The role of social support in the aftermath of victimization : Interpersonal aspects of coming to terms with a victimization experience

Enduring a serious victimization experience significantly affects the social fabric of individuals and their surroundings. People suffering similar or even the same forms of victimization have vastly different experiences of the event and its aftermath (Ten Boom & Kuijpers, 2012). However, there is a common need for sense-making in the aftermath of such an experience, including a search for explanations of and meaning in the event (Aarten et al., 2020; Crossley 2000; Pemberton et al., 2019b).


It is generally acknowledged that sensemaking is rooted in identity construction (Weick, 1995) and that partaking in these sensemaking processes and identity construction is a particularly interpersonal process as it is a cocreation between individuals and communities (Lindemann-Nelson, 2001; Mankowski & Rappaport, 2000). Moreover, storytelling is the primary interpersonal way people construct personal identities (Gubrium & Holstein, 2000). Especially in the case of negative life events, which require social sharing and narrative attention, an explanation, in one’s life story (Pemberton, Mulder, & Aarten, 2019b; Rimé, 2009). However, victimization may also affect social relationship as it causes a sudden rupture to the victim’s sense of self and their relationship to others. In this, the experience of being socially supported is essential to a victim’s recovery.


This dissertation studied the role of social support in coming to terms with a victimization experience through examining interpersonal processes of storytelling, sensemaking, and identity construction. Several different theories and research designs were used to study this phenomenon. In this, an attempt was made to contribute to the knowledge of:


  • risk factors for a lack of social support (chapter 2);
  • the scope of the current research into peer support in the aftermath of a victimization experience (chapter 3); 
  • the role of peer support in sensemaking and identity construction (chapter 4);
  • the impact of a victimization experience on everyday-life identity management and the role of micro-sociological processes of re-narrating and shame management in peer support (chapter 5)


The main aim was to contribute to the understanding of social support and the interpersonal aspects of coming to terms with a victimization experience in a community setting in the aftermath of such an experience. To achieve this aim this dissertation brought together insights following from a variety of studies, namely a panel study, a scoping review and an observation study. 

Crime, Effects, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Predisposition, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Social Support, Stressors, Systematic Review