We're the ideal place for homework help. If you are looking for affordable, custom-written, high-quality and non-plagiarized papers, your student life just became easier with us. Click either of the buttons below to place your order.

Order a Similar Paper Order a Different Paper



Homicide is the illegal killing of a human. Identify and briefly summarize the three classifications of homicide.

Pick ONE of the following:

  • Single person homicide
  • Serial killer homicide
  • Gang homicide
  • Mass murder

Discuss the impacts on the victim’s family, identify the resources available to those families, and explain the role of the criminal justice system in providing assistance to those families.

Submission Requirements

  • two (2) page
  • Name, class, and date should be at the top of the page
  • 12 point font
  • Times New Roman or Arial
  • Use in-text citations
  • List all references at bottom of the page (APA)


1 Introduction to Victimology
Learning Outcome: Examine the history and various explanations for

1.1 History of Victimology

• Describe the history and key concepts of the study of victimology.

Victimology is linked to the field of criminology, which is the scientific study of
crime. It began with the works of Cesare Beccaria (1738–1794), who critiqued the
way that crimes were punished, and Jeremy Bethman (1748–1832), whose work
focused on how social and legal reforms could create a better moral society. Both
were highly influential on the future of criminology. Criminologists have focused
on the criminal understanding of why crime occurs and how to prevent it, and for
good reason. If we want to stop crimes from occurring, we need to focus on the
criminals—what motivates them and how to prevent them from engaging in
criminal activity. In fact, the history of the legal system is based on the idea of
bringing society back into balance.

Often overlooked or marginalized in the conversation are the victims of crime.
Victimology is the study of the victims of crime with the goal to create a general
theory to help prevent victimization. The field has expanded to examine the

• How victims are treated by both society and the criminal justice system
• How victims seek help and recover from their victimization
• How victims seek compensation

In addition, within the field are conversations about whether victimology should be
a movement around victims and victims’ rights in addition to the scientific study of
victims (Ben-David, 2000).

Studying victims can evoke strong emotional reactions that can affect how we deal
with victims and crime, so the end goal for the field is to study victimization from a
scientific approach to ensure objectivity and an unbiased understanding of
victimization. In addition, crime is often messy and complex, complicating the
study of victimization. Figuring out who the victim and offender is can be difficult,
depending on the crime.

The term “victim” comes from the Latin word victime, which were humans and
animals that were to be sacrificed to please the gods (Karmen, 2012). For most of
the history of Western society, the burden of proving victimization and seeking
justice rested on the victim alone. Justice often took the form of retaliation or
retribution against the offender. Most societies have felt that the punishment
should fit the crime. One example of this is the lex talionis: an eye for an eye. This

is the idea that should punishment be warranted, it should be equal to the amount of
harm done. Most retribution came from either the victim themselves, stealing back
what was stolen or being compensated for the loss, or their families being
compensated. Early criminal codes demonstrate this notion of retribution, such as
the Code of Hammurabi (1754 BC).

The idea of the state or government as both the victim and the one who should seek
justice began during the industrial revolution (1760–1820). It is government,
representing the victim and society, that has both been harmed by the crime and
ensures punishment. Victim compensation was not a common part of the
punishment process. Fortunately, the focus, at least in terms of research, has swung
back around to looking at the plight of victims. Many of the changes in the legal
system have occurred because of research around victimization and social
movements that focused on the rights of victims.

Early Research on Victimology

Most of the early research into victimization looked at victim precipitation, the
role victims played in their own victimization. Researchers had proposed that while
some victims were not at all responsible for their victimization, other victims
played a significant role in their victimization. It also acknowledged that two
parties are involved in the crime: the victim and the offender. Both are acting and
reacting to a situation. Victim precipitation varies:

• Victim facilitation is the idea that a victim did something to make him or
herself a more likely target for a criminal. This view is similar to victim
• Example: Someone who left their new cell phone on a table in a coffee
shop while going to the restroom made it easier for the criminal to steal
the phone. This does not mean that the victim is to blame for the theft,
but rather that the victim facilitated the theft by leaving the phone

• Victim provocation is when the victim did something intentional that led to
his/her victimization.
• Example: The victim might have started a bar fight but ended up getting
seriously hurt because the person he/she chose to fight was a better
fighter than the victim. In the end, that person was the victim of an
aggravated assault, but had that person never started the fight, they would
have not become a victim.

The earliest research on victims was conducted by Beniamin Mendelsohn, Hans
von Hentig, Stephen Schafer, and Marvin E. Wolfgang. Most of this research
categorized victims by their level of involvement in their victimization rather than
the harm or injury caused by their victimization. It’s important to be familiar with
this early research because it reflects the social narratives we have about victims
today, including how sympathetic we are toward victims and what society thinks
victims deserve in terms of assistance and restitution.

Beniamin Mendelsohn

Beniamin Mendelsohn’s early work (1937) focused on rape victims. As a lawyer
interviewing witnesses and offenders, he noticed that many victims knew their
offenders. He began to group victim-offender relationships into six categories

based on the victims’ level of guilt in the victimization. He eventually expanded his
view of victims to include all types of victims (such as victims of natural disasters),
not just the victims of crime. He considered this broad view a new field and first
coined the term victimology as an overlapping but separate field from criminology
in 1956. He is considered the “Father of Victimology” (Dussich, 2006).

Mendelsohn had six victimization categories:

• Completely innocent victim – no provocative behavior
• Victim with minor guilt – the victim unintentionally places him or herself in a
compromising situation

• Victim as guilty as offender – the victim engages in a crime and was hurt
• Victim more guilty than offender – the victim promotes or initiates the act
• Most guilty victim – the victim starts off as offender and is hurt in return
• Imaginary victim – someone who pretends to be a victim (Mendelsohn, 1956)

Hans von Hentig

In 1941, Hans von Hentig began to ask about the victims of crime: Were these
people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time or do certain
characteristics make a person more likely to be a victim? What made a victim a
victim? These types of questions were central to the development of the field of

The answer for von Hentig was the victim-criminal dyad:Who the victim is
initially is not always clear when you just look at the outcome of the crime. He
contended that when you look closely at the criminal-victim relationship, you can
see that the victim played a significant role in the end result of the crime. Von
Hentig proposed characteristics that were associated with victims, including either
being young or old, female, immigrate, minority, being lonely and depressed, and
mental disabilities. His work, as well as that of Mendelsohn, continues to influence
the field today.

Stephen Schafer

Schafer also created a victim typology in his book The Victim and His Criminal: A
Study in Functional Responsibility (1968). His work examined the level of
responsibility that a victim played in his/her victimization. According to Schafer,
victims have a responsibility to not act in ways that might provoke their
victimization (such as threatening people) as well as doing their best to prevent
their own victimization. His 7-point scale ranged from no responsibility at all to
complete responsibility.

Schafer’s categories:

1. Unrelated: The victims have no responsibility in their own victimization.
2. Provocative: There is shared responsibility by the victims.
3. Precipitative: The victims have responsibility for their victimization because
they place themselves in situations that might lead to victimization.

4. Biologically weak: There is no responsibility, but the victims are easy targets
because they are perceived as weak, such as the elderly.

5. Socially weak: No responsibility but victims are easy targets because they are
not well integrated into society, such as immigrants.

6. Self-victimizing: Total responsibility. An example would be prostitution.
7. Political: No responsibility. They were victimized because they were opposing
those in power.

Marvin E. Wolfgang Patterns of Criminal Homicide

Wolfgang was the first to offer significant empirical evidence to support the role
victims might play in their victimization. Wolfgang was particularly interested in
asking what role homicide victims play in their own deaths. Wolfgang (1958)

analyzed Philadelphia’s police homicide records from 1948 through 1952 and
found three factors common to victim-precipitated homicides:

1. The victim and offender had some prior interpersonal relationship.
2. There was a series of escalating disagreements between the parties.
3. The victim had consumed alcohol.

His results show that around 26 percent of victims had precipitated their own
victimization, doing something that had directly led to their own death, such as
threatening someone with a weapon or initiating physical violence.

Important research was also conducted by other researchers:

• Wolfgang and Singer (1978) expanded the discussion of victim types to look
at a variety of crimes and victim recidivism and acknowledged that the
process of becoming a victim was a complex one that would take time in order
to truly understand. Their work outlined potential areas of future research.

• Timmer and Norman (1984) pointed out that the behavioral patterns that can
lead to victimization differ across gender, race, and involvement in criminal
activities. Their research showed the utility of distinguishing victims’ acts that
can lead to victimization, and highlighted the complexity of victim

Criticism of Victim Typologies

All of these victim typologies figure out some way to quantify or categorize the
victims’ responsibility in their own victimization, with some criticism.

1. Victim’s level of responsibility is important because it influences both the
response of the criminal justice system and society. However, the issue with
the concept of victim responsibility is that it results in victim blaming,
drawing attention away from the role of the offender in the crime.

2. Eigenberg and Garland (2008) point out that most victim typologies rely on
victims and do not account for all those who were not victimized in the
general population, which creates a circular logic. It makes it impossible to
research whether there are differences between victims and the general
population that truly lead to victimization.

3. Victim typologies assume there was more that victims could have done to
ensure they were not victimized (Eigenberg & Garland, 2008), which ignores
the risks people face in society and that it is impossible to fully protect oneself
from victimization. It also puts an unwarranted level of responsibility on
victims to change their lifestyles to prevent their victimization. Furthermore, it
ignores that fact that many people are victims within their home or workplace.
People are often not in a position to change where they live or work to reduce
their risk. It creates a false impression that individuals can and should be
doing more to prevent their own victimization.

4. Blaming victims for even some of their victimization creates a social narrative
around victims being somehow different from non-victims, thus warranting
different treatment by society. This can lead to secondary victimization, or
the experience of being punished by society for being a victim, which is one of
the more common reasons why people do not seek help when they are
victimized: Their silence ensures that they are not socially punished.

These early victim researchers, regardless of the flaws in their work, led to the
academic study of victimization. The field has branched into both academic studies
as well as activism and advocacy work, which inform each other to craft the current
field. The next section in this module looks at how social movements have played
a role in crafting narratives around victimization as well as creating legal and social
changes to help victims.

Social Movements and Victims

In addition to an academic field, victimology movements ensure that victims’ rights
are protected and that victims have clear advocacy to help them recover from their
victimization. This section discusses several of the social movements that have led
to social changes around victimization. While the Civil Rights Movement is not
discussed here, it is critical to acknowledge the importance of the movement in
creation of laws and social norms around victimization.

The Women’s Movement

The women’s movement, also known as the feminist movement, started with the
suffrage movement (centered on women as legal people with voting and property
rights). The movement has had several phases, outlined next:

• First-wave feminism’s (1860s to 1920s) goal was to see that women had
legal personhood to ensure that women’s voices were heard. Early feminists in
the United States, such as like Susan B. Anthony, advocated against the sexual
harassment of workers and the issues around domestic violence (Derene,
Walker, & Stein, 2007). Through their work, first-wave feminists, the
suffragettes, were able to secure women the right to vote (1920) and allow
women to hold federal office, bringing women’s issues and women’s voices
into the national conversation.

• Second-wave feminism (1960s to 1980s) focused on sexuality, family, the
workplace, reproductive rights, and official legal inequalities. It also focused
on victimization, domestic violence and marital rape, and advocated for
changes in custody and divorce law. Their work helped victim advocacy and
victim’s rights become a significant issue in the public discourse. As Miller
(2016) points out, every sexual harassment law, rape crisis center, women’s
health clinic, and all reproductive choices available to men and women was
due to second-wave feminism. It also had a profound impact on victim theory,
especially in terms of violence against women.
• Note: First and second-wave feminism is critiqued because they focused
on issues that were important to mostly white, middle-class women
(Blackwell, 2011). The inclusion of diverse groups in the conversation is
critical to understanding the social complexity that leads to victimization.

• Third-wave feminism (1990s to mid-2000s) explored the social construction
of gender and sexuality, as opposed to being biological characteristics, and are
therefore flexible and malleable (Adams St. Pierre, 2000). This changed the
dialogue around what it means to be masculine/male and feminine/female,
beginning the discussions around multiple gender identities that we see today.
It promoted conversations around sexuality and other identities and how those
identities intersect to create how we identify ourselves and how society reacts
to these identities. A central focus to third-wave feminism was violence
against women in all of its forms, for example derogatory language or sexual

The starting point of third-wave feminism was Anita Hill’s testimony
against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, regarding how he
allegedly sexually harassed her when he was her boss at the U.S.
Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission. Her testimony stands as one of the first times that sexual
harassment was brought up as an issue for a public appointment.
Image: Anita Hill. Authored by: Tim Pierce.
License: CC-BY 2.0

Third-wave feminism also began discussing violence against marginalized people such as
minority women, the LGBT community, single mothers, and the differently abled.
Intersectionality is when you look at how multiple social identities (race, class, gender
socioeconomic status, etc.) come together to impact a person’s life, including their
victimization. This era also saw growth in the fields of Black, Latino, Native, and Queer studies,
bring to light their issues around victimization, violence, access to health care, and issues of
equality through multiple lenses.

• Fourth-wave feminism is just beginning (2008 to today). It focuses on social justice and
civil rights, including sexual harassment, street harassment, the role of social media and
technology in creating equality, and everyday sexism. The impacts of this wave are
becoming clear in the changes we are seeing in discussing violence toward women.

The #MeToo movement was a watershed moment in terms of sexual harassment,
demonstrating the power that social media can have. Combined with the exposure of
several well-known celebrities, such as Louis C.K., and powerful men who lost their
jobs and reputations, even without legal actions, the social media campaign led to the
realization of the vast extent of sexual harassment.
Image: #MeToo Hashtag. Authored by: from Pexels.

License: CC-0

Children’s Movements

Some of the earliest advocates for
children and child welfare issues in the United States centered around
the use of child labor. The work of Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones)
and the March of the Mill Children in 1903, along with the broader
children’s movement, were effective in helping to reduce the
exploitation of children.
Image: Mother Jones. Authored by: Bertha Howell.
%3AMother_jones_no_2.tif. License: CC-0

Prior to 1875, children did not have formal protections. Children during this time
were, for the most part, treated the same as adults, kept in jails with adults, and
could be punished like adults. Most organizations working with children were
either concerned with orphans or delinquency, so those with homes and who were
not breaking the law were marginalized by society. Starting in the 1870s, a growing
group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) began to advocate for the
protection of children. One of the earliest groups was the Society for the Prevention
of Cruelty to Children, started by Henry Bergh. This started a trend of NGOs as
well as the creation of a juvenile court system to help troubled and abused kids.

