Research

Broadly speaking, my research focuses on institutional harm and social control over marginalized populations within and beyond the criminal legal system, with a particular focus on LGBTQIA+ people. In particular, I am interested in how queer, trans, and nonbinary people are subject to both formal (e.g. policing, criminalization, medical gatekeeping) and informal (e.g., social pressure, safety management) forms of regulation and discipline. I draw on existing literature on social control, governmentality, social constructions of deviance, and homo- and transnormativity to examine how processes of control shape LGBTQIA+ people’s presentation and behavior across contexts.

My dissertation, titled “LGBTQIA+ Individuals’ Encounters with Police: Contextual Factors, Help-Seeking, and Service Needs,” draws on data from qualitative interviews with 42 LGBTQIA+ people about their experiences interacting with police, access to formal and informal support services, and engagement with service providers. In addition, I interviewed 15 service providers working with LGBTQIA+ client populations, asking about common obstacles to service access, as well as the role of police and the criminal legal system on clients’ circumstances.

In addition to the dissertation, which focuses on police encounters and help-seeking, I am using interview data from this project to examine nonbinary identity and presentation, queer and trans care networks, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGBTQIA+ people’s access to support services, and ways in which medical and mental health contexts replicate carceral logics and practices of gender policing. I am also continuing a separate avenue of research on media depictions of transgender victims of violence.

See below for a selected list of recent publications, a full list of which is available on my CV. My ORCID profile can be found here, and my ResearchGate profile is here.


PEER-REVIEWED JOURNAL ARTICLES (selected)

Osborn, M. (2022, forthcoming). LGBTQIA+ people’s service access during the COVID-19 pandemic: Obstacles to care and provider adaptations. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services. doi: 10.1080/10538720.2022.2053025.

Members of LGBTQIA+ populations often experience difficulties accessing support services and report inadequate, discriminatory, or stigmatizing treatment from providers. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded existing access barriers; consequently, researchers and practitioners have called for an examination of how the pandemic has impacted LGBTQIA+ people’s wellbeing.The present study uses qualitative data from interviews with 42 LGBTQIA+ people about barriers to service access during the pandemic, as well as 15 LGBTQIA-focused service providers about how their work has changed and adapted since the pandemic started. Implications and recommendations for service improvement, both during the pandemic and in the future, are discussed


Osborn, M. (2021). U.S. news coverage of transgender victims of fatal violence: An exploratory content analysis. Violence Against Women, epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1177/10778012211025995.

Media portrayals of crime help shape public perceptions of victims and the demographic groups to which they belong. For transgender people, who already face heightened disparities and stigma, news coverage may reinforce negative stereotypes and minimize the wider context of transphobic violence. The current study, a content analysis of news articles (n = 316) pertaining to 27 transgender people killed in the U.S. in 2016, addresses positive and negative depictions of victims, use of language affirming and delegitimizing transgender identities, and framing of transphobia as a systemic problem. Themes, implications, and future research directions are discussed.


Rajah, V., & Osborn, M. (2021). Understanding the body and embodiment in the context of women’s resistance to intimate partner violence: A scoping review. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1177/1524838021995941.

Scholars acknowledge that women oppose male intimate partner violence (IPV). Yet there is limited comprehensive knowledge regarding how women’s bodies and embodiment, that is, their physical and emotional practices and the cultural and social systems that influence them, figure in this process. Our scoping review helps fill this gap by analyzing and synthesizing 74 research articles published in English-language scholarly journals between 1994 and 2017 to address three research questions: (1) How does existing IPV research conceptualize resistance? (2) To what extent do the body and embodiment appear in this research? and (3) What common themes emerge from investigation of the role of embodiment and the body in the context of IPV? The articles identify several subtypes of resistance strategies including avoidance, help-seeking, violent action, and leaving a violent relationship. The reviewed research also regularly describes women’s physical and emotional states in the context of IPV. Only a small number of these texts, however, define or conceptualize embodiment. Our analysis of the manner in which the body figures in women’s resistance to IPV yielded four themes: (1) the active body, (2) the injured/constrained body, (3) the interactive body, and (4) the transformative body. We conclude with a discussion of policy and practice implications, such as the need to increase awareness about how institutions enforce embodied norms among victims and use the body to assign blame and/or proffer assistance in the context of IPV.


Widom, C. S., & Osborn, M. (2021). The cycle of violence: Abused and neglected girls to adult female offenders. Feminist Criminology, epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1177/1557085120987628.

Drawing on findings from a prospective cohort design study that followed abused and neglected children and demographically matched controls into adulthood, this paper focuses on these abused and neglected girls and one important consequence—the extent to which these victims become offenders themselves. We ask four questions: Is criminal behavior among abused and neglected girls and women rare? Are abused and neglected girls at increased risk for becoming violent offenders? Does childhood maltreatment affect criminal career trajectories for girls? Do maltreated girls grow up to maltreat their own children? We conclude with discussion, suggestions for future research, and implications.


Osborn, M., & Rajah, V. (2020). Understanding formal responses to intimate partner violence and women’s resistance processes: A scoping review. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, epub ahead of print. doi: 10.1177/1524838020967348.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) literature addresses the ways in which women oppose violent male partners through acts of “everyday resistance.” There is a limited understanding, however, of the relationship between women’s resistance and their formal help-seeking in the context of IPV. Our scoping review, which includes 74 articles published in English-language journals between 1994 and 2017, attempts to help fill this gap by developing systematic knowledge regarding the following research questions: (1) How are formal institutional responses discussed within the literature on resistance to IPV? (2) How does institutional help-seeking facilitate or obstruct IPV survivors’ personal efforts to resist violence? We find that institutions and organizations succeed in facilitating resistance processes when they counter victim-blaming ideas and provide IPV survivors with shared community and a sense of control over their futures. However, they fall short in terms of helping survivors by expecting survivors to adhere to a rigid narrative about appropriate responses to violence, devoting insufficient attention to individual-level factors impacting survivors’ vulnerability and ability to access help, and replicating abuse dynamics when interacting with survivors. Policy and practice implications are discussed.