Topic: Violence and abuse

The Who, the Why and the Wherefore. Explanations, self-change and social friction in men’s narratives of sexual violations

Kruse, A. E. (2020). The Who, the Why and the Wherefore. Explanations, self-change and social friction in men's narratives of sexual violations. Oslo, Norway: Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo. (Doktorgradsavhandling).


This dissertation shows how seventeen men convicted of sexual violations explain their actions with reference to culture and norms, and how being convicted of sexual violations affect their identity and conception of self. This is partly uncharted territory in the Nordic countries, as there have been few academic studies of men’s own conception of their sexual violence here.

Reinterpreting violations in dialogue with others
Men’s conceptions of self and their conceptions of their own offences may change over time, according to the findings in this dissertation. New understandings of their own violations are developed in and through feedback from others. 

While serving their sentence, persons convicted of sexual offences are often expected to acknowledge and take responsibility for their crimes. All the men in this study had reflected on questions like guilt, responsibility and shame with regards to their actions. They had been through processes of attempting to understand what they had done, why they had done it, and the consequences their actions had had. The analyses clearly show that the men to a large degree developed their understanding in dialogue with other people, in social processes.

Prioritising facilitation of social processes 
The dissertation shows that the work involved in coping with a criminal conviction should be understood as a social process, rather than an individual process. Meaning-making, identity and social reintegration are critical for rehabilitation and the process of desistance, i.e., the enduring cessation of offending behavior. Taken together, these factors suggest that one important way for society to approach those convicted for sexual offences is by facilitating such social processes of change. Doing so has the potential to increase and expand offenders’ understanding of their actions and of the consequences they have had for their victims. 

The analyses also identifies which cultural explanations are available to these men when they explain their own violating behaviour. They actively negotiate with prevailing normative sexual ideals when evaluating their own actions, and when they explain how they previously perceived their violating behavior as somehow permissible. This shows how a more comprehensive knowledge of the experiences and attitudes of these men is important to prevent rape and sexual violations, and to inform how we address this social problem.   

Facts about the study
This qualitative interview study includes seventeen men aged 18-60, who have committed sexual violations against adult or peer victims. Most participants were imprisoned at the time of the interviews. All were convicted of sexual offences, including rape, attempted rape, or other forms of sexual assault.

While she conducted this PhD project, Kruse was employed by the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS). Her project was funded by the Research Programme on Violence in Close Relationships (2014-2019).



Published Aug. 11, 2020 3:30 PM - Last modified Aug. 31, 2020 2:10 PM

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