Helping Victim Support to better support victims

Our lives are made up of the interactions we have with others. Emma Tennent analyses these interactions to see how we make sense of the world through language.

Emma Tennant with sound recording on computer

“Discursive psychology is quite a different branch of psychology that examines how things like attitudes, identities and emotions are built and made visible in language. I use conversation analysis to study social interaction, looking systematically at how people accomplish social actions through talk.”

Emma is applying her research to help New Zealand community organisation Victim Support make improvements to the invaluable service it provides to victims of crime and trauma.

“Victim Support received more than 90,000 calls last year, a demand which the organisation is working extremely hard to meet.

“Working with anonymous data, I aim to analyse the interactions to identify patterns across the calls. I then hope to facilitate a training programme for the organisation, based on my findings.”

Interested in the theoretical perspective of her research at Victim Support, Emma is fascinated by the idea of what it means to be a victim.

“On one hand, no one really wants to be a victim, but on the other hand, you need to be a victim if you want to have access to support. So how do we manage these identities?” asks Emma, who began her research at Victim Support during her Victoria Summer Scholarship.

Emma had never planned on undertaking a PhD, but after seeing the response Victim Support had to her successful Summer Scholarship research, her supervisor Professor Ann Weatherall from the School of Psychology asked, “Why not?”

“When someone you respect asks you that, it means a lot. This support and the fact that my research, in a unique branch of psychology that I am so passionate about, is helping solve real-world problems in our community kept me eager to pursue a PhD.”