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Visualising Justice: Sexual Violence, Law and Art

DOHERTY, SOPHIE (2020) Visualising Justice: Sexual Violence, Law and Art. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 05 June 2026.


This research provides an original and timely contribution to conceptualisations of justice for victim-survivors of sexual violence. There is a justice gap when it comes to obtaining justice for victim-survivors of sexual violence when sought through conventional justice processes. Research has demonstrated that victim-survivors of sexual violence do not always frame their justice interests within traditional discourse, and so there is also a gap in understanding what justice for victim-survivors of sexual violence amounts to, and how it can be achieved. If the justice processes and justice interests of victim-survivors are not considered or understood, their sense of justice cannot be obtained.

The 1970s feminist movement saw a marked increase in the frequency of victim-survivors engaging in feminist visual art practice to express their experiences of sexual violence. Despite victim-survivors engaging in visual art practice for more than half a century, there is a gap in understanding how the engagement of victim-survivors of sexual violence with visual art practice may relate to justice. This research uses an innovative interdisciplinary and feminist methodology to address this gap. The thesis asks: how can an analysis of feminist activist visual art practice on the theme of sexual violence help to develop understandings of what justice means for victim-survivors of sexual violence?

Using a case study method and a semi-structured interview, this research develops “justice through expression” as an innovative justice process through which victim-survivors may achieve justice interests. It proposes that there are several justice interests that may be secured through this process, namely: “education and prevention”; “collective justice”; “expression and
engagement”; and, “closure.”

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Law and Art Criminal Justice Sexual Violence Rape Legal Theory Justice
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Law, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Jun 2020 10:10

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