The value of truth for justice restoration and victims’ healing

Author: Blake Quinney

Quinney, Blake, 2022 The value of truth for justice restoration and victims’ healing, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Bringing the full truth about crime or wrongdoing to light is heralded as a means for repairing the harm done to victims and facilitating the healing process (De la Rey & Owens, 1998). Yet, the truth being a remedy to victims of wrongdoing is also regarded with scepticism by others (Mendeloff, 2004; Weinstein, 2011). However, ‘the truth’ considered so far in the literature is the truth that is provided to victims in truth commissions or in legal settings (Gibson, 2004; Hayner, 2000). The consequence of conceptualising truth in this way is that the effects of knowing the truth per se are confounded with content effects of the truth (e.g., how the crime was committed) or effects of how the truth is delivered (e.g., whether the offender appeared forthcoming with the truth). Therefore, it is unclear whether simply knowing the truth in itself has value for victims.

Accordingly, the focus of this thesis is whether knowing the truth per se has value for victims. Specifically, whether the truth has value for victims by providing a feeling of knowing the complete truth about the wrongdoing - termed truth knowing (Quinney et al., 2022). The unique approach of this thesis is to isolate the feeling of truth knowing from truth content effects (e.g., the victim learning the crime was not a personal vendetta against them). To achieve this aim, the method used makes salient either the completeness or incompleteness of victims’ knowledge about a crime or wrongdoing without changing any details or providing any additional information.

The findings in this thesis support the proposition that knowing the truth has value in itself for victims. First, the perceived completeness of knowledge (vs. incomplete) elicits greater truth knowing, greater psychological closure, reduced anger, and truth knowing is associated with increased forgiveness. However, there is a lack of consistent effects of truth knowing on decreasing victims’ rumination about the wrongdoing. Finally, the perceived completeness of knowledge (vs. incomplete) also increases victims’ readiness for an apology, increases the perceived completeness of an apology, and increases the acceptance of an apology issued by an offender in victim-offender mediation. Thus, the truth has value that is independent from the value derived from specific truth content, by providing a feeling of truth knowing, that is valuable for justice restoration and victims’ healing.

Keywords: truth, closure, forgiveness, restorative justice, morality, justice, victim, offender, truth-telling, social psychology, crime,

Subject: Psychology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2022
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Professor Michael Wenzel