The effect of stigma on working with victims of honor-related violence [Seed Funding]

A lack of knowledge about honor-related violence (HRV) can cause professionals to rely on stereotypical ideas about the victims of such crimes, potentially resulting in stigma and discrimination. Dr. van Osch and her colleagues investigate why and how an HRV stigma affects attitudes towards HRV victims, and the decision-making processes of professionals who assist these victims. This project is part of the Adaptive Societies, Organizations, and Workers theme.

Each year, police officers, health care professionals, and social workers deal with approximately 500 cases of honor-related violence (HRV). HRV refers to “any form of mental or physical violence committed from a collective mentality in response to a (threatened) violation of the honor of a man or a woman, and with that of his or her family”. However, most professionals struggle to understand what honor is, and why people become violent over honor-related matters. This is problematic, as it forces professionals to base themselves on (incorrect) stereotypical ideas about the perpetrators and victims, thereby encouraging stigma around HRV.

Stigma on HRV is expected to be strong

Having a stigma implies that one or one’s group is seen as different (us versus them) and possesses undesirable characteristics, which may result in unequal treatment. For example, professionals who hold stigmatizing attitudes towards their clients perceive a larger social distance towards them and take them less seriously. Furthermore, professional decision-making depends on the extent to which victims live up to the stereotypical image professionals have of them. So-called ‘ideal victims’ are more likely to succeed in the justice system, and hence more readily receive (appropriate) support from professionals. When a HRV victim violates the stereotype (e.g., not being weak, having Western ideas), harmful consequences for the victim and case advancement are to be expected. Given that HRV clashes with Western morals, stigma on HRV is expected to be strong.

Understand why and how an HRV stigma affects treatments

The aim of our project is to understand why and how an HRV stigma affects treatments of HRV victims. Acquiring this knowledge enables the development of evidence-based training to reduce stigmatization of HRV victims. To this end, three studies are conducted: Study 1 investigates and compares people’s perceptions (and potential stigma) of HRV victims and victims of other, similar crimes (e.g., domestic violence). Study 2 examines the perceptions and stigmas professionals hold of HRV victims, and their decision making concerning the treatment of HRV victims. Study 3 aims to more broadly assess professionals’ perceptions and stigmas of HRV victims, and assess if and how perceptions affect judgement and decision making among professionals.

Interdisciplinary collaboration is essential for our project. The topic of HRV is studied in many disciplines as HRV plays a role at the individual, group, and societal level. Reducing stigmatization of HRV requires knowledge about the interaction between the individual and his/her (cultural) group, as well as the role this interaction plays in contact with professional organizations.

Our team

Yvette van Osch is an expert on the culture of honor, stereotypes and discrimination, has given professional workshops on stereotyping and honor, and has established contacts with the Dutch centers of expertise concerning HRV.
Hans van Dijk is an expert on stereotypes, focusing on how those shape attitudes, behaviors, and judgments of professionals in organizations.
Diana Roeg is an expert on participation and recovery of people with complex psychosocial problems. She has expertise in research in stigma and healthcare provision in intimate partner violence victims.
Janne van Doorn is an expert on victimization and the emotional experience of injustice.
Ilja van Beest is an expert on stigmatization, injustice and decision making.


Project duration: 2020 - 2021

Cross-cutting themes

The Herbert Simon Research Institute for Health, Well-being, and Adaptiveness is a research center devoted to carrying out excellent, state of the art research in order to contribute to healthy and resilient people. We have selected three themes, which involve the collaboration between various Departments  and address actual themes in need of both fundamental and applied research.