Better supporting victims

Phone calls to Victim Support are analysed by Psychology PhD candidate Emma Tennent to identify patterns that could help it improve its service.

Psychology PhD candidate Emma Tennent

My branch of psychology is called discursive psychology and examines how things like attitudes, identities and emotions are built and made visible in language. I analyse social interaction, looking systematically at how people accomplish social actions and make sense of each other through talk.

How people ask for help

Using a method called conversation analysis, I’m studying interactions on the 0800 Victim line to analyse the all-important moment when callers ask for help. 0800 Victim is the first point of contact with the community organisation Victim Support, which provides invaluable services to victims of crime and trauma.

From a theoretical perspective, I am fascinated by what it means to be a victim. On the one hand, no one really wants to be labelled a “victim”, but on the other hand, you need to be a victim if you want to get access to support. In my detailed focus on interactions on the 0800 Victim line, I'm trying to provide a new perspective on how people identify themselves when seeking help and the ways this shapes the support provided.

Towards a better service

My research has practical applications. With a sample of nearly 400 calls, I’m analysing patterns across the data to identify common problems that can occur in the interaction, and how these can best be resolved. I hope to develop these findings into a training programme for the organisation, which can improve services for people seeking help at possibly one of the most difficult times of their lives.