Construction of the Victim Impact Statement for Sexually Abused Minors: A Dramaturgy Approach

Ronit D. Leichtentritt*, Bilha Davidson-Arad

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


This study examines victim impact statements (VIS) constructed by six Israeli social workers for the sentencing process in 17 cases of sexual abuse of minors. The VIS is seen not as a systematic description of the victim made by the social worker, but rather as a construction resulting from the relation between the child's story and the social worker's understanding and interpretation of it. As such, the paper identifies a number of strategies social workers employed to construct the statement: (1) telling the story in the form of drama; (2) limited use of the victim's voice; (3) contrast between extremes; (4) description of the abuse as an actorless event; (5) use of chorus to present conclusions; and (6) usage of metaphors, similes and analogies. Qualitative analysis of the VIS yielded a composite drama in four acts (episodes) covering four time periods: prior to the abuse, during the abuse, after disclosure and future prognosis. Our findings suggest that the ultimate intent of the drama is to establish new meanings of the traumatic experience for actors and audience. Two complementary meanings were highlighted in the VIS: the child's lack of blame and the need to severely punish the offender. Implications for training and supervision of social workers are presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1067-1087
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2002


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