Starting in the 1870s, the first juvenile courts were set up and focused on
rehabilitating juveniles into good citizens through hard work and education, based
on the notion of parens patriae (a Latin term that means “parent of the country”),
which gave the state the power to serve as the guardian (or parent) of those with
legal disabilities, including juveniles (American Bar Association, n.d.). The
Sheppard-Towner Act of 1912 strengthened the concept of parens patriae and
included a call for strong child welfare policies and funding.

Prior to 1904, there were no labor laws, regular hours, minimum wages, or
workplace safety requirements, leading many workers, especially children, to be
exploited by their employers with little recourse. As a result of the labor movement,
in 1904, the National Child Labor Committee was formed to advocate for
legislation around child labor (Friedman, 2014). The idea that children should have
any protections was new in the national narrative, as children were the property of
their parents, not individuals with rights.

During the New Deal in the 1930s, child welfare was included in the Social
Security Act, which created Aid to Dependent Children and the Children’s Bureau,
which helped rural children during the Depression. This offered some legal
protections to children, including child labor laws and child protections from abuse
and neglect.

By 1967, nearly all states had child welfare laws, yet there were no child protection
services to enforce them (Meyers, 2008). Child protection became a national issue
as doctors in the 1960s began to have conversations around the issues of child
abuse, marked by the publication of work on the battered child syndrome by
Kempe, Silverman, Steele, Droegemueller, and Silver (1962).

After 1970, news stories and journal articles spurred child abuse into the national
dialogue, prompting a call for the creation of Child Protective Services (CPS) to
ensure children were safe. It was through the coming together of NGOs, doctors,
and several horrific cases in the media that led to the creation of the contemporary
child welfare system we have today.

The Crime Victims’ Rights Movement

Starting in the 20th century, the victim’s role in justice had eroded to the point
where many victims had no legal rights or say in the case (National Crime Victim

Law Institute, 2011). Stemming from the changes in public discourse because of
the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Movements, the rights of victims became an
important part of the social change narrative. The goal of the victim’s rights
movement was to give victims a more prominent role in their cases and ensure the
recognition of their legal rights. A major catalyst was the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court
decision in Linda R.S. v. Richard D. (410 U.S. 614) where the Court ruled that the
complainant did not have any legal standing in a child support case. The specific
aspect of the case that began the movement was that a crime victim cannot compel
a criminal prosecution because they lack a judicially cognizable interest in the
prosecution and have “no formal legal status beyond that of a witness or piece of
evidence” (National Crime Victim Law Institute, 2011). Thus, victims were
nothing more than evidence for the state.

This movement has mostly occurred through legal actions to get the courts and
legislators to write laws to ensure that

• victims’ rights are included in the legal process,
• victims have legal standing in cases,
• victims have the right to be informed about cases, and
• victims have the right to privacy.

The movement has been incredibly effective in getting 33 states to include victims’
rights into their constitution and the rest to create victims’ rights laws (National
Crime Victim Law Institute, 2013). In 1982, Congress passed the Victim and
Witness Protection Act, as well as additional acts, to ensure the legal rights of
victims at the federal level.

The courts have also played a role in increasing the legal rights of victims. For
instance, in Payne v. Tennessee, the U.S. Supreme Court stated clearly that victims
were not anonymous victims but needed to be clearly recognized as important
players in the legal process. The victims’ rights movement continues to increase the
voices of victims within the criminal justice system, engaging in victims’ advocacy
and working through national nonprofit victims’ rights organizations to promote
victims’ legal rights and social changes around victimization.

Overall, social movements have been effective in bringing attention to a variety of
types of victimizations, promoting the voices and protections of victims, and
increasing the legal avenues for victims to recover. The continuation of social
inequalities, structural inequalities in the criminal justice system, and the slower
than desired social changes around victimization leaves room for improvement. In
order to continue helping victims, there needs to be continued improvement in the
understanding of victimization.


Adams St. Pierre, E. (2000). Poststructural feminism in education: An overview.
International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 13(5), 477–515.

Allen, N. (1980). Homicide: Perspectives on prevention. New York: Human
Sciences Press.

Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of
colorblindness. New York: The New Press.

Almasy, S., Hanna, J., Vercammen, P., & Park, M. (2018, Jan 18). ‘This is
depraved conduct,’ DA says of California couple accused of torturing kids.
Retrieved from CNN:

Ben-David, S. (2000). Victimology at the transition from the 20th to the 21st
century. 10th International Symposium on Victimology.Montreal, Canada.

Blackwell, M. (2011). ¡Chicana Power!: Contested histories of feminism in the
chicano movement. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

Brunell, L. (2008). Feminism re-imagined: The third wave”. Encyclopædia
Britannica Book of the Year. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Daigle, L. (2015). Victimology. In M. Maguire, & D. Okada (Eds.), Critical issues
in crime and justice: Thoughts, policy, and practice (2nd ed., pp. 67–90).
Washington, DC: Sage.

Derene, S., Walker, S., & Stein, J. (2007). The history of the crime victims
movement in the United States. 2007 National Victim Assistance Academy, Track
1. Retrieved from

Dussich, J. (2006). Victimology–past, present and future. 131st International
Senior Seminar, (pp. 116–129).

Friedman, G. (2014).March of the mill children. Retrieved from The Encyclopedia
of Greater Philadelphia:

Karmen, A. (2012). Crime victims: An introduction to victimology. Belmont, CA:
Wadsworth Publishing.

Mégret, F. (2010). Justifying compensation by the international criminal court’s
victims trust fund: Lessons from domestic compensation schemes. Brooks Journal
of International Law, 36(1).

Mendelsohn, B. (1937). Methods to be used by counsel for the defense in the
researches made into the personality of the criminal. Revue de Droit Penal et de

Mendelsohn, B. (1956). Une nouvelle branch de la science biopsycho-social: La
victimology. Review international de criminologie et de police technique, 105–108.

Mendelsohn, B. (1976). Victimology and contemporary society’s trends.
Victimology, An International Journal, 1, 8–28.

Meyers, J. (2008). A short history of child protection in America. Family Legal
Quarterly, 42, 449–463.

Miller, L. (2016). A Second Look at the Second Wave: It’s fashionable to critique
the myopia of 1970s feminists. But it’s also wrong. Slate, June 21, 2016. Retrieved

National Crime Victim Law Institute. (2011). Fundamentals of victims’ rights: A
brief history of crime victims’ rights in the United States. Victim Law Bulletin.

Schafer, R. (1968). Aspects of internalization. Madison, CT: International
Universities Press.

Sobol, J. (1997). Behavioral characteristics and level of involvement for victims of
homicide. Homicide Studies, 1(14), 359–376.

Shneidman, E. (1996). The suicidal mind. New York: Oxford University Press.

Timmer, D., & Norman, W. (1984). The ideology of victim precipitation. Criminal
Justice Review, 9(2), 63–68.

von Hentig, H. (1941). Remarks on the interaction of perpetrator and victim.
Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police Science, 31, 303–309.

von Hentig, H. (1948). The criminal & his victim: Studies in the sociobiology of
crime. Cambridge, NJ: Yale University Press.

Wolfgang, M. (1957). Victim precipitated criminal homicide. Journal of Criminal
Law and Criminology, 48(1), 1–12.

Wolfgang, M. (1958). Patterns in criminal homicide. Oxford, England: University
Pennsylvania Press.

Wolfgang, M., & Singer, S. (1978). Victim categories of crime. Journal of
Criminal Law and Criminology, 69(3), 379–394.

1.2 Theories of Victimization

• Differentiate the major theoretical frameworks used in the field of victimology
and their impact.

Now that you have some understanding of the categories of victims and social
movements that have affected how we think about victimization, we turn to a
discussion of several of the broad theoretical frameworks of victimization.

Mawby and Walklate – Critical Victimology, 1994

Mawby and Walklate (1994) looked at victimology as a social phenomenon,
drawing parallels between victimology and fields like sociology; their work led to
the creation of integrated theoretical frameworks, specifically critical victimology,
as a way of explaining victimization. Mawby and Walklate broke victimology into
three strains, positive, radical, and critical victimology, showing how the strengths
and weaknesses of each could be used to create something better.

Positive victimology identifies the dominant individual and socio-cultural factors
that would contribute to victimization (Ben-David, 2000). Its focus tends to be on
interpersonal crimes, especially those where there might be victim precipitation.
Miers points out that positivist victimology is the

identification of factors which contribute to a non-random pattern of victimization,
a focus on interpersonal crimes of violence, and a concern to identify victims who
may have contributed to their own victimization. (1989, p. 3)

This framework uses data to ask why some people are more likely to be victims and
tends to look more at street crime than other types of crime (Mawby & Walklate,
1994). Many of the early victimology researchers used a positivist approach,
including those discussed earlier in this chapter.

Positivists’ definition of victim is solely based on the individual, group, or
institution who were directly harmed as the result of a crime, ignoring broader
definitions and issues that stem from social hierarchies and realities that relate to
crime. This is a major criticism because, as pointed out by Friday (1992, 1993), one
cannot remove victimization from its broader social context. It also undermines the
efforts of social movements to point out the structural inequalities in the social
systems that increase the potential for victimization and the treatment of victims.
Yet, many researchers in the field of victimology continue to do positivists work,
which when linked with narrative around these social factors give the field a decent
understanding of victimization.

Radical Victimology

Radical victimology stems from the work of Mendelsohn and from radical
criminology and sociology (Ben-David, 2000). Radical theory came from conflict

theory, including the work of Karl Marx. The notion is that groups in society are in
conflict, especially around economic resources, and that crime and victimization
can be solved through a major change in the social order, including ending
economic inequality (Quinney, 1972). Radical theories focus on how structural
inequalities can lead to crime because of the lack of access to resources. Emerging
from this foundation, radical victimology focuses on issues around human rights
violations, social hierarchies and the associated abuse of power, and the use of the
law and criminal justice system as tools to ensure social stratification (Mawby &
Walklate, 1994). From a radical theory perspective, it is only through the radical
changes in public discourse and cultural practices that crime and victimization can
be fixed.

Criticisms of radical theory include the need to more closely link economic
stratification and criminality. Others have pointed out that while radical theory
might be good for looking at crime, it might not be good for victimization, which
should be able to be applied not just in developed nations like the United States, but
to diverse societies, where it struggles to explain victimization. As society
undergoes changes, so too does our understanding of victimization within these
social contexts (Fattah, 2010). In addition, it has been criticized for being too
closely aligned with a strong political agenda. Finally, according to Mawby and
Walklate (1994), the subjective nature of radical victimology’s definition of the
oppressor as victimizer calls into question whether this theory can really be helpful
for understanding the realities of victimization.

Critical Victimology

Critical victimology looks at the wider social context of victimology, including
policy and services for victims (Mawby & Walklate, 1994). Situated in both
symbolic interaction theory and social psychology, critical victimology asks about
the formation of the notion of victimization and the label of victim (Miers, 1990).
Miers points out that one of the core questions to critical victimology is who has
the right to be labeled as a victim (cited in Mawby & Walklate, 1994).

Critical victimology draws from both positive and radical victimization. It draws
from radical victimology and feminist theory in asking us to understand the
processes (including social structures) we do and do not see that lead to
victimization (Mawby & Walklate, 1994). It provides for the naming, labeling, and
discussion of experiences that were once hidden, allowing the generalities of
victimization and the lived experiences of victims to be put into context with each
other. Critical victimology allows for the questioning of social institutions and what
role they play in the creation of crime and victimization as well as bringing
together positivist empirical research, trying to find a balance between positive and
radical victimology (Mawby & Walklate, 1994). It allows for looking at both the
cultural as well as the individual experience of victimization, recognizing that both
are important and need to be accounted for in a comprehensive understand of
victimization (Fattah, 1992). These three theories are still used today, depending on
what types of crimes are being examined and how perspective the examination is
coming from.

Cohen and Felson’s Routine Activities Theory

One family of theories, called environmental criminology, studies how crime and
victimization occur within the build environments, which is the way that
individuals and organizations shape their activities spatially. This is an important
part of the study of crime and criminology, dating back to the work of Park and
Burgess’ (1925) concentric zone model. Environmental criminology has been a key
theoretical family in creating prevention strategies and policing practices. Among
the environmental theories, routine activity theory is one of the more commonly

applied to crime and victimization. It is considered a macro-level theory because it
looks at how alterations in community life create new opportunities for crime.

Routine activities theory (RAT) postulates that a crime happens when three
factors come together:

• A suitable target
• A motivated offender
• A lack of guardianship

The absence of any of these factors affects the criminal actions (Cohen & Felson,
1979). When Cohen and Felson first started working on their theory, they were
focusing on changes in rates of predatory crimes (murder, rape, burglary) over
time. They looked at how the opportunities for crimes were related to patterns of
routine social interaction such as going to work or school or being in public places
like bars and parks. It was not about how someone might participate in their own
victimization through individual actions, but rather how our daily routines can
increase the potential for victimization. Thus, criminal opportunities are not evenly
spread out through society, and there are limits on crime.

The first factor in the theory is a suitable target. A suitable target is a person,
place, or object that has some characteristics that makes it attractive to a motivated
offender. The daily routines of a person can make that person more likely to
become a suitable target (just because someone is a target does not mean they will
become a victim). A suitable target has four features:

• Value – the value of the target to the offender, not necessarily a monetary
value, although that is often a factor. A new smartphone is going to be
considered more valuable than an old flip phone.

• Inertia – how moveable the target is. The more mobile a target is, the easier it
is for an offender. Small electronic devices, like laptops and tablets, are
excellent targets because they are easily portable, as opposed to a heavy large
screen TV that takes multiple people to move.

• Visibility – whether or not the target can be known to the offender. A car
becomes a more suitable target for a theft if a laptop or cell phone is left on the
back seat in plain sight. If the offender is not aware of a suitable target
because those items are in the trunk, the likelihood of a crime is reduced.

• Access – patterns and placement of potential targets that are often features of
everyday life but also make the target more accessible for the offender. A
burglar doesn’t need to search very hard if a purse, wallet, or phone are kept
next to the front door or on the front seat of a car, thus those items are more

The second factor in their theory is amotivated offender, who is anyone prepared
to commit a crime. The theory itself takes on the view of the potential offender in
terms of what would be a suitable target as well as guardianship. The motivation of
the offender varies. Some offenders, like those committing theft, fraud, or
embezzlement, are often motivated by financial needs while others might be
motivated by social pressures from peers, while others might be motivated by the
desire for power and control. Their motivation will impact what they consider a
suitable target and what types of guardianship will be need to prevent them from
committing a crime. In some cases, like cybercrimes, the more barriers and
guardianship there is, the more attractive a target might be. It can be considered a
major score to successfully hack a government agency, even if the risks and the
potential to be caught are high.

