Victims of Crime

Victimology is the study of the various types of harm people suffer as the result of crime. Victimologists study the effects of crime on victims and the way the criminal justice system deals with victims, although they do not directly assist victims. Sources for statistics on victims include the NCVS and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Macro-victimization looks at large groups of people as victims of large-scale criminal offenses, including terrorism, large-scale corporate and environmental crime, and crimes against humanity. Micro-victimization describes individual street-crime victimization; it is easier to measure and victims often receive more productive assistance. The FBI identifies four major violent victimizations and four major property victimizations. Victim precipitation in murder occurs when the victim initiates the murder; it differs from provocation and from victim blaming. Luckenbill’s concept of murder as a situated transaction helps improve understanding of various types of violence. Transnational crime, which often resembles domestic organized crime, involves offenses that originate in one country, cross one or more national borders, and find victims in other countries.

Criminal victimization creates many problems for victims, including physical, emotional, family-related, economic and legal trauma. The three major needs of victims are the need to feel safe, the need to express emotions, and the need to know what comes next. Legal trauma has often been described as “secondary victimization,” because of the stress created by the legal proceedings that may follow the actual victimization.

Although assisting crime victims benefits society, victim assistance, like offender rehabilitation, tends to be neglected in favor of prosecuting and punishing offenders. The Crime Victims’ Rights Act requires the federal government to provide several rights to victims of federal offenses. Some states have victims’ rights compliance programs to educate the public and criminal justice agencies. All states have victim compensation programs. The payment of restitution to the victim by the offender has become popular. Restorative justice programs also have benefited victims. Victim-impact statements, which detail the effects of the offense on the victim and the victim’s family, allow victims to participate in the criminal justice process.