Kristy Downe

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - ECU Access Only


Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Supervisor

Deirdre Drake

Second Supervisor

Alfred Allan


Justice is a key concept upon which society is built. Different interpretations of justice, and disagreements over what it demands, continue to complicate its meaning and application. Though academic and public discourse has added to knowledge as to what justice represents, developing an understanding of justice from the view of "everyday people" has important empirical and clinical implications. It is argued here that research grounded in people's lived experience yields a more comprehensive picture of justice in terms of how the concept is structured and secondly, how its meaning varies between individuals. Such knowledge can be used to develop judicial and community policies/services better suited to community needs. This research focused on perceptions of justice amongst family and friends of victims (secondary victims) of sexual assault or abuse. Evidence suggests that secondary victims are affected by victimisation similar to direct victims and furthermore, are important to direct victims' recovery. Sexual crime also represents an important form of crime in that it constitutes a particularly serious violation of personal boundaries. A grounded theory approach to empirical inquiry was adopted in this research in keeping with the emphasis on exploration and lived experience. Data was collected over 2 interrelated studies. In Study 1, 20 participants completed a pen-and-paper questionnaire. In Study 2, which constituted the main study, 29 participants took part in semi-structured interviews. Analysis revealed that a sense of justice emerged out of themes/concepts covering two major areas: the experience of victimisation and secondly, beliefs about justice per se. Victimisation impacted on participants similar to how contact with traumatised individuals results in secondary trauma in some carers, health professionals, and similar support figures. Justice themes/concepts relevant to participants overlapped with elements represented in procedural and retributive theories of justice, as well as centring on concepts, such as healing and recognition, which fall outside of traditional justice theory. Participants sought "good enough" rather than absolute justice and relatively few participants believed good enough justice had been achieved in their situation. Overall, findings indicated that justice is expressed and realised in different ways between individuals despite clustering around common themes/concepts.