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ASU student research sheds light on victimization

Jillian Turanovic
October 01, 2014

Jillian Turanovic, a doctoral student in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, part of the College of Public Programs at Arizona State University, has been awarded a National Institute of Justice Graduate Research Fellowship to support her dissertation research.

Turanovic is the third student in the school to receive this prestigious award. Her dissertation, chaired by professor Michael Reisig, is titled “The Age-Graded Consequences of Victimization.” It examines the harmful effects of victimization on people of different ages in an effort to guide services for victims.

“I am happy that the Department of Justice saw value in this and is interested in my findings. That’s huge for trying to make a difference – and the first step toward improving interventions for victims of violence,” Turanovic says.

Expanding research on victimization

Through her research, Turanovic hopes to better understand how people at various stages of life cope with being a victim – an area that is not well studied.

“Most of the research on victimization takes place using data on children and adolescents,” she says. “Thinking about how we help victims cope in effective ways, we are really drawing solely on this research to shape interventions that affect people of many ages. As criminologists, we don’t really know whether these same interventions work for people in emerging adulthood or adulthood.”

She says that different life stages bring different systems of support and differing reactions to victimization. She hopes to find ways across the spectrum – age, socioeconomic circumstances and other variables – to guide coping interventions for victims.

“We know that for teens and adolescents, they tend to act out with delinquent behavior, hanging out with the wrong crowd, getting in trouble at school," said Turanovic. "Later in life, as people accumulate larger social support systems, it is an open question whether or not victimization affects them similarly. Generally, parents are much more important for victims in early life, but later job contacts, romantic partners and other relationships can affect coping.

“I am looking at the supportive social ties that people accumulate over the life course.”

Helping victims of crime

Turanovic says she has been interested in victimization for some time because “victimization is such a different experience than offending.”

“On the most fundamental level, people who engage in crime do so voluntarily. Victimization is not voluntary,” she says, “and it can carry such detrimental consequences.”

As an undergraduate, Turanovic worked in victim services for the police in Canada. She notes, “That experience gave me the opportunity to talk to victims and get a better understanding of the ways in which victimization impacts their lives.”

What interested her most is that some victims rebounded quickly, but for others, the experience led to a host of even worse negative life outcomes – whether with health, job or family.

“It made me question why some fare better than others, why are some more resilient,” she says.

Turanovic has already published on the topic. Her articles focus on personality traits like self-control in determining how people cope with and respond to their victimization experiences.

“I think there is greater recognition that we need to talk to people who do research in health disciplines and in psychology,” she says. “In criminology, we tend to focus on the outcomes for victims as they relate to crime and deviance; psychologists focus on mental health and stress; health researchers focus on obesity and weight control. I really see the need to integrate all of these areas so we collectively have a better understanding of victimization and its impact.”