Victimisation, victims and the CJS
o Geography of crime.
o Time, location.
o Victim – defined by law.
o Victimisation – one-off event.
o How victim behaves.
o Who is the offender.
o How the offender behaves.
o Context (time, community attitudes).
o Response of community and CJS.
Victim status is a process.
Instead of being defined by law – looks at victimisation as a being a process
people can experience.
Looks at how the CJS, media and society sees the victim.
The rise of the victim
Von Hetnig (1948): Victim prone:
o Used to see victims negatively – looked at how the victim was
responsible for the crime.
o Certain individuals more victim prone.
o Age, gender, mental state, etc., contribute to the likelihood of you
becoming a victim.
Mendelsohn (1956): victim culpability:
o They could either be a completely innocent victim or a guilty victim.
o E.g. if you punch someone and they punch you back, you are a guilty
Amir (1971): victim-perpetrated rape:
o Examined the idea that the victim was somehow responsible for what
occurred to them.
o Argued that the victim actually agreed (or the perpetuator interpreted)
agreed to sexual relations but retracted or didn‟t resist strongly enough
when the suggestion was made.
o Said that it was the victim‟s fault for not fighting back or screaming
loud enough and that was why some people were more prone to rape
o Responses to this – feminist and victims‟ rights 70s-80s:
Having the victim more involved in the CJS rather than the
government being seen as the victim.
New victims and new offenders.
o Victim-focused reform:
Statutory obligations on some professionals to report child
abuse. Victim Impact Statements.
Restriction on cross-examination of victim‟s prior sexual
history in sexual assault cases.
Before reforms – if a victim was put up in the court to be
questioned, they could be cross-examined on things like how
often do you have sex, what do you wear, how do you like to
have sex, etc.
Now they‟re not allowed so victim blaming isn‟t seen in the
Victimology is diverse
Approach Central focus Belief
Realist/ Reality of victim Victims & crime are objective facts, we can study objectively
Critical/ Process Victims & crime are socially defined & constructed we must focus on how
institutional victimhood is defined
Left realist Documenting Social construction is important to victim label, but we can & should still
unrecognised victims document types of victims & produce qualitative and quantitative data
All perspectives acknowledge:
o The victim is historically and temporally defined (e.g. environmental
o Victimhood = a status which is contested and constructed.
o Not all victims are recognised as victims (e.g. asylum seekers).
o Victims exist within and beyond the CJS.
Our perspectives of victims will change overtime e.g. we didn‟t always see
penguins as victims. You may not automatically be granted with victim status but can still be
victimised e.g. asylum seekers – sending them somewhere else might
constitute victimisation but not be seen as victims by CJS, society or the
The label of the victim changes as our perceptions of crime also change.
What is a victim
Victims means persons who, individually or collectively, have
suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional
suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their
fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in
violation of criminal laws operative within Member States,
including those laws proscribing criminal abuse of power.
o Victims‟ Charter Act 2006:
A natural person who has suffered injury as a direct result of a
criminal offence, whether or not that injury was reasonably
foreseeable by the offender; or
If a person has died as a direct result of a criminal offence
committed against that person, a family member of that person.
How we define a victim
Victims = legally, socially, politically, culturally and historically constructed.
Example: rape in marriage:
o Not illegal until 1985.
o Can be culturally accepted – victims don‟t realise that it constituted a
o Marital rapes 10-14% of all rapes in Australia (2011).
o Less than 20% get to court, less than 10% guilty verdict (2012).
Christie’s (1986) ideal victim
A person or category of person who – when hit by crime – most readily are
given the complete and legitimate status of being a victim.
Earned status – 7 categories.
Not those in greatest danger of victimisation.
Doesn‟t refer to those most often victimised.
Doesn‟t refer to the individual‟s own perception or classification of
o If you don‟t fit into the categories, you are less likely to be seen as a
legitimate victim – less sympathy from CJS.
o Old or very young.
o Doing something legal and respectable.
o Attacked by a stranger.
o Attacked in a public space.
o Struggles valiantly.
o The matter is brought to police attention immediately. Example: Madeline McCann:
o Young: Aged 3.