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  • Author or Editor: Charlotte Barlow x
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A Gendered Pathway into Crime

What role does coercion play in women’s involvement in crime?

This is the first book to explore coercion as a pathway into crime for co-offending women. Using newspaper articles and case and court files, it analyses four cases of women co-accused of a crime with their partner who suggested that coercive techniques had influenced their involvement in the offending.

Based on a feminist perspective, it highlights the importance of gender role expectations and gendered discourses in how the trials were conducted, and the ways in which the media framed the trials (and the women).

Considering the legal and social construction of coercion, this fascinating book concludes by exploring the implications for public understanding of coercion and female offending more broadly.

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In December 2015, the criminal offence of coercive control was introduced in England and Wales. Occurring at a similar time was the increased widespread usage of police body-worn cameras (BWCs) in domestic abuse cases, with many UK based police forces and international jurisdictions, such as Australia and the US, encouraging their mandatory usage. Using empirical data gathered in one police force area in the south of England, this article examines the extent to which coercive control is able to be captured by BWCs, exploring police officer and victim/survivor perceptions and experiences. The findings highlight concerns with the extent to which BWCs are able to capture the hidden nature of coercive control and the ways in which the footage could have unintended consequences for victim/survivors, particularly minoritised women.

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Problems and Possibilities

Written by leading experts in the field, this timely collection highlights current strategies and thinking in relation to prevention of sexual violence and critically considers the limitations of these frameworks.

Combining psychological, criminological, sociological and legal perspectives, it explores academic, practitioner and survivor points of view. It addresses broad themes, from cultures of sexual harassment to the role of media in oversexualising women and girls, as well as specific issues including violence against children and older people.

For researchers, practitioners and students alike, this is an invaluable resource that maps new approaches for practice and prevention.

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This chapter begins by introducing readers to the significance of the social construction of crime and criminal justice issues. It outlines the existing literature which explores the dominant ways in which female offenders and co-offenders are represented in media and legal discourse, particularly drawing upon dichotomies such as bad/ mad. It also considers the ways in which gendered constructions, such as ‘bad mother’ (Barnett, 2006), evil manipulator (Jewkes, 2015) and mythical monster (Heidensohn, 1996; Jewkes, 2015) permeate media representations of female offenders.

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This chapter introduces readers to the concept of coercion as a pathway into crime for female co-offenders and explores a range of literature and perspectives related to the topic. The chapter explores women’s pathways into crime more broadly, before considering differing definitions of concepts such as agency and coercion. The literature exploring coercion within the context of abusive and controlling relationships is also explored and the potential social, cultural and personal influences which may impact upon some women’s ‘choices’ to offend is considered. The chapter concludes with a critical overview of criminology’s current engagement with and understanding of coerced women.

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This chapter outlines the feminist methodology deployed in the analysis of the case studies, which involved adopting a woman-centred approach to research and aims to gain a more nuanced understanding of the co-offending women’s experiences and stories (Letherby, 2003). The chapter also discusses the benefits of using a case study approach in criminological research and critically considers the strengths and limitations of this particular method. Finally, the chapter identifies the sources of data used i.e. newspaper articles and case and court file documents, which are used as a comparative/ corroborative tool, as well as discussing the feminist framework developed for analysis. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the benefits of using a similar approach to data collection and analysis in other criminological research.

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This chapter discusses the media construction of women co-offenders and their relationship with their male partner/ co-offender, using the case/ court file material as a comparative tool. It particularly considers the ways in which the women’s representation served to minimise and discredit their perspectives and defence, particularly in relation to the potential influence of their relationship with their male partner on their offending behaviour. It also considers the ways in which the women’s suggestions of coercion or coercive techniques (at varying levels) by their male partner were constructed, particularly in media discourse. In doing so, the chapter is divided into a number of key themes, such as ‘bad women’ and ‘equally bad or worse’. It is important to note that the themes apply to the women at varying levels and the extent to which they were evident in the women’s legal and media representation will be discussed.

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This chapter begins by critiquing the representation of the women’s reasons for offending as being a ‘rational choice’. Furthermore, the chapter introduces an alternative feminist conceptual framework to gain a more nuanced understanding of coercion as a pathway into crime for co-offending women. This framework is applied to the case studies analysed in this research by drawing on the women’s testimonies and experiences, taken from the case file material. The framework of a ‘continuum of coercion’ highlights the ways in which abusive, controlling and/ or obsessive relationships with a male partner may influence a woman’s ‘decision’ to offend and suggests that in some instances, such behaviours should be understood as being part of the wider continuum of domestic violence.

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This concluding chapter discusses the contribution to knowledge provided by this book and considers the ways in which a feminist, critical approach to understanding coercion may lead to a more holistic criminological understanding of some co-offending women’s pathways into crime. It particularly focuses on the issues with dichotomising agency and coercion and viewing victims and offenders as a binary concept when considering the experiences of coerced women. The chapter provides a number of recommendations for criminology, particularly considering the ways in which a more nuanced appreciation of co-offending women’s experiences could be gained.

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This chapter introduces the concept of coercion and the existing field of research on coercion and female offenders, and it sets out the structure of the research within the book. The author will be using a case study approach to examine four women co-offenders, all of which have been co-accused with a man with whom they are in an intimate relationship. The use of case and court file documents allows the author to examine both the legal and media representations of the women and their cases. The chapter concludes by laying out the structure of the remainder of the book.

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