The third factor in the theory is lack of guardianship. This has been the more
well-explored and modified aspect of RAT because it is something that has been
used to harden targets as much as possible. Target hardening is when you do
something that reduces the likelihood of victimization, such as adding locks or

The people who prevent crime, called controllers, have been subdivided according
to whom or what they are supervising—offender, target, or place (see the following

• Guardians help protect suitable targets from motivated offenders. Examples
are car owners who lock their car, or school staff who prevent bullying.

• Place managers harden targets, such as locks, security systems, dogs, safes,
etc., which make accessing the target more difficult.

• Handlers exert informal social controls over potential offenders, preventing
them from committing crimes (Felson, 1986). This can include parents,
probation and school resource officers, coaches, religious leaders, and peers
who all have an interest in keeping the offender out of trouble. Handlers must
be effective and willing to intervene in order to serve as an actual guardian as
conceptualized by Tillyer and Eck (2011).

Three main factors come together to create the opportunities for crime.
Research has continued to refine and define the elements of the theory to
the current version seen above.
Image: Crime Triangle based on Clarke and Eck, 2003.
Source: Barnes & Noble Education. License: CC-BY NC SA.

As the research into RAT has continued, it has been shown that RAT is much better
at explaining property crime than personal crimes (Bennett, 1991). It is more
difficult to apply RAT to crimes of passion, domestic violence, and other types of
personal crimes because these do not necessarily depend on the daily routines of
the victims. Work is being done to explore how RAT can explain some aspects of
cybercrime (Jasinki & Navarro, 2012; Yar, 2005), with visibility being an
important aspect of victimization, and accessibility and personal capable
guardianship show varying results (Leukfeldt & Yar, 2016).

Criticisms of RAT include the lack of inclusion of individual and community
characteristics into their understanding of the routines of people. RAT does not
account for gender, race, age, or many other factors that research has shown both to
being a criminal and a victim. For example, Cullen, Henson, Reyns, and Wilcox

(2010) found that gender plays a significant role in how routinized someone’s daily
life was, with girls showing more structure to their day than boys. In addition, it is
seen as more of a descriptor of crime rather than explaining why crime occurs. As
Worthy points out, theories like RAT that rely on situational factors ignore the root
causes of crime, especially structural factors (Wortley, 2010). Most prevention
strategies have focused on target hardening and guardianship rather than the factors
that motivate offenders. It has also been pointed out that using these theories as the
foundation for crime prevention just moves crime to a different location (Wortley,
2010). Finally, because implementation of these strategies often focuses on areas
where crime and victims are prevalent, it can disproportionately impact
marginalized communities (Wortley, 2010). Even with these concerns, RAT
continues to be a major theoretical orientation for understanding crime and
victimization in the literature.

Lifestyle Theory

Lifestyle and exposure theory is a model of victimology that posits that the likelihood an individual will
suffer a personal victimization depends heavily upon the concept of lifestyle. Specifically, certain lifestyle
choices will increase the likelihood of becoming a victim. This means the victimization is not necessarily a
random occurrence but is related to individual traits for both perpetrators and victims. First proposed by
Hindelang, Gottfredson, and Garofalo (1978), they argued that lifestyles are patterned, and people engage in
routine activities. By engaging in certain lifestyle choices, individuals increase their potential chances of
victimization by putting themselves at risk of coming into contact with an offender, called the principle of
homogamy. This theory focused on the choices and characteristics of the potential victims, specifically their
exposure to places and situations that might increase their victimization. This is different than victim
precipitation in that the victims are not necessarily playing an active role in their own victimization, but rather
through their lifestyle, they are increasing exposure.

Choices that can increase victimization, according to lifestyle theory, can include the use of drugs
and alcohol, especially if there are issues of addiction, significant activities outside the home at night,
and other potentially risk choices.
Image: Dancing at a nightclub. Author:
Source: License: CC-0

Lifestyle theory is constructed upon several premises:

• Crime occurs differently in different places. Some places are more high risk, and some times of day
have a higher possibility of a crime occurring.

• Offenders have characteristics that are different from most people.
• Certain lifestyles, like being exposed to more crimogenitic area and people, increase the likelihood of
victimization. The more often you go to high risk places, the more likely to you are to be a victim.

Lifestyle and Routine Activities as Explanations of Victimization

Lifestyle and routine activities continue to be significant theories of victimization, even with their flaws.
In addition to each theory having strong support individually, Miethe, Stafford, and Long (1987) found
that lifestyle factors and one’s routines interact to increase the potential for victimization. It has become
common to use factors from both of these theories together when looking at crime and victimization.
Some have begun to almost merge the two theories together. Yet, as Pratt and Turanovic (2016) point out,
the melding of these two theories can be problematic in the understanding of victimization. Specifically,
their ideas about how “risk” should be conceived are very different. The notion of probabilistic risk of
victimization, according to Pratt and Turanvoic, is more scientifically minded and important to consider
when looking to prevent crime.

Structural Causes of Victimization

One of the other more common theories around victimization has to do with neighborhood characteristics
and their relation to crime and victimization. This is called the criminology of place or hot spots and was
first discussed in the work of Sherman, Gartin, and Buerger (1989). The criminology of place looks at the
characteristics of places where crime is more likely to occur and what makes these areas different from
other places where crime is not occurring. Although it has been some time since this idea was introduced
into the field, it is a promising area of research, growing in prominence in the study of crime and
victimization. This idea draws from numerous theoretical underpinnings but also accounts for structural
factors like social disorganization, which is the inability of a community to organize itself.

Crime occurs in certain places, as seen in this image of homicide hotspots in Chicago, tending
to cluster in certain community. (Curman, Andresen, & Brantingham, 2014; Eck, Gersh,
Taylor, & Ross, 200; Weisburd, 2015). This stability holds across nations and across crime type
as well.

Image: Chicago homicide map, 2013. Author: Chicago Police Department https:// License: CC-0

Living in these hot spots puts a person at higher risk of victimization, regardless of
their daily routines and lifestyle choices (Browning & Erickson, 2009).
Characteristics associated with these higher crime areas include residential mobility
(when people tend to move in and out of an area), female-headed households, high
density housing (apartment complexes in particular), a higher youth population in
the area (Thompson & Gartner, 2014), and lack of a strong informal community to
control their residents. Criminology of place represents one of the growing
theoretical areas for understanding victimization as technology allows for more
accurate mapping of larger amounts of data. It can be expected that this, as well as
other environmental theories of crime, will continue in their prominence in
understanding victimization.


This module provided an overview into the historical and major theoretical views
for the field of victimology, along with major social movements that have
significantly influenced how we view and research crime. In future modules, these
concepts will be revisited, revised, and called into question as we focus on new
areas of crime and victimization.


American Bar Association. (n.d.). The history of juvenile justice. Retrieved from
American Bar Association:

Beccaria, C. (1764). On crimes and punishments, and other writings. Cambridge,
MA: Cambridge University Press.

Ben-David, S. (2000). Victimology at the transition from the 20th to the 21st
century. 10th International Symposium on Victimology.Montreal, Canada.

Bennett, R. R. (1991). Routine activities: A cross-national assessment of a
criminological perspective. Social Forces, 70(1), 147–163.

Browning, S., & Erickson, P. (2009). Neighborhood disadvantage, alcohol use, and
violent victimization. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 7(4), 331–349.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017). History of child labor in the United States.
Retrieved from

Cohen, L., & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: A routine
activity approach. American Sociological Review, 44(4), 588–608.

Cullen, F., Henson, B., Reyns, B., & Wilcox, P. (2010). Gender, adolescent
lifestyles, and violent victimization: Implications for routine activity theory.
Victims and Offenders, 5, 303–328.

Curman, A., Andresen, M., & Brantingham, P. (2014). Crime and place: A
longitudinal examination of street segment patterns in Vancouver, BC. Journal of
Quantitative Criminology.

Eck, J., Gersh, J., Taylor, C., & Ross, T. (2000). Finding crime hot spots through
repeat address mapping. In V. Goldsmith, P. McGuire, J. Mollenkopf, & T. Ross,
Analyzing Crime Patterns: Frontiers of Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eigenberg, H., & Garland, T. (2008). Victim blaming. In L. Moriarty,
Controversies in victimology (2nd ed., pp. 21–36). Newark, NJ: Anderson

Fattah, E. (1992). The need for a critical victimology. In E. Fattah, Towards a
critical victimology. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Fattah, E. (2010). Victimology: Past, present and future. Criminologie, 33(1), 17–

Felson, M. (1986). Routine activities, social controls, rational decisions, and
criminal outcomes. In D. Cornish, & R. Clark, The reasoning criminal (pp. 119–
128). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Franklin, C., Franklin, T., Nobles, M., & Kercher, G. (2012). Assessing the effect
of routine activity theory and self-control on property, personal, and sexual assault
victimization. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 39(10), 1296–1315.

Friday, P. (1992). The faces of victimology, report of the general rapporteurs. In S.
Ben-Davis, & G. Kichhoff, International faces of victimology. (pp. 1–15).
Monchengladbach, Germany: WSV Publishing.

Friday, P. (1993). Victimology as an encompassing concept. In S. Makkar Singh, &
P. Friday, Global perspectives in victimology. Jalandhar, India: ABS Publications.

Hindelang, M., Gottfredson, M., & Garofalo, J. (1978). Victims of personal crime:
An empirical foundation for a theory of personal victimization. Cambridge, MA:

Institute, N. C. (2011). History of victims’ rights. Retrieved from http://

Jasinki, J., & Navarro, J. (2012). Going cyber: Using routine activities theory to
predict cyberbullying experiences. Sociological Spectrum, 32(1), 81–94.

Kempe, C., Silverman, F., Steele, B., Droegemueller, W., & Silver, H. (1962). The
battered-child syndrome. JAMA, 181, 17–24.

Leukfeldt, E., & Yar, M. (2016). Applying routine activity theory to cybercrime: A
theoretical and empirical analysis. Deviant Behavior, 37(3), 263–280.

Mawby, R., & Walklate, S. (1994). Critical victimology. London: Sage Publication.

Miers, D. (1989). Positivist victimology: A critique. International Review of
Victimology, 1(1), 3–22.

Miers, D. (1990). Positivist victimology: A critique part 2: Critical victimology.
International Review of Victimology, 1(3), 219–230.

Miethe, T., Stafford, M., & Long, J. (1987). Social differentiation in criminal
victimization: A test of routine activities/lifestyle theories. American Sociological
Review, 52(2), 184–194.

Park, R., & Burgess, E. (1925). The growth of the city: An introduction to a
research project. In E. Burgess, R. McKenzie, & L. Wirth, The City (pp. 47–62).
Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Pratt, T., Holtfreter, K., & Reisig, M. (2012). Routine online activity and Internet
fraud targeting: Extending the generality of routine activity theory. Journal of
Research in Crime and Delinquency, 43(3), 267–296.

Pratt, T., & Turanovic, J. (2016). Lifestyle and routine activity theories revisited:
The importance of “risk” to the study of victimization. Victims & Offenders, 11(3),

Quinney, R. (1972). Who is the victim? Criminology, 10(3), 314–323.

Sherman, L., Gartin, P., & Buerger, M. (1989). Hot spots of predatory crime:
Routine activities and the criminology of place. Criminology, 27(1), 27–56.

Thompson, S., & Gartner, R. (2014). The spatial distribution and social context of
homicide in Toronto’s neighborhoods. Journal of Research in Crime and
Delinquency, 51(1), 88–118.

Tillyer, M., & Eck, J. (2011). Getting a handle on crime: A further extension of
routine activities theory. Security Journal, 24(2), 179–193.

Waldner, L., & Berg, J. (2008). Explaining antigay violence using target
congruence: An application of revised routine activities theory. Violence and
Victims, 23(3), 267–287.

Weisburd, D. (2015). The law of crime concentration and the criminology of place.
Criminology, 53(2), 133–157.

Wick, S., Nagoshi, C., Basham, R., & Jordan, C. (2017). Patterns of cyber
harassment and perpetration among college students in the United States: A test of
routine activities theory. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 11(1), 24–38.

Wortley, R. (2010). Critiques of situational crime prevention. In B. Fisher & S.
Lab, Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention. Thousand Oaks, CA:

Yar, M. (2005). The novelty of ‘cybercrime:’ An assessment in light of routine
activity theory. European Journal of Criminology, 2(4), 407–427.

2 The Extent of Victimization
Learning Outcome: Examine the prevalence of crime victimization in the United

2.1 Scope of Victimology

• Describe the scope and breadth of victimization in the United States.

Watching the news, one would think there was a murderer in every bush waiting to
jump out and kill you. This is because crime, especially violent crime, makes a
great news story. The problem is that the media creates a false understanding of
how often crime occurs, where it occurs, and how likely you are to be a victim of
crime. This module will explain how we define the most common types of crime
and victimization, determine crime rates, the realities of crime, and the different
ways crime is measured in the United States. While looking at crime and
victimization across countries is very important, it is difficult because of cultural
differences in definitions and measurement of crime, so for the purpose of this
module, we will just look at crime and victimization in the United States.

Understanding Crime Statistics

A crime is defined as an action that violates the criminal law and is punishable by
criminal sanctions. Not everything that violates social norms, even things most
people would consider reprehensible, is a crime. If there is not a law prohibiting a
behavior, then it is not a crime. Most laws, and especially criminal law, are created
around the consensus model. This is where the majority of people think something
is wrong because it conflicts with their values and beliefs. It also means that as
society changes, so does the law.

In the United States, we tend to differentiate crimes as either property or violent
crimes, especially in regard to statistics around crime. Violent crime is crime
against a person whereas property crime is crime against property. The following
definitions are based on the U.S. legal code.

Violent crimes and the victims usually relate to the following:

• Murder – the unlawful killing of a human being. The act of murder needs to
include premeditation, or planning (mens rea ~ guilty mind), and it must
occur without excuse or justification. It’s this state of mind that differentiates
homicide (murder) from manslaughter. These thoughts and the actions (actus
reus) needs to be happening at the same time, which is called concurrence,
and the actions and thoughts together must lead to the death, called causation.
All of these factors are considered when deciding whether something is a
crime, including murder.

• Rape – unlawful carnal knowledge (sexual intercourse) of another person
without their consent or toward a person who cannot legally give consent
(children and intellectually disabled individuals are examples of this).

