner/ accomplice/s), albeit to differing levels, as part of their defence. These case studies are used as a tool to understand how media and legal institutions and society more broadly attempt to make sense of coerced women. The alternative, feminist conceptual framework of a ‘continuum of coercion’ is also introduced, to develop a more nuanced conceptual and theoretical framework of coercion as a pathway into crime. The publication also considers the extent to which criminology currently contributes to this discussion and more specifically, what it fails to say about coerced women.

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