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Lecture 2

CRM202: Week 2 (Jan 24) - The Social Context of Victimhood (MW).docx

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Department
Criminology
Course
CRM 202
Professor
Tammy Landau
Semester
Winter

Description
Class 2 - The Social Context of Victimhood 1. Cultural and Media Images of Victimization 2. Conceptual Frameworks in Victimology Mainstream vs. Critical Approaches to Victimology Arbour Video – “Events at the Prison For Women” 1994 3. Social Inequality and Victimization: The Case of Gender Femininities and Victimization Masculinities and Victimization 4. Defining the “Victim” Christie’s Model of the “Ideal” Victim Cultural Images of Victimhood “There are many influences on our notions of victimhood....organizational constraints on media reporting influence our conceptions of the victim. At the same time, these images are deeply embedded in the broader moral, legal, social, and cultural influences of gender, class, and race. Scholarly attempts to understand victim status have not been successful in clarifying what it means to be a “victim”; however, critical scholars have identified social and political processes that both shape and limit our notions of victimhood” (Landau, 2006, p. 19 wrong page) Ignores the institutional violence committed by or sanctioned by the state (e.g. in prisons or other institutions, in policing public order, during war [example: Ashley Smith case: officers let 19-year-old victim strangle herself in her cell]) or by the corporate sector (i.e. in the workplace through labour code violations) Women's vulnerability is misstated, since they are most vulnerable in the home [common to say women should stay home to be safe when in fact they are in the most danger at home, put there by the people in their lives] Men are seen as inevitably violent, but are not targeted for crime prevention [media has not portrayed men as victims] Put undue emphasis on certain types of victimization, in particular violence committed by men against strangers in public places (Stanko) Isolates acts of violence from the way that they are interwoven into the lives of both men and women [not the most common forms of crime; we mistake how men and women experience violence] Relies too heavily on legal definitions of 'crime' (ie based on definitions in the criminal code or other statutes) when many forms of violence fall outside such constraints, such as racial, sexual or homophobic harassment, bullying, intimidation, courtship violence [whole range of laws that is limited by codified laws; physical abuse almost always starts with emotional abuse, but the law cannot intervene until the physical act has been committed] Findings about Crime News Content: (Sacco and Kennedy, p. 27) Crime news items typically involved reports of individual crimes (one-on-one crimes) [Ex: homicide, theft] Violent crimes are far less common than property crime -> homicide is one of the rare crimes in the Criminal Code (not an accurate proportionate media representation) Crime news is dominated by reports about violence - particularly homicide. There appears to be relatively little relationship between the volume of crime as measured by the amount of crime news and the volume of crime as measured by crime statistics. "Common crime" (e.g. robbery, theft) is much more likely to receive extensive media coverage than "elite crimes" (e.g. Corporate, environmental crime) [Ex: Billy Maydof? Money scam, sentenced to 149 years in prison] Media Influences on Notions of Victimhood "There is a problem in assuming that newsworthiness is an inherent characteristic of the events and conditions that end up as news" (Viano, 1992, p. 29) “Elastic” nature of news content [crime news can either be expanded or contracted to fill any space, and is determined by what else is going on, if there are other big newsworthy stories] Reliance of journalists on police as “experts” on crime [police choose what crimes to present and determine what information gets released to the public] Focus of the criminal justice system and policing on offenders vs. victims [paper created a narrative for different outcomes of a case, conspiracy in presenting the victim] Limited access to victims as sources of information [child victims or victims of sexual assault are not identified] Role of media in “describing victims selectively and negatively, utilizing stereotypes that lead to blaming the victim while overlooking other, positive attributes of the victim; or by presuming to know what a victim thinks or feels (Viano, 1992, p, 26) Barriers to victims as “good news sources” Issues with personal credibility Victims may not be articulate or good for a ‘sound byte’ [media wants victim to sound a certain way or have a certain angle] They may be difficult to find or to access They may be perceived to have their own agenda Victims often perceive the media as invading their privacy Conceptual Frameworks in Victimology “Victimology is, in effect, a sub-discipline of criminology, the only discipline even remotely attentive to victims…Like criminology, it is an empirically-driven science, a rendez-vous science defined by its attention to all things associated with victims, rather than a science unified by a common theory, practice, profession or institution. Like criminology, it may be described as diffuse, synthetic and loosely- integrated” (Rock, 1994, xvi) [not a unified discipline, there are several approaches] Mainstream Victimology Focus on the victim and his/her relationship with the state, in particular within the institutional components of the criminal justice system Focus on the formal role of victims in the criminal process, victim participation in, and satisfaction with, that process (either by choice or due to legal and administrative constraints), Concern over victims’ rights, particularly as a counterbalance to rights for the accused Assumptions generally in line with consensus theories of crime: • social values and cultural norms (such as the content of the criminal law) are presumed to be shared by the majority in society; • the state and its institutions, including the arms of criminal justice, are seen as value-neutral [no preference for someone over another], generally operating in the best interests of society • the fundamental rationale for the current limited role of the victim in the criminal process is accepted, since the state’s interests are generally coincident with those of the victim. Scholars and researchers from this perspective accept the underlying assumptions of positivism, a traditional framework within which contemporary “science” has emerged: Emphasis on “determinism *one thing determines another, such as an extra “Y” chromosome = criminality], differentiation [we can distinguish who criminals are and separate them from non-criminals; we can differentiate amongst groups], pathology [we are assigning a particular value to a group; we give a value to criminals, otherwise they would be victims]”, i.e. the principles of the natural sciences, with their emphasis on the observable, measurable and “objective” dimensions of the social world, Use of common tools to measure crime and victimization such as official data on crime Focus on the differentiation between victims and non-victims by focusing on identifying risk factors such as the victim or his/her daily routines, victim “precipitation” Silent on the role of the state in victimizing How “victim” is constituted (ie defined and understood) is generally considered to be unproblematic, as are ways in which victimization itself is classed, raced, gendered and reflective of a vast range of social inequities. *limitations in the ways the word “victim” is used/defined+ “*P+ositivist criminology has traditionally concentrat
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