• Aggravated Assault – inflicting serious bodily harm on a person. Factors that go into deciding whether it
was simple or aggravated assault include the use of a weapon, how serious the injuries are, whether the
offender had intended to seriously harm the person, and the status of the person. For instance, assaulting a
police officer or police dog, teacher, or fire person carries a more significant punishment than the same
crime against an ordinary citizen.

This graph shows the trends in violent crime in the United States from 1960 to 2014.
Image: Trends by Crime in the US. Authored by: Delphi234.
License: CC-0

• Robbery – the taking of property by means of force or fear. It’s basically theft through assault or attempted
assault. Some examples of robbery include armed robbery, which is when a weapons is used, and mugging
or highway robbery that takes place in a public space like a street or parking lot.

These are broad definitions for these four types of violent crime. Each of these is more nuanced in terms of
degrees of severity, which is taken into account when talking about punishment of a crime. We will discuss these
in much more detail in future chapters. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) groups these four types of

crime together as their Part 1 offenses. Because these are the most serious crimes, these terms are used to talk
about how much crime occurs in the United States.

Property crimes are much more common than violent crimes. This category includes burglary, larceny, auto theft,
and arson, which are included in the Part 1 offenses for the FBI as well. Often offenders are looking for economic
gains when they commit property crimes, although crimes like destruction of property may have other

• Larceny/Theft is the most common crime in the United States. It is the unlawful taking of someone’s
property without their permission. The difference between larceny and robbery is that larceny does not
include the use of or threat of force and robbery does. Even if you find something, the act of not attempting
to return it is considered theft.

• Burglary, also known as breaking and entering, is when someone forces their way into a structure, including
barns, warehouses, homes, and offices, and includes both successful and unsuccessful entries and theft.

• Because auto theft has become so common, many countries, including the United States, have started
putting it into its own category, although it is a type of theft. Like larceny, it is the theft of a self-propelled
vehicle that runs on land surfaces and not on rails. Motor vehicle theft does not include farm equipment,
bulldozers, airplanes, construction equipment, or water craft.

• Arson is intentionally setting something on fire to cause damage. There is often a financial motivation
behind the arson, such as to collect the insurance money, but not always. The severity of the arson depends
on whether people were in the building (first degree), the building was empty (second degree), or they just
burned an abandoned building or empty space (third degree).

High tech crimes, or cybercrimes, such as identity theft, fraud, embezzlement, etc. have also been placed into
their own category because the frequency and severity of this family of crimes continues to grow. Cybercrimes
that have been around for quite some time include the following:

• Cyberstalking and harassing – continually trying to contact and/or track someone who doesn’t want you to
contact them using technology like email, cellphone, or social media

• Obscene materials – the posting, sharing, or distribution of obscene materials including posting
unauthorized images of someone against their will and child pornography

• Hacking/Cracking – the use of code and programming for malicious purposes (hacking) or to gain
unauthorized access to someone’s computer or network (cracking)

• Identity theft – stealing someone’s personal information

These are some of the most common types of crimes that are committed in the United States. All of them have at
least one and many have multiple victims.

Crime Rates

As mentioned earlier, the media tends to show the most eye-catching crimes in order to gain
viewership, but often the crimes portrayed in the media do not reflect the realities of victimization.
We can talk about crime statistics in two different ways.

The first uses the raw number of crimes and victims to describe crime. If we look at crime in just
raw numbers, we can get a very different picture than if we use crime rates. Because a small town
might only have 25 violent crimes while a large city might have thousands, one might think that
the small town is a lot safer than a large one. But this is not necessarily true. The raw number of
crimes is not a good way for someone to compare two places, especially if they are not the same
size. The odds of being victimized in the small town might be a lot larger.

The second way to look at crime uses a formula to determine crime rate. This is the term used
when experts talk about crime because it provides a more statistically accurate view. The crime
rate formula allows us to compare apples to apples in terms of crime to gain an accurate statistical
picture of U.S. crime rates. For example, using this equation, we can see that the violent crime rate
for Chicago is 58.9, while the violent crime rate for Tulsa, Oklahoma, a mid-sized city in the
Midwest, is much higher at 82.9. Compared to the United States overall, which is 31.1, both of
these places are high (FBI, 2016).

The crime rate is calculated as:

(# of crime incidents / total population in that area) x 100,000

In addition, it is important to look at long-range crime trends rather than year-to-year comparisons.
In 2017, the gun violence victimization rate for the city of Las Vegas will look like a significant
spike, but unless you give more context, it might be hard to realize this is due to a single incident.

Since the 1990s, the overall trend in violent crime has declined. The violent crime
peaked in 1992 at 758.2 and hit a low in 2014 at 361.6. Today, we see about 400 fewer
crimes committed than we did 25 years ago.
Image: Violent Crime Rate in the U.S.
Source: Barnes & Noble Education. License: CC-BY NC SA

Murder rate is based on the number of felony homicides that occurred in a place in any given year. Although
the overall number of people who have been killed has increased, going from 9,110 victims in 1960 to 17,250
in 2016, the rate of murder is about the same as it was in 1960 (1960 = 5.1 to 2016 = 5.3). Murder peaked in
1980 with a murder rate of 10.8, staying between 8 and 10 throughout the 1990s, and began falling in 1996
(FBI, 2016).

Although most people would expect places like New York and California to have the highest murder
rate, it was in fact Louisiana that had the highest murder rate in the United States in 2010.
Image: Murders in the U.S. by State, 2010. Authored by: Delphi234.
Source: License:

Other violent crimes, like robbery, have followed similar trends, with a peak rate of 272.7 (672,480) in 1992.
By 2016, there were 332,007 robberies, with a rate of 102.8. Larceny, which has always been the most common
crime that we use to look at crime rates in the United States, peaked in 1991 with 8.1 million (a rate of 3,228)
larceny thefts, and in 2016 there were 5.6 million (a rate of 1,745), which is similar to the 1960s (1966 was a
rate of 1,746).

Emerging Crime Trends

Cybercrime is one of the emerging trends globally. Annually, billions of dollars are lost because of
cybercrimes, whether from hacking into companies, disabling hospitals or banks, or the individual effects of
identity theft and fraud. These crimes can be from foreign agents or companies seeking to gain an advantage to
people trying to gain bragging rights by hacking. It’s also difficult to know the true scope of the problem
because many people either do not realize they have been the victim of a cybercrime or they do not come
forward to tell law enforcement about their victimization. A 2014 report by Reuters found that cybercrime cost
the global economy approximately $445 billion annually, impacting around 40 million people in the United
States each year, which is around 15 percent of the U.S. population. This is more people than are harmed by
other types of property crime combined (FBI, n.d.a).

According to the FBI, the types of cybercrime that are becoming more common
include the following:

• Fraud and Financial crimes – using computers, mobile devices, or services
to defraud people, companies, or government agencies of money, revenue, or
Internet access, including phishing, viruses, computer attacks, or manipulating
people to get personal information

• Cyberterrorism – when a government or organization is intimidated or
coerced by a group or individual to help meet their political objectives

• Cyberextortion – when a website, email system, or computer systems are
denied service or other types of attacks from malicious hackers who often
demand money in order to restore the data taken or to “protect” the system
from future attacks. Well-known victims of cyberextortion have been Sony
Pictures, Disney, and Nokia.

• Cyberharassment – using technology to harass, control, manipulate, or
threaten individuals or groups. This can include cyberstalking, online
predators, cyberbullying, and Internet trolling.

The term white collar crime was coined by Edwin Sutherland in 1939 in his
speech to the American Sociological Association annual meeting, the transcript of
which was published in 1940, who described it “approximately as a crime
committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his
occupation” (p. 5). His work discussed how this is found in every industry,
especially through fraud, bribery, embezzlement, and falsification, or as Al Capone
called it “legitimate rackets” (Sutherland, 1940, p. 3). According to the FBI,
“[t]hese crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and
are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence. The
motivation behind these crimes is financial.”

Many of the same types of crimes discussed in Sutherland’s seminal work are still
around today, but there are newer types of white collar crimes, such as
environmental crimes, healthcare crimes, and intellectual property theft, that have
emerged as new industries and laws have emerged. Based on the last Commerce
Department estimates, in 2015, the United States lost around $895 trillion to fraud
(WSRP, 2016). Yet many frauds are not reported or even detected, indicating this
underestimates the amount of damage that fraud has caused.

This section discussed the definitions of crimes and the frequency and effects that
crimes have on victims and society. We discussed the importance of using a crime
rate formula when looking at crime statistics. Contrary to popular media narratives,
the crime rate in the United States overall is low, similar to rates in the 1960s and
1970s for both violent and property crimes. Over the years, new types of crimes
have emerged as new industries and technologies have become available. We get
our information, including crime rates and number of crimes in the United States,
from official sources such as the Uniform Crime Reports.


Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2016). Uniform Crime Reports 1960 to 2016.
Retrieved from

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.a). Cyber Crime. Retrieved from https://

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.b).White Collar Crime. Retrieved from

Reuters. (2014). Cyber crime costs global economy $445 billion a year: Report.
Retrieved from

WSRP. (2016). New study confirms the prevalence and cost of white collar crime.
Retrieved from

Sutherland, E. H. (1940). White-collar criminality. American Sociological Review,
5(1), 1–12.

2.2 Measuring Violence

• Analyze victimization measurement techniques, including their strengths and

The prior section presented a number of statistics about the prevalence of crime in
the United States, with almost all of those statistics and definitions coming from
official sources of information about crime, specifically the FBI. The FBI collects
and analyzes crime in the United States annually, allowing citizens and policy
makers to know where problems are, what laws might need to be changed, and
what policies might need to be created in order to help prevent crime. Yet, this is
not the only source of information. This section will discuss the different sources of
information that can be used to discuss crime and victimization in the United States
as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each information source.

Official Reporting of Crime

Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)

The vast majority of crime statistics used in the United States comes from the UCR.
In 1929, the FBI started collecting information from local law enforcement
agencies about the number of crimes that occurred in each jurisdiction. In the
1920s, as the scientific study of policing began as a field, the Association of Police
Chiefs and the Social Science research council wanted to have a clear set of
national crime statistics around major crimes (Part I Offenses—murder, rape,
aggravated assault, robbery, larceny, and motor vehicle theft) to allow for
comparison across jurisdictions. A jurisdiction is an area over which a particular
body has legal authority. Examples are cities, counties, states, and nations.
Congress passed a law (28 U.S.C. § 534) in 1930 to charge the FBI with this task,
creating the Uniform Crime Report. From 1935 through the 1980s, the FBI was the
primary place to get crime statistics and still runs the UCR today.

The UCR depends on local police agencies in order to compile crime statistics.
Approximately 18,000 city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal
law enforcement agencies contribute their data to the UCR annually (Bureau of
Justice Statistics [BJS], 2017). Thus, the UCR is a measure of crimes that are
detected and reported by the police. In the 1980s, the UCR went through a revision
to make the data more accurate and easier for agencies to report. The result of the
revisions was the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which is
now collecting information on administrative, offense, victim, property, offender,
and arrestees using a standardize reporting form. This new system makes the UCR
a more complete report.

Although the UCR is a decent measure of the crime we know about, many crime
events are never reported to the police, meaning that the UCR is underreporting
crime. The exception is murder because the vast majority of murders are known to
the police. Other types of crimes, especially rape and sexual assault, have very low

levels of reporting to the police. This was discovered through victimization
surveys, like the National Crime Victims Survey discussed next. In addition,
because not all agencies include all crime, the FBI creates a estimation of the
amount of crime in a particular area. Although there are issues with the UCR, it is
still a good source of information to understand crime in an area. In addition to the
FBI, several other agencies collect various types of data. See the following table for
information on these other agencies.

Agency Mission What It Does
Institute of

To study advances in
technology for criminal
justice, such as
forensics, judicial
processing, and social
science research

Collects missing person data, studies
effectiveness of nonlethal technologies and
officer safety equipment, and sponsors grant
programs to collaborate with academic and
nonprofit organizations to study violence
against women, corrections, and program
effectiveness and crime prevention policies

Bureau of

To reduce crime,
recidivism, and
confinement, and
promote a safe and fair
criminal justice system

Works with local agencies and organizations
to create innovative evidence-based
programs and policies that improve the
justice system; collects data on program

The Office
of Juvenile
Justice and

To provide national
leadership, coordination,
and resources to prevent
and respond to juvenile
delinquency and

Works with agencies and organizations to
create effective juvenile justice programs
that help youths and their families; formed
the national youth gang center

Office for
Victims of

To focus on assistance
to crime victims, change
attitudes about
victimization, and work
to help victims rebuild
their lives after they
have experienced a

Oversees the Crime Victims Fund and
works with states on compensation plans;
collects data on victimization programs in
the United States

Victim Surveys

The federal government created the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in 1979 to
better understand victimization that was not reported, as well as broader criminal
justice issues. The BJS collects and publishes statistics about crime in the United
States. Unlike the UCR, which just focused on crime statistics, the BJS collects
information on corrections and prisoners, recidivism, court cases, victims, and law
enforcement. They collect an annual census of prisoners throughout the United
States to help us understand corrections and data from victims that are and are not
reported to the police (and thus left out of the UCR). The BJS looks at how police
respond to calls and offers grants to professionals seeking to improve our
understanding of crime and justice. This helps us compensate for any issues in
official data.

Victim surveys take two forms: (1) sampling from the general population to ask
about victimization and (2) targeting particular crime victims. The largest
victimization survey in the United States is the National Crime Victimization
Survey (NCVS). It is administered by the BJS and began in 1973 as the National
Crime Survey (NCS), to survey the general population about victimization. The
BJS surveys approximately 135,000 U.S. households, composed of nearly 225,000
people, asking about their experiences with victimization. The survey asks
primarily about Part 1 offenses (except murders), but occasionally adds
supplemental questions around bullying and attitudes about the police. It asks about
crimes that were and were not reported, as well as offender information. It also asks
about characteristics of the crime (e.g., time and place, weapons, injuries, and
economic consequences) and victim experiences with the criminal justice system
(BJS, 2016).

One early result for the NCVS was to notice how much crime was reported in the
survey but was missing from police data. This is called the dark figure of crime,
also known as hidden crime (Walsh & Hemmens, 2014). The NCVS, other surveys,
and research from nongovernmental agencies and individuals have significantly
increased our understanding of how much crime there is and why it is not reported.

