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Inquiries into historical institutional abuse have only recently come to be viewed through the lens of transitional justice. This article argues that their distinctive victim-focused approach disguises a reality that institutions in which violence was endemic blurred the line between victims and ‘perpetrators.’ Earlier inquiries often blamed residents for the prevalence of institutional violence, avoiding accusations that authorities had failed. Contemporary inquiries, intent on exposing institutional failures, draw a dichotomy between victims and perpetrators, but this makes it difficult for a victim/‘perpetrator’ to find a space in which to speak. This article explores the ways in which such people shape their understandings of their dual identity and the challenges which they pose to the unity of survivor advocacy groups in the shift from inquiry to redress. It argues that the existence of victim/‘perpetrator’ should be seen as evidence of institutional failure rather than an indication of individual culpability.


School of Arts

Document Type

Journal Article

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