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Living in the Margins: Assessing Police Engagement as a Form of Victim Help-Seeking Through Legal Estrangement

NCJ Number
Victims & Offenders Dated: 2023
Date Published

This document reports on a thematic analysis of complex victim help-seeking decision-making for people in impoverished neighborhoods with high violent-crime rates; it lays out the research methodology as well as implications gleaned from the outcomes.


This paper offers one attempt to move police reporting literature into help-seeking contexts. The current study uses the legal estrangement framework to examine complex victim help-seeking decisions, in the form of police engagement, for individuals living in impoverished neighborhoods with high violent crime rates in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A thematic analysis was applied to semi-structured interviews and found help-seeking is a dynamic process. Among victims of color, the legal estrangement framework contextualizes the landscape of help-seeking decisions, while other socio-ecological and situational characteristics simultaneously influence help-seeking behaviors. Concepts of procedural injustice, vicarious marginalization, and structural exclusion are reflected in both help-seekers and non-help-seekers. (Published Abstracts Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2023