The dark figure of crime is the gap between reported crime and that total
amount of crime, which goes unreported or undiscovered.
Image: Dark Figure of Crime.
Source: Barnes & Noble Education. License: CC-BY NC SA

In addition to the individual surveys, the BJS also conducted city surveys, starting
with eight impacted cities but ending with 26 cities. The city surveys were
discontinued a few years later, upon recommendation to just focus on the NCVS.
That does not mean that cities have disappeared as a focus of other research. The
national archive of criminal justice data houses several research data sets collected
during the last 40 years that look at various cities’ victimization experiences. City
victimization data allow local agencies to focus policy decisions and services
directly toward local victims and on local problems that might not be obvious in
either their official data or state and regional trends. City victimization data can
also help identify victim service gaps and locations where prevention programs
might be created.

Opinion and Other Polling

In addition to the sources mentioned previously, other types of surveys and opinion
polling help inform what we know about victimization.

• The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey is an ongoing survey
examining sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner physical violence
among English- and Spanish-speaking women and men over age 18. This is
sponsored by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

• Rape and Sexual Victimization Among College-Aged Females looks at rape
and sexual assault of women on college campuses. This, combined with
campus climate surveys, has spurred changes in how colleges deal with
victimization on campus.

• Pew Research regularly conducts survey and polling on a variety of topics
related to crime and victimization issues.

In addition to these large national surveys, academics all over the country are
engaged in research on victimization. Their results add to our understanding of
victimization, especially crime that is not reported, and the impacts of victimization
across the world.

Between official data and other types of research, our efforts to understand
victimization have grown as have our programs and policies around combating
crime. In contrast to the popular narrative, all indications point to a continuing
decline in overall violence and victimization in the United States.


Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2017). About the Uniform Crime Reporting program.
Retrieved from

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2016). Data collection: National Crime Victimization
Survey (NCVS). Retrieved from

Office of Victims of Crime. (n.d.) About OVC. Retrieved from

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (n.d.). About the OJJDJ.
Retrieved from

Walsh, A., & Hemmens, C. (2010). Introduction to criminology: A text/reader.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

3 Victims and the Criminal Justice System
Learning Outcome: Analyze the interactions between the criminal justice system and victims.

3.1 Injustice in the Police, Judicial, and Correctional Systems

• Examine the ways that the criminal justice system interacts with victims of crime, including
system biases.

The goal of this module is to familiarize readers with the criminal justice system (CJS).
Specifically, attention will be given to how victims and communities have been treated by the CJS.
In addition, you will learn how interactions with victims and communities has impacted the ability
of the CJS to function. The first part of the module provides a brief overview of the CJS and how
it functions, to help you understand how victims fit within the system. The CJS has three main
areas: law enforcement, the courts, and corrections. The involvement with, and treatment of,
victims by each area of the CJS will be discussed. As described before, criminal justice and crime
is complex. Similarly, treatment of victims is also complex and often depends not only on the
event, but also the social and cultural, and sometimes political, situations that are occurring within
the CJS as well as within society at large.

An Overview of the Criminal Justice System

Law Enforcement

One of the hard jobs that law enforcement face is working with and comforting victims
of crime.
Image: Victim being Consoled. Authored by: FBI.
Source: License: CC-0

Victims first come into the CJS through law enforcement, so it is important to
understand how law enforcement is structured and the changes that have taken
place as the field has evolved. The goal of this section is to understand how law
enforcement works and how communities and victims are part of the system. Law
enforcement is made aware of a crime in three ways:

• The victim informs law enforcement of a potential crime. An example is
someone calling the police because they have been robbed.

• An observer or nonvictim notifies law enforcement of a crime. An example
would be someone who sees a robbery or theft in process and calls the police.

• Law enforcement discovers a crime on their own. An example would be the
police observing someone robbing a store.

The United States inherited much of its laws and law enforcement process from
Britain. Originally, a justice of the peace or constable was the local individual who
oversaw investigations, organized night watches, and held criminals for trial.
Victims would seek these local officers or the night watches to report a crime. This
informal system had serious issues, including corruption, abuses of power, and the
inability to effectively prevent crime or solve crimes. These problems eventually
lead to a call for a more organized and structured law enforcement system.
Responding to this call, Sir Robert Peel created the London Metropolitan police
force; the officers eventually became known as bobbies. The four operating
philosophies for the police still hold today (Manning, 1977):

1. Reduce tensions between officers and the public.
2. Use nonviolent means to solve issues, with violence only being an absolute
last resort under rare circumstance. It’s why police in London did not carry

3. Relieve the military from certain duties like controlling urban violence (thus
also helping to reduce the use of violence).

4. The effectiveness of policing should be judged by the absence of crime rather
than visible police actions.

These philosophies of policing eventually made their way to the United States, with
the goal of creating a professional and effective police force. According to Gains
and Miller (2009), policing in the United States can be divided into three eras in
terms of the development of a formal policing structure and culture.

The first era (1840 to 1930), also called the Political Era, was when formal
policing first appeared in the United States in the form of night watches. The job of
the night watches was to stop anyone who might be causing trouble or committing
minor offenses at night. Eventually, crime became enough of a nuisance that
American cities, just like in the United Kingdom, needed to form day watches as
well. By the Civil War, many major American cities had started formal policing
agencies, combining day and night watches into a single organization under the
control of one police chief. Foot patrols in neighborhoods were the primary
policing strategy with the goal of helping citizens. This era was also characterized

by corruption and abuses of power by politicians and police, both in cities as well
as in small towns as America spread West. During this time, victims and
communities in general were suspicious of the police because of the corruption
they had witnessed.

The level of violence, spurred on by the lack of jobs after the Civil War, economic
depression, and the lack of laws, made the West an easy target for crime. The
ability to effectively engage in law enforcement was difficult in the West, with
victims having few resources or even access to law enforcement. As the population
in a county grew, citizens would hire a sheriff to patrol the county, which was often
hundreds of square miles. During this era, police were used to enforce Jim Crow
and other discriminatory laws. In addition, the vast majority of officers were white,
and some were members of racist organizations such as the KKK. This provoked
and entrenched a distrust of law enforcement among minority communities and fear
of law enforcement by victims. Regardless, victims still needed law enforcement
when serious crime occurred, leading to renewed calls for a professional law
enforcement structure in order to protect them. Even with these issues, good
officers took their jobs seriously and did their best to protect their communities and
bring criminals to justice.

The second era (1930 to 1980), also called the Reform Era, saw radical changes
including the creation of professional standards, the use of technologies like cars,
radios, and forensics, and changes in how police engaged in law enforcement. In
response to the increasing public outcry about policing, in 1929, President Hoover
created the Wickersham Commission to address police brutality and corruption,
and the use of police as private enforcement agents for local politicians. The job of
law enforcement officers has been to protect and serve their communities, which
makes their roles as personal enforcers for politicians problematic. Many of the
recommendations from the commission mirrored others, such as Berkeley Police
Chief August Vollmer, who encouraged educating and training law enforcement to
create a more professional workforce.

Under this professional model, police chiefs took control over operations,
developed crime fighting strategies, and worked to create a single police structure
within a defined jurisdiction rather than the patchwork that was in place at the time.
They also set up special units, such as criminal investigation units, to focus on
particular types or aspects of a crime. This created a level of expertise of law
enforcement that had not existed previously. As technology developed, new
technologies were integrated into policing efforts. The use of cars and radios for
targeted patrols increased responsiveness to calls, and the utilization of forensics
created a more efficient police force armed not only with weaponry but also with
scientific and technological tools. The increased use of technology brought with it
an end goal to solve crimes as quickly and thoroughly as possible. As
investigations become more sophisticated, the role of the victim as a source of
evidence evolved. Victims and witnesses remained important sources of
information about the crime and the offender, although forensics, especially
through TV shows and movies about forensics, created the expectation that “hard
evidence” was always part of a case and skewed the public perceptions about what

a case should look like, especially in terms of the presence of forensic evidence to
support the case. Although there was a push for more technical sophistication in
policing, it remained that in many cases, the victim was the only source of
information because forensics was just being developed. It was simply too new to
find ubiquity among police departments.

Wyatt Earp, as
well as his brothers Morgan and Virgil, are some of the more famous law
enforcement officers from the Political Era. Earp held numerous law
enforcement positions, including forming a posse to hunt down the
notorious “cowboy” gang after the shootout at the O.K. Corral, in
Tombstone, Arizona. Earp, like many others, moved from town to town
holding various law enforcement positions as well as seeking out
fortunes during gold and silver rushes.
Image: Wyatt Earp.
File:Wyatt_Earp_portrait.png. Authored by: unattributed. License: CC-0

The development of these advances had the effect of taking police out of the
community. Rather than needing to get to know people in a neighborhood, police
began to just respond to calls. This affected their ability to get tips about potential
crimes, to get witnesses to come forward and talk about crimes they had witnessed,
and to have victims report their victimization. Police became regarded as strangers
who invaded neighborhoods. Starting in the 1930s, the focus became to solve
serious crimes rather than to work on crime prevention (Kelling & Wycoff, 2002).
During the 1960s, policing agencies realized that this strategy had isolated them

from communities and was not an effective approach for law enforcement. The
combination of police brutality, which was often the catalyst for riots, and the
overreaction to protests further strained the trust of community and victims toward
police. Law enforcement realized it needed to change its relationship with the
community in order to be effective at their jobs, including getting victims to trust
them enough to report crime. With victims and witnesses reluctant to work with
police in certain communities, the ability of police to be effective was significantly

The third era (1980 to today), called the Community Era, started off in the 1960s
but really did not come into full swing until the 1980s. Several laws passed, notably
the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, that gave funding to
police to implement more community policing programs, including summer and
afterschool recreation programs to create friendlier police departments. The goal
was to regain trust in the community, which in turn would help prevent and solve
crimes while reducing victimization. Starting in the 1980s, police began to focus on
proactive strategies, including returning to foot patrols to get to know the
community, reaching out to the community to learn about issues they feel should be
addressed, integrating research and best practices into policing, and shifting how
police deal with victims. It is during this era that we start to see victim advocates
within the police departments, especially advocates trained in child and rape/sexual
assault cases, to improve police interactions with victims.

Although there was a move to improve community/police relations in the 1980s,
crime increased during the late 1980s and early 1990s (arising from the war on
drugs). The war on drugs resulted in many community police departments adding
military equipment to help fight crime. Unfortunately, the increased amount of
military equipment available to police created a contradiction in community
policing, and the contradiction persists today. The militarization of the police
forced community leaders and researchers to look for a balance between
community relations and reactive crime fighting strategies. The sight of police in
tanks and armoured vehicles does not help communities feel connected to, or
protected by, law enforcement. Instead, the tendency is to feel invaded and even
threatened. In addition, significant questions about police use of force against
minorities, especially lethal force, continue to be raised. Significant issues still exist
in trying to bridge the gaps with minority communities, despite an increased
presence of minority officers. The Us versus Them narrative persists today, and the
increasingly hostile rhetoric around minorities and immigrants during the Trump
presidency has only increased this divide, making communities and victims
concerned about calling the police.

Police have been increasing the amount of military hardware they are using, including armoured
vehicles and tanks. This gives the public the impression that the police is a military force rather than
a public service. Police point out that the increase in the use of firearms by criminals is justification
for increased protection for officers.
Image: Police Lenco Bearcat CBRNE Armored Rescue Vehicle. Authored by: sdlewis.
Source: License: CC-0

The rise in the use of patrol car cameras and body cameras were seen by both police and community members
as a way to ensure honesty of law enforcement, when they are used. But even with these changes, communities
have greater confidence and trust in the police when they are perceived as fair and just in their treatment of
community members (Corsaro, Frank, & Ozer, 2015; McClude et al., 2017). Thus, community and victims’
perceptions today often reflect the same narratives as from 100 years ago.

The development of sophisticated forensic techniques like DNA testing, fluid detection, and other technologies
have also changed the relationship between victims, witnesses, and law enforcement. Eyewitness testimony is
now viewed as one of the least reliable sources of information, whereas it had been relied upon heavily in the
past. The reason for this change is that people make mistakes, misidentify individuals, and fill missing gaps in
their memories with false information (Loftus & Zanni, 1975). Although victims and witnesses are still
important to alerting police of crimes and giving information, law enforcement is also using technology to
verify and support these statements to ensure the correct person is arrested. Unfortunately, while scientifically
gathered evidence has proven useful, it is also often time consuming to gather and analyze correctly. This has
created new problems, such as large backlogs of rape test kits and DNA tests, that have extended the length of

time it takes to investigate crimes and has had the effect of decreasing confidence in law enforcement for both
victims and communities.

Bike and foot
patrols are one of the ways police are trying to create stronger
community relations. This enables them to get to know people in the
community and vice versa, working on creating increased trust.
Image: Police Officer on bike patrol at Hoover Dam. Authored By: U.S.
Department of the Interior.
File:Police_Officer_on_bike_patrol_at_Hoover_Dam.jpg. License: CC-0

The Courts

Like policing, the court system in the United States also draws from English law,
but even more so, because a court system already existed in the United States at the
time of the American Revolution. The CJS has two sets of underlying values: due
process (protecting individual rights) and crime control (punishment and prevention
of crime). Due process is about ensuring that individuals are not abused by the
state; many of these protections are listed in the Bill of Rights. For crime control,
the courts must balance the rights of the accused with the need to protect society.
There is also a third role some think the courts take and that is rehabilitative, or

ensuring criminals are getting rehabilitated to become productive members of
society again, thereby reducing future victimization.

Early in the U.S. system, victims were responsible for gathering evidence and bring their cases before
the courts. Although victims are still responsible for this in the civil court system today, if the person is
a victim of a crime then the responsibility for gathering evidence has shifted into the prosecutor’s
office. As this development occurred, the role of the victims moved more to that of “evidence” than an
active participant in the system. The prosecutor is not the personal lawyer of the victim but rather the
representative of society seeking justice for everyone, including, not solely, the victim. Current trends
show victims in an increased role within the CJS; victims are no longer just passive actors but
stakeholders in the outcomes of cases (Jones, 2014). The rights given to victims fall into one of two
categories: those that protect the victims and those that empower the victim. Rights that protect the
victim often include knowing when the court cases are occurring and when the offenders are being
released. Rights that empower victims focus on ensuring their participation in the criminal justice
process, such as sitting through the trial to ensure the accuracy of the case and consulting with the

The CJS is supposed to be a system that applies equally to all. This statue, found outside the
Cumberland School of Law, in Birmingham, Alabama, reminds us that Justice should be
balanced with Mercy.
Image: Justice and Mercy at the Cumberland School of Law. Authored by: BRM.

