Anja Emilie Kruse – NSfK ResearchSeminar 2021

Social responses to narratives of sexual harmdoing

Anja Emilie Kruse, PhD, Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress Studies (NKVTS) / Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo

The powerful potential of responses to violence

In recent years, interest in the effect and meaning of responses to sexual, domestic and other forms of interpersonal violence has surged. This has been perhaps particularly evident in the powerful and transnational #metoo movement, with its emphasis on problematizing the lack of adequate responses to everyday sexism and harassment as well as criminalized forms of sexual violence.

In the context of this text, responses refers to how we as individuals, our institutions and our societies deal with events or actions that demand our attention – in short, what we say and what we do when we encounter, for example, sexual violence. What inspires and instigates social responses to sexual and other forms of interpersonal violence is, often, stories or narratives of such violence.

Institutional, local and interpersonal responses to violence and violations have the potential of producing and reproducing dominant understandings of violence and harm, but also of subverting and expanding them, sometimes creating grounds for recognizing new forms of harm and violence. Part of what has made #metoo such an influential social movement lies, I would argue, in how it insists on scrutinizing how our societies respond to, or rather have not responded adequately to, sexual harassment and sexualized abuses of power.

Responses, harmdoing and stories of harmdoing

One question that is not resolved in the wake of #metoo, however, is how to respond to those responsible for causing sexual harm through their harassing, violating, abusive or violent behavior. And, importantly, what would amount to adequate or fruitful responses to such behavior, ensuring a sense of recognition and justice for those harmed while at the same time allowing space for accountability, learning and rehabilitation in those who have harmed others, and making our societies better equipped for reintegration and restorative processes after harm has been done.
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Read more about Kruse’s PhD dissertation here:

Read an interview with Kruse on here (in Norwegian):