Victimisation and addictive careers amongst women in Malta

Petra Scicluna (Psychology Unit, Correctional Services Division, Paola, Malta)
Marilyn Clark (Department of Psychology, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta, Msida, Malta)

The Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 2050-8794

Publication date: 31 January 2019



The purpose of this paper is to provide a theoretical analysis of the pathways of female addicts within the Maltese context by highlighting the complex interrelatedness between substance abuse and victimisation. This paper proposes that female addiction and victimisation trajectories unfold in a non-linear fashion, heavily influenced by particular socio-psychological processes.


Guided by a career approach conceptual framework, this study was carried out through an in-depth exploration of the victimisation and addictive career trajectories of 12 women, who are either incarcerated or in a residential drug treatment facility. Data were gathered qualitatively through in-depth interviews and analysed using a grounded theory methodology.


The paper highlights how the victimisation and substance abuse trajectories of women initially unfold and develop over time. This includes an exploration of the strategies employed in order to negotiate gender-based victimisation experiences throughout their lifetime, such as through the development of a victim identity and the self-medication of trauma symptoms, a process that is facilitated by the influence of older, male peers. As the women’s addiction trajectories progress rapidly towards commitment, sex work and IPV feature and the victim identity is reinforced, motivating continued and increased drug use.

Practical implications

The paper includes implications for the development of a gender-responsive framework of intervention when working with women who were present for the treatment.


With a focus on women’s experiences, this study fills a lacuna within the literature by complementing and expanding upon quantitative analyses that examine these phenomena as distinct entities.



Scicluna, P. and Clark, M. (2019), "Victimisation and addictive careers amongst women in Malta", The Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 71-84.

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