Cases are resolved in the courts in two main ways: trials and plea bargains.


Victims’ rights groups have had a number of significant wins for victims’ rights if a trial occurs. In the case of
sexual assault and harassment, the victim’s sexual history is not allowed to be discussed. This is important
because historically a victim’s entire sexual history was potentially brought up to prove that the victim was
somehow deserving of, or otherwise asking for, the assault. Payne v. Tennessee (1991) allowed victims’ impact
statements to be include in the sentence phase. This was put into law with the passage of the amendment of the
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in 1992, allowing for the victim’s statement to be presented in the
presentencing phase of death penalty cases. In addition, a growing body of research indicates that the courts
find victims more credible if they are emotional about their experiences (Ask & Landström, 2010), including
children (Landström, Ask, Sommar, & Willén, 2015), which is problematic, particularly for those whose
response to victimization is to shut down emotionally, thereby undermining their role and credibility in the

Understanding is growing in how victims respond to victimization, including why some people do not
remember accurately and the psychological factors that play into this. Historically, it was assumed that if a
victim could not remember, a crime might not have occurred at all. Today, we know that psychological factors
can impact the ability of someone to remember a crime. These psychological factors must be accounted for
when victims are giving testimony.

In addition, there are issues with domestic violence victims. Domestic violence, which will be discussed more
in future modules, is one area where the court’s role is mixed. Although the courts play an important role in
helping protect victims from offenders, a risk of secondary victimization remains a barrier for victim
participation in the CJS (Przekop, 2010). Secondary victimization might include including having to repeatedly
testify in court and the potential loss of child custody to the batterer. Abusive fathers are more than twice as
likely to seek sole custody of their children, and courts award sole or joint custody to these fathers in 70 percent
of all custody cases, leading to abusers having some form of control over the victims. The court can even
become a weapon of abusers when victims have little voice in the process (Ward, 2016).

In addition to adults, children both as witness and victims can be sensitive issue for the courts. During the last
30 years, significant changes have been made in how children are treated in the courts in response to the
growing number of children being called to testify. Research has shown children were less likely to be believed
by judges, jurors, and prosecutors, partially because children’s recollection of their victimization is often
contradictory and confusing (Ceci & de Bruyn, 1993). This is especially true for younger children, whose
understanding of the world and their vocabulary is much different than that of adults. The ability to give a clear
order of events can be difficult for these children. This has lead the courts in all 50 states to drop the rules
against leading a witness when the child is below 10 years of age, especially when the type of crime occurs in
private, like sexual or physical abuse. Shield laws, which allow children to testify behind a one-way mirror or
on video, and the hearsay exception for therapists (which allows others to describe what the child has said to
them), have improved the situation for children in the courts. There is also an increased use of therapy animals
to help victims, particularly children, during their testimony. This provides some anxiety-reducing effects and
allows them to be more effective at giving their testimony, even if there is a possibility of it having some
negative influence on the case (Nascondiglio, 2016). There is also a call to educate children about the court

when they are going to testify as a way to reduce anxiety and improve their testimony accuracy (Watkins,

Charles Lindbergh is shown on the witness stand in the courtroom at Flemington as he told his story
about the dramatic kidnapping of his 22-month-old son on March 1, 1932.
Image: Lindbergh takes the stand during trial. Authored by: World Telegram staff photographer.
Source: License: CC-0

Therapy dogs and other animals are becoming more commonly used not only in courts, but also as a
therapeutic tool for traumatized individuals, including those with PTSD, which sometimes results
from experiencing a crime.
Image: FEMA Therapy dog. Authored by: Robert Kaufmann.
_Photograph_by_Robert_Kaufmann_taken_on_12-20-2005_in_Louisiana.jpg License: CC-0

Plea Bargain

The vast majority (90 to 95 percent) of all criminal cases, whether it is at the federal or state level, results in a
plea bargain. A plea bargain is where the defendant will plead guilty to a particular charge in return for some
concession from the prosecutor—often a reduction in the seriousness of the charges or dropping other charges.
Plea bargaining avoids a lengthy criminal trial for the courts and the risk of conviction of more serious charges
for the defendant at trial. This process is negotiated between the attorney for the offender and the prosecutor,
with little to no involvement of the victim. Plea bargaining deprives the victim of the ability to confront their

offender and see the process of justice take place, but it also helps avoid reliving their trauma and the
revictimization that can occur from that process.

Since the mid-1990s, there has been a trend of consulting with victims in the process of negotiating plea
bargains. Currently, seven states have granted constitutional rights to victims to participate in plea bargaining in
some form (Jones, 2014). Several of these states allow the victim to be heard during the negotiation process,
although even states like California (the national leader in crime victims’ rights) require that victims actively
seek out these opportunities (Jones, 2014). Most allow the victim to comment on the final plea deal; however,
trends in the courts, including legal challenges and shifts in victims’ rights laws, show movement toward
greater inclusion of victims in the process.


Corrections is the final part of the CJS. The goal of corrections is both to punish as well as to correct
behaviors and to allow offenders to become contributing members of society. Ninety-eight percent of all
offenders in prison will be released and returned to their communities. Offenders who are being held for
trial or who are serving short sentences (under a year) are kept in jails, which are run by sheriff
departments. Those who are sentenced to more than a year serve their time in prison. Prisons are run or
overseen by the state or federal government. In addition, a host of other correctional options exist:

• Probation—his is an agreement between the courts and the offender that the offender will comply
with a set of rules for a certain length of time in order to serve their time in the community, including
regular contact with a probation officer, not leaving the country, attending treatment, and not
possessing weapons. Additional conditions might be added, depending on the crime.

• Home confinement and electronic monitoring—Offenders serve their sentences confined to their
homes so they can continue their jobs, education, and parenting. They are often required to have an
electronic monitor on their ankle to track where they have been and to ensure they are in their home
on time.

• Pretrial diversions
• Forfeiture is where the government seizes property bought with money gained or used in a
crime, including their home or car. An example would be a son purchasing a house for his
mother with money earned from selling drugs. The house can be seized, and the mother evicted.

• Diversion programs are most often for young first time offenders, to divert them from the formal
CJS into counseling, treatment centers or other therapeutic options. If they successfully
complete the program, the courts will drop the charges against them.

• Specialized courts help specific populations. Drug courts work under the assumption that by
dealing with the drug and alcohol addiction, the individual’s other criminal activity will
decrease. Mental health courts work with offenders who are prison bound but really need mental
health treatment instead of prison.

Victims’ services in prisons are often limited. Offenders have limited financial resources, and
prisons are often far from cities, making victim-offender mediation difficult.
Image: Handcuffs. Authored by: Gustavo Castillo.
Source: License: CC-0

Victims and Corrections

The majority of the victims’ rights have centered around victims at the front end of
the CJS. Starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there began to be a call for
victims’ services within corrections. In 1997, the Association of State Correctional
Administrators established guidelines for correctional agencies to implement, to
strengthen the role and rights of victims within corrections. Important guidelines
include creating a position within the prison to do the following:

• Notify victims of prisoner status.
• Notify victims of upcoming hearings.
• Develop victim impact programs to help offenders understand the effect their
crimes have on their victims, communities, and families.

• Ensure that victims have an advocate within the agency, including correctional
employees who are victimized.

From these guidelines came programs such as the victim-offender dialogues, which
coordinates meetings between victims and offenders and works with victims of
violent crime to be prepared for this process. The goal of these meetings is for
victims to be able to tell the offender how the victimization impacted them and
come to some closure. Some states, like Vermont, have also set up homicide victim
support groups for family members. Many other states have set up crisis lines for
victims to get help as well as offender apology letter programs, where offenders, if
they so choose, can write a letter of apology to their victims.

All 50 states have crime victim compensation programs, according to the National
Association of Crime Victim Compensation Board (NACVCB). These programs
are most often run through the state, and much of the revenue comes from
offenders, who have to pay fees and expenses in prison for extra goods and
services. This type of program started in California in 1965 and spread to all states,
although the details of compensation vary by state. The amount of compensation
depends on the crime, type of loss, and needs of the victims. Victims can seek
money to help with medical expenses, mental health services, and wage loss
because of their victimization. According to the NACVCB,

Statistics show that victims of assault comprise about half of the claimants for
compensation, with more than a third of those claims being paid to domestic
violence victims. Child sexual abuse victims comprise 29% of the victims helped
by compensation programs. About 10% of benefits overall are paid to families of
homicide victims, and 8% goes toward sexual assault victims. (n.d.)

Even with these compensation programs, victims are often underfunded, and many
need help. If one of the goals is to help victims, these programs represent a step
toward achieving that goal.

In most states, victims are able to have some input into the release and parole
process. Victims can ask for certain conditions on the release of an offender,

although there is no guarantee that this will occur. They can write a statement,
appear before the release board, or both.

The goals of this section were to introduce you to the three main parts of the
criminal justice system and to discuss how victims are included in that system and
how their role has evolved over time. The next section will look at key laws and
cases that have allowed victims to become part of the CJS.


Ask, K., & Landström, S. (2010). Why emotions matter: Expectancy violation and
affective response mediate the emotional victim effect. Law and Human Behavior,
34(5), 392–401.

Ceci, S. J., & de Bruyn, E. (1993). Child witnesses in court: A growing dilemma.
Children Today, 22(1), 5–9.

Corsaro, N., Frank, J., & Ozer, M. (2015). Perceptions of police practice, cynicism
of police performance, and persistent neighborhood violence: An intersecting
relationship. Journal of Criminal Justice, 43(1), 1–11.

Gaines, L. K., & Miller, R. L. (2009). Criminal justice in action (5th ed.). Mason,
OH: Cengage Learning.

Jones, E. N. (2014). The ascending role of crime victims in plea-bargaining and
beyond.W. Va. L. Rev., 117, 97.

Kelling, G. L., & Wycoff, M. A. (2002). Evolving strategy of policing: Case
studies of strategic change. National Institute of Justice. NCJ198029.

Landström, S., Ask, K., Sommar, C., & Willén, R. (2015). Children’s testimony
and the emotional victim effect. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 20(2), 365–

Loftus, E. F., & Zanni, G. (1975). Eyewitness testimony: The influence of the
wording of a question. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 5(1), 86–88.

Manning, P. (1977) Police work. Cambridge, MA: MIT press.

McClure, D., La Vigne, N., Lynch, M., Golian, L., Lawrence, D., & Malm, A.
(2017). How body cameras affect community members’ perceptions of police.
Retreived from

Nascondiglio, A. (2016). The cost of comfort: Protecting a criminal defendant’s
constitutional rights when child witnesses request comfort accommodations. NYL
School of Law Review, 61, 395.

National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Board. (n.d.). Crime victim
compensation: An overview. Retrieved from

Przekop, M. (2010). One more battleground: Domestic violence, child custody, and
the batterers’ relentless pursuit of their victims through the courts. Seattle Journal
for Social Justice, 9, 1053.

Ward, D. (2016). In her words: Recognizing and preventing abusive litigation
against domestic violence survivors. Seattle Journal for Social Justice, 14(2), 11.

Watkins, B. T. (2014). Reducing court-related stress through court education:
Examining child witnesses, attorneys and parents. Dissertation, University of
Nevada, Las Vegas.

3.2 Legislation and Injustice

• Examine the major laws and cases that have influenced victim legislation.

Starting in the 1970s, Congress began enacting a number of laws centered around victims’ rights and
Image: U.S. Capitol Building. Authored by: bellaluna222.
Source: Licensing: CC-0

This section will examine the federal laws and legal cases that have had the most significant impact on victims’
rights and roles within the CJS. Because so much variability exists in state laws, this module will only focus on
federal laws. Note that the goal of this section is to give an overview of the most impactful laws; many laws are
not covered here. Legislation that is focused on children will be discussed in Module 8, which discusses
victimization of children and the elderly. In addition, major laws and cases that have already been discussed in
earlier modules may be mentioned again here, but they will not be discussed in detail.

Federal Laws

Starting in the 1970s, Congress began enacting a number of laws around crime and victimization. In addition,
government agencies began implementing rules and programs that would directly affect victims. Victims’ rights

and women’s organizations began to make strides at the state level to create victim compensation programs,
like the one in California. Congress responded to this call for more victims’ rights and protections by creating a
series of laws.

1982 Victim and Witness Protection Act

The goal of this act was to increase the protections of victims and witnesses, specifically victims
of federal crimes, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of the defendant. This act allows
victims of fraud or deception to get help receiving compensation through civil actions. It also
served as a model for states to enact their own victim protections.

1984 Victims of Crime Act

In 1984, the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) was passed, establishing the Crime Victims
Fund. This fund is contributed to by fines, fees, and assessments in federal criminal cases, as well
as by private donations. The U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC)
administers the fund, which supports thousands of programs nationwide. Each year OVC focuses
on initiatives such as human trafficking, identity theft and fraud, international terrorism, sexual
violence, and victims’ rights and services. According to the OVC (n.d.), as of 2013 more than $9
billion has been deposited to help fund victims’ recovery. This money goes to federal, state, and
tribal agencies who administer the fund locally. As discussed earlier, these funds help victims with
medical and mental health costs, lost wages, and burial costs for families of homicide victims.
This was not a new act for the federal government; the 1925 Federal Probation Act allowed
restitution to be ordered as part of the probation conditions, although these were not mandatory
and the language was vague (Munster Sever, 1985). The VOCA expanded the 1925 act to
sentences that were not just given probation and created the dedicated fund for the process.

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act

The largest crime bill in U.S. history, the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
(VCCLEA), provided for 100,000 new police officers, $9.7 billion in funding for prisons, and $6.1
billion in funding for prevention programs designed with significant input from experienced police
officers. Included in the bill was an assault weapons ban, expansion of the federal death penalty,
and it defined new crime statutes, including immigration law, hate crimes, sex crimes, and gang-
related crime, all coming from the spike in U.S. crime. In addition, the provision for the Violence
Against Women Act (VAWA) was included to help prevent and investigate violence against
women. The VAWA included sections to increase penalties for repeat sex offenders (The Safe
Streets for Women Act), added rape shield laws, and increased money for domestic violence
programs (The Safe Homes for Women Act). Although the protections of victims included in the
law were significant—moving victims’ rights and help for victims forward—the bill ended up
increasing both state and federal prison populations, especially through the three strikes
provisions. The bill was signed by President Clinton, who has since expressed regret over the
effect it had, particularly on incarcerating minorities.

