UNC professor Patrick Brady discusses the relevance of having victim studies courses at UNC and shares his history studying criminal justice and victimization. Part Two. (Running time 16:49)
I am Dr. Patrick Brady and I am in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and I primarily teach classes in victimization, policing and juvenile justice.
We are back again with episode two of Professor Brady and talking about why victim studies is important for future criminal justice practitioners. And UNC being one of the 11% of schools that requires criminal justice students to take victim studies courses. Victimization is an important topic, but it's hard to talk about without talking about how people become victims.So I will be putting in another trigger warning for this episode. There are mentions of abuse, sexual assault and other subjects relating to victimization.
Because you talk a lot about like coercive control and stalking. How does that sort of go with victimization and victim studies?
Yeah. So the term coercive control is basically when someone engages in a pattern of behavior with the intent to coerce someone into doing something that they don't want to do. And so a lot of that is really reducing an individual's autonomy or their ability to make decisions. And so what's interesting is a lot of European countries are like 15 years ahead of us in terms of how they deal with domestic violence, Like they actually have a law now like in England and Wales.
They actually have a coercive control law and that is basically a lot of kindof about victimization. We we generally think about like physical aspects of it, like physical violence or sexual violence, but coercive control can involve physical and sexual violence. And oftentimes it does, especially when alcohol's involved. But like I always try to help my students understand like a, quote, good batterer, unquote, is going to do everything possible to like not have to use physical or sexual violence. And if they do, it's mostly as a punishment. And so it's it's a lot of these other kind of like emotional and psychological, like gaslighting tactics that really kind of will instill fear in victims to the point that, you know, cooperating with the criminal justice system could be a potential death sentence to them all the way to the idea that they don't want the system involved because they love this person and they just want the abuse to stop.
And so there's a lot of factors that really go into it with those aspects of it. But like coercive control, like there's some research that are showing that like victims fear of being controlled is a much more powerful predictor of violence than actual physical violence. And so it's it's not always like when we describe strangulation. In my research, we found about a fourth of these cases are like should be investigated as attempted murder because the perpetrators are saying to victims while they are, you know, restricting their air and blood flow like, I'm going to kill you.
But 75% of those, like the perpetrator went into this violent incident, not with the intent to kill, but with the idea that showing the victim that they can and will kill them if they disagree with them or, you know, try to exert some type of assertiveness or control in their relationship. And so victims who survive stalking and strangulation are often, often terrified of these perpetrators to the point that they don't want any thing or interventions that are going to potentially, you know, piss off this person and escalate them to the point that they're actually going to kill them.
And so I think really focusing on some of that is really important because things like stalking and strangulation like these are things that are not always going to leave visible injuries. And so part of my research now is really kind of helping officers understand that there's other ways that we can collect evidence beyond visible injuries. Like visible injuries are important because, you know, that's tangible, it shows that there was, you know, contact, things like that and injuries are powerful to juries. But the reality of injuries in any type of violent crime is that most violent crimes victims do not result in injuries. And even it's about one in ten violent victimization resultant injuries. And the majority of these injuries are going to be kind of these lower level like abrasions, scratches, things like that, which are damaging but not necessarily damaging enough for it to require like a felony level offense, which would require serious bodily injury and the serious bodily injury, that's generally about 5% of violent victimizations.
That's broken bones, internal damages, you know, permanent disfigurement, things like that. So what officers generally are trying to do is look for these visible indicators of abuse. And if there are no visible injuries, then they're not asking about the psychological or the emotional aspects of the control. And so I'm really trying to help figure out by like reviewing all these case files how officers are responding to these cases and how victims and offenders are acting and trying to identify patterns in that that are actually going to help with officers and the questions that they can ask so that they can actually ask questions in a way that are going to elicit the types of responses that are going to be golden for prosecutors to use even at the victim is not willing to participate in the system. And so that's kind of where I'm going right now, is to really get officers to understand that, like so much of abuse in these situations is not physical. And so if we're just relying on visible injuries, if anything, we are just going to create more disparities in terms of victims getting access to justice and even services.
So one of the studies that I just recently published as we wanted to look at the like well one of the reasons why we should not always rely invisible injuries is like we have to understand that not everybody in the United States is a white person or has very light skin and bruising looks much more dramatic on lighter skin tones.
So we collected this data out of Texas and a large city that had a very diverse population. And what we found is that officers identified half as many injuries on darker skinned individuals than lighter skinned individuals. And so essentially, you know, there could be situations where there are visible injuries on darker skins, but officers are not necessarily seeing that oftentimes, like with darker skin tones, they need like an alternative light source.
