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Relational Caring: The Use of the Victim Impact Statement by Sexually Assaulted Women

Violence and Victims, 29(5), 797-813

18 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2013 Last revised: 14 Oct 2014

Karen-Lee Miller

University of Toronto

Date Written: October 1, 2014


The victim impact statement (VIS) is a written account of harms experienced as a result of crime. This study investigates VIS use by sexually assaulted women through interviews with Canadian victims, victim services workers, and feminist advocates (N=35). Findings suggest that victims use the VIS to express relational caring. Relational caring is an ethic of care that prioritizes others through privileging the harms experienced by others due to witnessing the sexual assault or coping with the victim’s post-assault sequelae, protecting future or hypothetical victims, and promoting the interests of intimate partner offenders. Relational caring challenges traditional conceptions of victim agency and VIS use for instrumental purposes, as well as the targets and temporalities of sexual assault harms that are detailed in the statement. Relational caring has unique implications for victims who are mothers, especially those abused as minors, and for intimate partners. Legal, therapeutic and social service consequences are discussed.

Keywords: sexual violence, intimate partner violence, sentencing, parole, victim services, victim input

Suggested Citation

Miller, Karen-Lee, Relational Caring: The Use of the Victim Impact Statement by Sexually Assaulted Women (October 1, 2014). Violence and Victims, 29(5), 797-813. Available at SSRN:

Karen-Lee Miller (Contact Author)

University of Toronto ( email )

Toronto, Ontario

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