President Clinton signed some of the most sweeping criminal justice legislation in U.S.
history. Significant parts of that concerned the rights of victims.
Image: Clinton signs the assault weapons ban. Authored by: U.S. Government Printing
Source: License:

1997 Victims’ Rights Clarification Act

This act ensures that victims are not excluded from a trial. Specifically, it states that
victims must be included during the sentencing hearing and allowed to make a
victim’s impact statement, and that victims have a right to attend the trial.

2004 Justice for All Act

This is one of the more substantive federal laws put into place to protect victims. It
includes provisions to make sure victims are protected from offenders, and victims
must be notified within a reasonable time about any upcoming hearings, or if the
offender escaped from prison. Expanding on the 1997 Victims’ Rights Clarification
Act, the Justice for All Act ensures that victims are not excluded from any court
proceedings and are allowed to confer with the attorney for the government. It also
allows the victim, or the attorney for the government, to assert the victim’s rights in
court. It also increased, or helped create, grants for victims and victims’
compensation and enhanced the victims’ notification system to ensure victims are
aware what is happening throughout the legal process (OVC, 2006).

Federal Cases for Victims’ Rights

This subsection discusses major legal cases from the federal court system, often
around either federal or state laws that gave victims some rights. Although there are
not many such cases, the following are cases that directly impacted the laws around
victims’ rights.

Booth v. Maryland (482 U.S. 496, 1987) argued that victim impact statements are
unconstitutional, which came from both federal and state laws like the 1984
Victims of Crime Act. This case surrounds the rights of victims to have victims’
impacts statements (VIS) included during the sentencing process. Specifically, it
challenged the Maryland law that allowed the VIS during the sentencing phase of a
death penalty case. The argument was that it violated the offenders Eighth
Amendment rights because the statements were inflammatory and unnecessary.
Specifically, the emotional statements served no other purpose than to “inflame the
jury and divert it from deciding the case on the relevant evidence concerning the
crime and the defendant” (Justia, n.d.). The case went to the Supreme Court and in
a 5-4 split, they agreed with the defendant, Booth, that the information from the
VIS was not relevant to the sentencing phase and, thus, not necessary. Justice
White, writing for the dissent, disagreed and felt that the jury should be reminded
that it is not only the offender who is an individual but also the victim. Justice
Scalia, also commenting on the dissent, felt that the amount of harm done to the
victim’s families was relevant to the sentence phase of a case (Booth v. Maryland
482 U.S. 496, 1987). This goes counter to prior Supreme Court cases that had
mostly argued that all relevant evidence should be included in a case.

State v. Ciskie (110 Wn.2d 263, 1988) is the first case to allow the use of expert
testimony to explain the behavior and mental state of an adult rape victim. The case

surrounds a woman who claimed she had been raped at least four times during a
23-month period while in a relationship with the defendant. The relationship had
become violent, including stalking, harassment, and several incidents of rape. An
expert witness was brought in to testify that the victim was suffering from battered
women’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The testimony was
used to show why a victim of repeated physical and sexual assaults by her intimate
partner would not immediately call the police or take action. Previous cases around
kidnapping (United States v. Winters, 1984) allowed experts to testify about the
state of mind of the victim. The court supported the expert testimony as
permissible, and the jury convicted the defendant on four counts of rape.

South Carolina v. Gathers (490 U.S. 805, 1989). In a 5-4 decision, the U.S.
Supreme Court reaffirmed its 1987 decision in Booth v. Maryland that victim
impact evidence and arguments are unconstitutional when applied to the penalty
phase of a capital trial. Again, significant dissenting opinions were offered. VIS
must be directly related to the “circumstances of the crime,” not about the impact of
the crime (Justia, n.d.).

Payne v. Tennessee (501 U.S. 808, 1991). In their 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme
Court reversed its earlier decisions in Booth v. Maryland (1987) and South
Carolina v. Gathers (1989) and ruled that testimony and prosecutorial arguments
commenting on the murder victim’s good character, as well as how the victim’s
death affected his or her survivors, do not violate the defendant’s constitutional
rights in a capital case. In addition, the punishment should fit the crime and because
the defendant has the right to present mitigating evidence during sentencing, so
should the prosecutor. The impact of Payne was broad, leading the majority of
states to allow VIS during sentencing. This was a significant win for the victims’
rights movement (Schmalleger, 2006).

United States v. Morrison (529 U.S. 598, 2000). The case was a challenge to a
section of the VAWA that allowed victims of gender-motivated violence the right
to sue their attackers in federal court. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that this clause
violated both the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. They stated
that Congress had overstepped its authority by taking the cases out of the state
courts, even if there was gender bias in the state systems because Congress was
targeting private citizens (the offenders) and not the systems themselves.

Kenna v. U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (05-73467,
2006). This was about fraud, specifically Moshe and Zvi Leichner, father and son,
who swindled victims out of almost $100 million. More than 60 victims submitted
VIS to the courts, but during the sentencing phase, the courts denied victims the
right to be heard, stating that the court had already heard from the victims in earlier
phases of the case and it was not necessary. W. Patrick Kenna, one of the victims,
filed a timely petition for writ of mandamus seeking to vacating Zvi’s sentence and
commanding the district court to allow the victims to speak at the resentencing. The
Ninth Circuit Court held that victims did have a right to be heard at sentences
beyond just the impact statements (Vidmer, 2007).

These are the most significant cases that are relevant to general victimization in the
United States. Additional cases will be discussed in later modules that are specific
to certain types of victimization, like sexual assault or victimization of children.
Overall, victims’ rights, both through the CJS and the courts, have been greatly
expanded during the last 30 years. Their voices have a greater impact today than
they have since the state took over the role of charging and prosecuting offenders.
However, victims’ rights advocates feel there is still room for improvement,
including increasing the protection of victims and creating more ways to help
victims heal.


Booth v. Maryland, 482 U.S. 496 (1987).

Justia. (n.d.). Booth v. Maryland. Retreived from

Justia. (n.d.). South Carolina v. Gathers. Retreived from https://

Munster Sever, L. (1985). The Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982: Who
are the victims of which offenses? Valparaiso University Law Review, 20(1), 109–

National Center for Victims of Crime. (2012). Landmarks in victims’ rights &
services. Retreived from

Office for Victims of Crime. (2006). OVC factsheet: The Justice for All Act.
Retrieved from

Office for Victims of Crime. (n.d.). Crime victims fund. Retrieved from https://

Schmalleger, F. (2006). Criminal law today: An introduction with capstone cases
(3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Vidmar, M. P. (2006). A crime victim’s right to be reasonably heard—Kenna v.
United States District Court. Golden Gate UL Rev., 37, 695.

4 Consequences of Victimization
Learning Outcome: Describe the consequences of victimization.

4.1 The Effects of Violence on Physical and Mental

• Discuss the physical and emotional impact violence has on victims.

Victimization is a traumatic experience, whether it is from violent crime such as
assault or property crime such as fraud, but it is different from other types of
trauma due to the criminal nature of the event. How someone reacts to
victimization varies widely, and there is no way to predict how someone will, or
should, react to a crime. Some people react to minor crimes with high levels of
trauma, and some people react to serious victimization with little reaction at all.
However, victims share some common responses, such as a sense of violation and
self-doubt, as well as significant effects such as physical and mental trauma that
might take years to overcome. Victims of violent crimes tend to be affected for
longer periods of time compared to victims of other types of crime (Hanson,
Sawyer, Begle, & Hubel, 2010). In addition, a cumulative effect occurs because
most of the violence witnessed or experienced substantially affects overall mental
health (Turner, Binkelhor, & Ormrod, 2006). The effects of victimization include
both direct costs (e.g., medical costs) and indirect costs (such as pain and suffering)
totaling an estimated $450 billion annually (Wickramasekera, Wright, Elsey,
Murray, & Tubeuf, 2015). Violent crimes, including rape and assault, have been
estimated to cost $426 billion, while property crime accounts for $24 billion.

This module discusses the impacts of victimization on the victim as well as on
society, but it will not discuss the costs of domestic violence or child abuse (those
topics are covered in future modules) nor the costs of several types of crimes that
have other significant impacts (e.g., forms of white-collar crime and environmental
crimes). This first section focuses on the victims themselves in terms of the mental
and emotional impacts and ability to function after victimization.

Emotional Impacts of Victimization

Victims can experience a number of emotional effects. Emotional effects can lead
to increased time to heal, changes in behavior that may make daily life more
difficult, and higher potential to experience additional victimization.

Fear of Crime

Fear after victimization is a normal reaction. A significant body of research points
to the fact that witnessing or experiencing violent crime can increase the fear of
crime. Jackson and Gouseti (2016) found that both primary (you were the victim)

and secondary (you heard about an event or know someone who was a victim)
victimization increased worry about being a victim and that being a victim
increased the concern about being a victim again. Not only is there a direct effect
for victims, there are also indirect effects for people living in neighborhoods with
high levels of crime.

Being the victim of a crime has psychological as well as physical
impacts on victims.
Image: Victims of crime. Authored by: Lode Van de Velde.
image=68872&picture=crime-scene. License: CC-0

Mental Health

Short-term impacts of victimization may include shock and guilt at becoming a
victim. Longer term effects may necessitate interventions, treatments, or other
programs to help victims recover from their victimization. Victims may experience
a loss of trust in society, which can make them suspicious of others, especially
those who might remind them of the offender (Dinisman & Moroz, 2017). Victims
also feel disempowered, distressed, and vulnerable, which can lead to increased
psychological symptoms such as anxiety. Victims of crime, regardless of the type
of crime, often experience decreased self-esteem and self-efficacy as well as
increased symptoms of anxiety, anger, fear, depression, and hypervigilance
(Dinisman & Moroz, 2017).

According to the Office for National Statistics, 81 percent of violent crime victims
experience psychological effects, with 17 percent experiencing prolonged trauma.
A literature review by Dinisman and Moroz (2017) stated that between 21 percent
and 33 percent of violent crime victims develop significant mental health issues,
including post-traumatic stress disorder, which can increase the risk of suicidal
ideation and self-harm. Substance abuse and other risky behaviors can also be
caused by victimization, which can, in turn, increase the potential for

revictimization. Long-term mental health impacts of victimization are just starting
to be examined, and not much research is available on this yet.

Physical Impacts of Victimization—Ability to Function in Society

Being the victim of a crime can lead to significant problems with daily routines and
activities. Feelings of fear, trauma, and self-doubt can severely limit people’s
ability to complete normal daily functions like parenting, working, and maintaining
close relationships and social lives. This section is an examination as to how these
areas are impacted by crime.


Most of the victimization literature around parenting has focused on violence in the
home, such as domestic violence or sexual abuse, and its effect on the ability of
someone to parent (Hanson, Sawyer, Begle, & Hubel, 2010). The literature on the
effects of domestic violence has shown that when violence is occurring at home,
parenting often suffers, but after the violence ends, parents try to compensate and
increase their parenting (Letourneau, Fedick, & Willms, 2007). Prior histories of
abuse and violent victimization are also associated with factors that can reduce
parenting, such as depression and anxiety. Dustmann and Fasani (2016) found that
local crime increases depression and anxiety, especially in women. Further, they
found that it often results in behavioral changes that are an effort to reduce the
likelihood of being a victim.

Intimate Relationships

A significant body of literature discusses the impact of crime on relationships among family, partners, and
friends. Victimization can create issues of trust, even among social support networks (Dinisman & Moroz,
2017). It can put strains on relationships, as victims work through the mental and physical impacts of crime.
Victims rely on social networks to help them report the crime to the police, serve as emotional support, to help
them through the legal process, as well as to help prevent additional victimization. This is true across all crime
types regardless of severity of victimization. Friends and other types of peers are also incredibly important to
victims, especially in ensuring they are not isolating themselves and can promote help-seeking behaviors. Peer
support groups have also been shown to be important, especially when the offender was known to the victim, as
family and friends may not be as supportive because of their relationship with the offender. Finding others who
have had similar experiences and who understand what the victim has gone through has been shown to be very
important in recovery (Australian Government, 2005). Family and friends can also end up with their own
secondary victimization issues, such as increased fear of crime, increased stress and behaviors associated with
that fear, and taking additional precautions to prevent victimization.


Lost wages is one of the most common direct costs of crime. Victims, especially of violent crime, often have to
take time off from work to recover from injuries, which results in a loss of income. Even victims of property
crime have to take time off of work in order to report the crime, follow-up with insurance companies,
prosecutors, etc., in an effort to recover or replace property. Depending on the type and severity of the crime, as
well as the individual’s ability to recover from their victimization, holding a job can also be problematic. Those
who suffer serious, permanent physical trauma may need to change careers in order to adapt to the limitations
from their injuries. Missing work and the effect of losing wages can also impact families who need to take time
off to care for victims, or to modify living spaces to accommodate victims who were disabled. Psychological
trauma can also affect someone’s ability to work or hold a job. The level of this effect is rarely tracked, and
only a limited amount is covered by compensation plans, limiting our ability to know just how much this costs
both families and society. This lack of information about the effects of psychological trauma represents a
significant gap in our knowledge about the repercussions of crime. Lost wages also occurs when victims, or the
family of victims of the crime, take time away from work to attend court cases, parole hearings, etc. In addition
to direct wages, being a victim of crime in early adulthood is also linked to decreased educational attainment,
which may also impact lifetime earning potential for individuals (Dinisman & Moroz, 2017).

Lost wages is one of the costs of crime that can be compensated because it is something that can be tracked;
many victim compensation programs have a provision for lost wages. Even with these compensations, long-
term financial effects of crimes are often not compensated, especially if the recovery time from the
victimization takes years. In addition, many compensation programs have caps on the amount of compensation
one can get, regardless of the actual financial impact. Consequently, victims and their families might never
recover the actual amount of lost earnings.

Serious physical injuries as a result of victimization can have life-altering effects on the victim, their
families, and caregivers.
Image: Women pushing a wheelchair. Authored by: George Hodan.
License: CC-0


Another impact of being a crime victim is the increased potential for
revictimization. Revictimization is experiencing new crimes, sometimes as the
result of behavioral changes; other times it is because of community and life
circumstances. Some victims change their behaviors after their first victimization,
which can increase the likelihood of revictimization. For example, increased
drinking or drug use in order to deal with prior victimizations can increase the
potential for future ones. In addition, as discussed in earlier modules, the
community you live in, and your lifestyle can increase the odds of victimization,
which can be beyond the victims’ control (Ruback, Clark, & Warner, 2014).

These are just some of the physical and mental costs of victimization. In future
modules we will discuss the role of help-seeking on recovering from victimization
as well as go into depth about the impact of specific types of victimization. In the
next section, we will discuss the financial implications of crime to the victim,
businesses, and organizations, as well as the impact of crime on society.