And that can dramatically increase kind of the dynamics between where the, you know, the underlying injury and the skin is. But, you know, most agencies aren't going to have access to ALS and things like that. So really trying to understand like, yes, visible injuries are important. We need to document them, but like, let's ask about jealousy and control, forced sex, former injuries.
You know, if the victim believes that the person's going to kill them, like these are all the psychological aspects that are keeping victims terrified and, you know, unwilling to accept intervention, not because they don't necessarily want to, because that intervention could potentially be lethal. So really just helping officers like understand the nature of that and that just because the victim doesn't want to, you know, an arrest or file a statement, things like that, is not because, you know, they don't necessarily want to participate.
It's because they're concerned about their own safety. And since the system can't really always guarantee the safety of victims, like we have to understand why victims are not always going to want to participate in the system. And so with that, we need to find other ways that we can hold dangerous perpetrators accountable in these situations.
So as I was looking for a picture for the last episode of Dr. Brady, I stumbled upon his episode of strictly stalking where he talks about coercive control and stalking as being a way that a lot of people are victimized that isn’t really talked about. I thought it was 1. Super cool he was on a true crime podcast and 2. That he is able to show his research on other podcasts besides Bear in Mind. A little bit of a tangent but I just wanted to tell folks.
So is that one of the reasons, possibly like the main reason why it's important to emphasize is victimization at the college level?
Yes, because the way that we as humans think is I kind of described this in class, too, where it's like how kind of practitioners make decisions, whether they're officers or prosecutors, is that most of the time you are given situations where you do not have all the information and sometimes you need to investigate it further to fill in the holes.
And then even, you know, you could do a very thorough investigation and there still may be some holes or certain things that you don't know how to explain in this case. And so, like, what happens with this is like our brain tries to fill in those holes with our prior experience and our training and things like that. And so it's like, you you have a puzzle, right?
And you're looking at this puzzle and you're like, okay, I'm pretty sure it's kittens in a basket, but I'm missing like several pieces. But I can see from contextually it's like it's kittens in a basket, right? But we don't necessarily know what those pieces are, and our brain just automatically fills in that because that's we want a complete picture of, you know, what is going on.
And so when we don't have, you know, a complete picture, that's when we start to rely on stereotypes or just things that we have seen in the media and things like that. And so, you know, if we don't have this training of how to kind of identify a trauma behaviors or understand kind of the unique dynamics of victimization, officers are responding to these situations.
They are seeing a victim who is in crisis and they're kind of perceiving that as like difficult, not going to be a good witness. You know, this her partners over here saying like, “oh, she has mental health issues”, all this stuff like that, when she's like clearly in crisis, she's not even thinking straight because of the hormones that are rushing to their body and things like that.
And so officers are looking at that being like victims, not willing to cooperate. So we're not going to pursue this case further, kind of thing. So I think it's so important to start really talking about victimization early on in college, especially because college is such a risk factor for victimization. If anybody's going to become a victim, it's most likely going to be when you are 18 to 24.
And that's just because there's a lot of social changes that are happening and things like that. People are going to college, they're getting jobs, things along those lines. And so starting early, like even in my intro classes, like we have a week on victimization so that even if students who are taking intro and they're not criminal justice majors like they're still getting like a little glimpse of it.
And then by the time they get to victim studies, like hopefully they have had like some foundation of this and we can kind of just expand on that in our victim studies class.
Since Dr. Brady is talking about college students being the most susceptible for becoming victims, there are campus resources that can help people with certain forms of victimization, and one of those is Title nine. So their phone number is (970) 351-4899 and their email is T-I-T-L-E I X at UNCO dot Edu (firstname.lastname@example.org).
How has UNC sort of facilitated studying of victimization? I guess if that's the right way to say it.
Yeah. Well I think the most important thing they that they did and this is a real test to Dr. Mary Westmeath and Colleen Fitzpatrick like they were the ones that like started the victim or required the victim program to be a requirement because they, like so many criminologists, understood that like we can't talk about offending without talking about victimization.
We also have, you know, one of the criminological fact that a lot of offenders are also victims. We call it the victim offender overlap. So, so many of the people that are incarcerated right now like have histories of victimization and trauma that are just like not being addressed or fully understand by the stood by the people that are working with them.
And so I think UNC is doing a great job in actually requiring students to take this course. Like even if people don't think that they're ever going to work with victims, you know, it's still very like good and knowledgeable information to have because you just never know when you are going to encounter someone who is in crisis. And so I feel like they do a really good job at that.
And then we've been talking about in the future, too, even like do Victim Services, tracks like Within the CJ Program and things like that. But we need to be able to expand a lot more to be able to do that.
