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Sense-making and secondary victimization among unsolved homicide co-victims


  • Stretesky, Paul B.
  • Shelley, Tara O'Connor
  • Hogan, Michael J.
  • Unnithan, N. Prabha


Sense-making is a form of meaning-making that focuses on understanding loss which then contributes to identity reconstruction. This qualitative study examines how perceived communication with the criminal justice system can inhibit sense-making among unsolved homicide co-victims. One-time intensive interviews were conducted with 37 co-victims about their interactions with police and prosecutors. A grounded theory approach suggest that co-victims held negative views of the police and prosecutors because they perceived them as inhibiting their ability to adequately locate information needed to understand the crime and achieve justice. Results also suggest that race and ethnicity play a role in reducing sense-making because constructions of meaning were based on perceptions of discrimination. In the end, the intense desire for information, resolution, and justice led several co-victims to investigate their loved one's murder. Policies that law enforcement should adopt to promote better communication with co-victims and facilitate sense-making are examined.

Suggested Citation

  • Stretesky, Paul B. & Shelley, Tara O'Connor & Hogan, Michael J. & Unnithan, N. Prabha, 2010. "Sense-making and secondary victimization among unsolved homicide co-victims," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 880-888, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcjust:v:38:y::i:5:p:880-888

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