And it's not just for like those who are wanting to go into policing or like being an attorney, It's for like lots of other paths that you can take as a criminal justice practitioner?
Oh yeah, absolutely. And even not just criminal justice like even if you work in the the mental health field or if you're a nurse or doctor, you know, you are dealing with people who are in pain, who have experienced harm. And, you know, we need to and sometimes when we're working in this field, like we hear the same things over and over and over again.
So like, I definitely understand like where officers are sometimes coming from, and especially because people in the field, they remember the outliers, like the very, very serious cases like these felony level cases where you're just like completely shocked that anybody would do this to another person. And those always kind of stick in your mind. And so then when you encounter kind of the the normal everyday domestic disputes and stuff like that, like it, I can understand why some officers may minimize this because in their experience, like, oh, you know, he just, you know, through this plate at you.
Okay. Well, he didn't, you know, murder your kids or stab you kind of thing. So let us know if anything else happens. And so I feel like we aren't helping, you know, training the future practice practitioners to understand the importance of victimization and both as victims and offenders. You know, we're going to continue to see the same issues that we have where we have kind of fostered a system that that thrives off of, like fighting for victims rights.
But in reality, like that's very symbolic. You do have a lot of people in the field that are like, I do this for the victims, and I believe that. But we also have a system where victims don't really have a whole lot of say in how things are, decisions are made. And so hopefully the more that we can kind of improve and build the capacity of future practitioners, regardless of whether they work in the criminal justice system, I think we're going to have better responses and human services just in general.
Alright so my last question is, if you were to do a podcast, what would you do?
Oh, that's a good question. Okay. I think what I would like to do is I would actually just like to interview practitioners, like I would almost kind of think of it as like Intro to Criminal Justice 101, where I basically just get to interview people in a ton of different positions, like I want to interview like Fish and Game. What's it like to be like a Port Authority officer, whether officers who are in the airport like, like all these different kind of fields, like I would love to be like, what is a day in the life like for you? And I just think that would be interesting just in general. Like we live in a society that is like really obsessed with, like true crime and things like that.
And so I think it would be really interesting to hear from practitioners who are doing this work and even, you know, having episodes where I am interviewing survivors of crime, but also like offenders, you know, defense attorneys, victim witness coordinators like, to me that just seem like it would be really interesting, but I'm really busy and I don't want to leave my house.
Just like all of the stories from all the different types of practitioners, even like the ones that are, you wouldn't necessarily think of.
Right.And I just think that would be a great teaching tool as well as to have those resources for students being like, Hey, if you're interested in this field, like I did an interview with, you know, so-and-so that works for this agency, like, you know, posting on canvas so that they can have access to it and stuff like that I think would be interesting or and it would even be helpful just in lectures and things like that to kind of hear things from practitioners perspectives.
I like that it's still like academic, but it's also just like, I think that'd be super interesting to just to hear from like all the different types of practitioners. Because I know in classes we do often like watch the videos that are like about victims and about offenders and like interviewing them and their stories are always so interesting, but we don't I haven't really heard much from like practitioners.
When I was down in Texas. Sam Houston State University is like literally right next to the Wall's unit. The Walls Unit is in Huntsville, Texas. That's where they do all the executions and things like that. And but part of the the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is like they have a series of trustees who actually go out into the community and do public speaking and stuff.
And so one of the resources that we have in our department is like we could reach out to like the inmate service coordinator kind of thing, and we could have a someone who is currently incarcerated come to class and talk to criminal justice students. And that was fascinating because it was like the message or the message is always like, you don't want to end up where I ended up.
And this guy came in and he also had a history of abuse. And then he was like really into fitness. And then he went to prison because he got like nine DUIs. So now he's doing like public speaking and stuff like that. And I think he at the time, he had like five more years, but was getting released soon.
But it was just I mean, like he came in his like in Texas, they all wear white and stuff like that. But he like, had shackles and things like that. He had his hands like free and things like that. And the correction officer like came with them. But it was like such a unique experience. And I think that like having more opportunities like that would be very beneficial to students because again, we also have students, you know, who may have never been in a prison or a jail like in terms of touring it or understanding what that's like or even working in those kind of facilities unless they're doing internships.
And so kind of bringing the real world to them I think would be really interesting. And especially through that podcast.
Thank you for listening to Dr. Brady talk about victimization in his research. We also heard why it's important to study this topic and how it can be helpful for future criminal justice practitioners. I also don't know about you, but a podcast where the host interviews multiple different either workers, offenders and victims in the criminal justice world sounds very interesting to me.
I'm your host, Isabella Marcus-Porter, giving you a taste of UNC.