Australian Government. (2005). No longer silent. A study of women’s help seeking
decisions and service responses to sexual assault. Australia: Australian
Government, Australian Institute of Criminology. Retreived from https://

Dustmann, C., & Fasani, F. (2016). The effect of local area crime on mental health.
The Economic Journal, 126(593), 978–1017.

Dinisman, T., & Moroz, A. (2017). The impact of the crime and support needs:
Understanding victims of crime. Retrieved from

Fitzgerald, M. M., Shipman, K. L., Jackson, J. L., McMahon, R. J., & Hanley, H.
M. (2005). Perceptions of parenting versus parent-child interactions among incest
survivors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29(6), 661–681.

Hanson, R. F., Sawyer, G. K., Begle, A. M., & Hubel, G. S. (2010). The impact of
crime victimization on quality of life. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 23(2), 189–197.

Jackson, J., & Gouseti, I. (2016). Threatened by violence: Affective and cognitive
reactions to violent victimization. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 31(18), 2987–

Letourneau, N. L., Fedick, C. B., & Willms, J. D. (2007). Mothering and domestic
violence: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Family Violence, 22(8), 649–659.

McLaughlin, M., Pettue-Davis, C., Brown, D., Veeh, C., & Renn, T. (2016). The
economic burden of incarceration in the U.S. St. Louis, MO: Washington

Ruback, R. B., Clark, V. A., & Warner, C. (2014). Why are crime victims at risk of
being victimized again? Substance use, depression, and offending as mediators of
the victimization–revictimization link. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(1),

Turner, H. A., Finkelhor, D., & Ormrod, R. (2006). The effect of lifetime
victimization on the mental health of children and adolescents. Social Science &
Medicine, 62(1), 13–27.

Wickramasekera, N., Wright, J., Elsey, H., Murray, J., & Tubeuf, S. (2015). Cost of
crime: A systematic review. Journal of Criminal Justice, 43(3), 218–228.

4.2 The Costs of Victimization

• Discuss the financial costs of victimization in the United States, including to individuals, businesses,
organizations, and the general population.

Individual Costs

The three major types of costs that individuals often incur after victimization are medical care, mental
health care, and lost wages (discussed under “employment” in the previous section). Beyond the mental
and emotional costs, costs are also incurred repairing or replacing stolen or broken property. In addition,
many victims take increased measures to prevent crime (additional locks, alarms, etc.), which also adds to
the cost of crime for the individual.

Medical Care

Medical costs for victimization can be high. For example, the United States spends $229 billion annually
for medical care related to gun violence (Follman, Lurie, Lee, & West, 2015); that amount increases as the
cost of medical care rises. Violence not only causes loss of life but also long-term injuries and disabilities
that can cost a lot in treatment and in terms of accommodation to ensure that person’s life can be as
normal as possible post-victimization. In 2016, 1.9 million people were victims of serious violence, with
two thirds involving a weapon; 39 percent involved an injury (Morgan & Kena, 2016). Homicides in 2013
cost an estimated $26.4 billion (Florence, Simon, Haegerich, Luo, & Zhou, 2015). When looking at the
costs of homicide, compared to other types of death, surprisingly, homicide often has the highest costs
followed closely by aggravated assault and rape (Wickramasekera, Wright, Elsey, Murray, & Tubeuf,

In the 2017 Las Vegas Shooting, many of the victims did not have adequate medical coverage. Some even
had to start GoFundMe sites to help cover the costs of being a shooting victim. According to Masters
(2017), “The average annual cost per admission for a firearm assault injury is $20,989, more than twice
that of a typical hospital stay.” Rape victims pay, on average, around $900 of their own medical bill out of
pocket (Crist, 2017). Thus, the cost of medical care, by itself, can pose a significant burden to victims,
especially if they do not have insurance.

Transportation to medical facilities can be costly for victims. The average life flight costs
between $10,000 and $15,000.
Image: Life Flight. Authored by: Dee-Burke.
Source: License: CC-0

Mental Health Care

Most of the research around the intersection of mental health costs and criminality focus on the cost for
the offender, including therapy, to ensure they will not reoffend. In review of the literature,
Wickramasekera et al. (2015) found only a few studies that included mental health issues as the cost of
crime, but those who did, like Cohen and Miller (1998), estimated that between three million and five
million people sought therapy after being a victim of crime. The estimated annual cost of the mental
health effects of crime was $9.7 billion (at the time of the study). Note that the study was 20 years ago,
and the number of victims and the cost of mental health care have increased substantially. According to
Peterson, DeGue, Florence, and Lokey (2017), lifetime mental health costs for just rape victims will cost
around $1.9 trillion. This is just one example of the mental healthcare costs associated with victimization.

Property Loss

Another cost is the recovery of property, whether it was stolen or broken as part of a crime. According to
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), an estimated $456 million in losses were attributed to robberies
in 2010. Property crimes resulted in losses of $14.3 billion in 2015, with $4.9 billion from motor vehicle
thefts (FBI, 2015). Larceny-theft average losses are approximately $1,000 per incident, with a total loss
estimated to be around $5.3 billion. Burglary victims lost an estimated $3.6 billion in property, with the
average incident costing around $2,300 (FBI, 2015). As previously discussed, the use of official data
underestimates the financial impact of crime, so these effects could be much higher. Unfortunately, the
recovery rate for stolen property is fairly low (28 percent), with cars having the highest recovery rate (54
percent). This means the vast majority of property that is stolen is never recovered.

Many people seek therapy or counseling after being a victim of crime.
Image: Group Therapy Session. Authored by rudamese.
Source: License: CC-0

Business and Organizations

Crime can affect businesses in different ways. The first is the direct, when the
business is the victim of the crime. This can take the form of either employee or
nonemployee crime. In an employee crime, the employees of a business are
committing crimes against that business. Employee crime can include stealing
money or items from the company, not ringing up sales or intentionally incorrectly
charging customers, and embezzling (an employee takes money from business
accounts). According to Statistics Brain (2017), thefts by employees cost
businesses around $50 billion annually.

A nonemployee crime occurs when someone not associated with the business or
organization commits a crime against that business. Theft is one of the greatest
problems, especially for small businesses, where even the loss of candy bars over
time damages the viability of the business. Breaking and entering and robbery also
affect businesses because they often involve property damage, which may cause
disrupt business. According to the National Retail Federation (2017), missing
inventory accounted for 36 percent of all theft. The loss of retail goods is called
shrinkage and is estimated by the U.S. Retail Fraud Survey to cost around $60
billion annually. In addition to the actual theft, the cost of trying to prevent theft
also affects companies’ bottom line.

Another type of nonemployee crime is a newer, growing issue: cybercrime against
businesses. These are crimes in which the criminal uses technology such as
computers and the Internet to target a business. As discussed in Module 1,
cybercrime has become a major issue for both companies and individuals. Forbes
estimates that cybercrime will cost businesses around $6 trillion annually through
2021 (Eubanks, 2017). In addition to the direct loss of information, t trust in the
company’s ability to fend off criminals also decreases, which further negatively
affects the company.

All of these are ways that crime causes direct costs to companies and organizations.
Indirect effects on businesses occur through victimization of employees and
employee families. As discussed earlier in this module, victimization often results
in lost wages (time away from work), which affects productivity, which also
hinders businesses’ ability to be successful. When employees are experiencing
mental and physical health issues, they are not able to focus on their jobs, which
causes a sort of secondary victimization to the places where they work.

General Population

When people think about the costs of crime, they often think about the direct costs
to victims, not about the broader costs to society. Crime harms society in a number
of ways in general. The first is crime-induced production, which are the activities
that would not be necessary in the absence of crime, such as the cost of running the
criminal justice system (McLaughlin et al., 2016). For example, the cost of running
local jails, plus federal and state prisons, runs about $80 billion annually; the

estimated annual expenditures are $113 billion for police, and $42 billion for the
prosecutorial and judicial costs of processing state and local criminal cases
(Kyckelhahn, 2011; Kyckelhahn, 2015). The Center for Popular Democracy (n.d.)
estimates that in the United States we pay around $100 billion each year for
policing (local, county, state, and federal). Unfortunately, as McLaughlin et al.
(2016) have explained, the official estimates of corrections are missing the costs of
pensions and the healthcare costs for both employees and prisoners, which would
make it even higher, increasing it by around $91 billion annually.

The direct
costs of running prisons is high.
Image: Cell Block. Authored by Daniel Vanderkin.
crime-598851/. License: CC-0

Some, like Pettus-Davis, Brown, Veeh, and Renn (2016), state that the real cost of
running the criminal justice system is closer to $1 trillion, as the previous estimates
ignore heavy social costs. For example, the cost of the courts is being transferred to
the defendants, placing an increasing burden on them regardless of their guilt.
These costs include lawyers’ fees (also applies for public defenders), room and
board charges for jail, probation and parole services, and electronic monitoring
costs, all of which would be left off of official estimates. This puts an undue burden
on those with limited incomes, and in some cases, their debt becomes a reason they
end up in jail. This has the deleterious effect of creating a revolving door in the
system and an increased cost to society.

A second way crime affects society is through individuals who are released back
into society. Those who have served their time and are released back into the
community tend to earn lower wages, face discrimination in hiring and housing,
and have weaker social networks because of their incarceration. Thus, after release,
rather than becoming a productive member of society, many former convicts end
up costing the community more because of these barriers. This case is nicely laid
out in Shapiro’s (2014) article for NPR As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying
the Price. Not only are they costing more, but society also experiences lost
productivity, which are the wages (and taxes) that someone could have made if
they were not in prison. McLaughlin et al. (2016) estimates these lost wages to be
around $24.6 billion.

Significant barriers prevent people from reintegrating back into society, which
contributes to the 68 percent recidivism rate we see in the United States.
Recidivism is when someone who was convicted of a crime is released from prison
and then reoffends following their release and is sent back to prison or jail. Barriers
to reintegrating into society include difficulties like getting jobs, housing,
educational, and welfare benefits, making recidivism more likely to happen. This
cycle adds to both the financial and social costs of victimization. It also creates new
victims of crime.

Overall, the costs of crime—to victims, their families and friends, business, and
society—are high. When you add in the intangible cost, like mental health, the
effects of crime are significant. In future modules, we will continue to discuss some
of the costs of crime from specific types of victimization, like domestic violence.


The Center for Popular Democracy, Law for Black Lives and the Black Youth
Project 100. (n.d.). Freedom to thrive: Reimagining safety & security in our
communities. Retrieved from

Cohen, M. A., & Miller, T. R. (1998). The cost of mental health care for victims of
crime. Journal of Interpersonal violence, 13(1), 93–110.

Crist, C. (2017). Rape victims in U.S. made to pay part of the medical bill. Reuters.
Retrieved from

Eubanks, N. (2017, July 13). The true cost of cybercrime for businesses. Forbes.
Retrieved from:

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2013). Robbery. Retrieved from https://

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2015). Uniform crime reports, 2015. Retrieved

Florence, C., Simon, T., Haegerich, T., Luo, F., & Zhou, C. (2015). Estimated
lifetime medical and work-loss costs of fatal injuries—United States, 2013.MMWR
Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 64(38), 1074–1077.

Follman, M., Lurie, J., Lee, J., & West, J. (2015, April 15). The true cost of gun
violence in America.Mother Jones. Retrieved from

Kyckelhahn, T. (2011). Justice expenditures and employment, FY 1982–2007
Statistical Tables. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice
Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Kyckelhahn, T. (2015). Justice expenditure and employment extracts, 2012—
Preliminary. Retrieved from

Masters, K. (2017). Private insurance pays a tiny fraction of gunshot-victim health
costs: Medicaid, hospitals, and victims themselves pick up most of the tab. The
Trace. Retrieved from

McLaughlin, M., Pettue-Davis, C., Brown, D., Veeh, C., & Renn, T. (2016). The
economic burden of incarceration in the U.S. St. Louis, MO: Washington

Morgan, R. E., & Kena, G. (2016) Criminal victimization, 2016. Washington, DC:
U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from https://

National Retail Federation. (2017). 2017 organized retail crime survey. Retrieved

Peterson, C., DeGue, S., Florence, C., & Lokey, C. N. (2017). Lifetime economic
burden of rape among US adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 52(6),

Pettus-Davis, C., Brown, D., Veeh, C., & Renn, T. (2016). The economic burden of
incarceration in the U.S. St. Louis, MO: Washington University. Retrieved from

Retail Knowledge. (2015). The US retail fraud survey—2015. Retrieved from

Shapiro, J. (2014). As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying the Price. NPR.
Retrieved from:

Statistics Brain. (2017). Employee theft statistics. Retrieved from https://

Wickramasekera, N., Wright, J., Elsey, H., Murray, J., & Tubeuf, S. (2015). Cost of
crime: A systematic review. Journal of Criminal Justice, 43(3), 218–228.

5 Empowerment of Victims
Learning Outcome: Assess the ways in which victims are empowered.

5.1 Victims’ Rights

• Evaluate the development of the victims’ rights movement, its effectiveness,
and the ways it has helped victims seek justice.

This section provides additional details of the victims’ rights movement in light of
how it has helped victims, especially with regard to seeking help. It is important to
understand how victims seek help, whether through formal or informal methods, in
order to measure the effectiveness of different programs for victims. If victims do
not report their crimes through formal help-seeking channels, especially law
enforcement, they forfeit many rights brought about by the victims’ rights
movement. We know that for some crimes, like sexual assault, the reporting rates
are very low, which leaves victims turning to informal supports like family and
friends for their recovery.

The Victims’ Rights Movement

The module “Introduction to Victimology” introduced the reader briefly to the
victims’ rights movement. This movement has occurred primarily through legal
actions to get the courts and legislators to write laws to ensure the following:

• Victims’ rights are included in the legal process.
• Victims have legal standing in cases.
• Victims have the right to be informed about cases.
• Victims have the right to privacy.

Achievements of the Victims’ Rights Movements

The victims’ rights movement has been an important tool for victims to redefine
their roles and voice in the criminal justice system (CJS). According to Beloof
(2005), the victims’ rights movement occurred in three waves. The first was
focused on statutory rights of victims, while the second focused on procedural
rights, including constitutional rights in 33 states (these were described in prior
modules; key cases were discussed in the module “Victims and the Criminal Justice
System”). Although first and second wave victims’ rights helped victims
significantly, they did not ensure that victims had standing, rights, and review.

Standing is the ability of a party to demonstrate sufficient connection to, and harm
from, a crime to support that party’s participation in the case. Standing can be
demonstrated in two ways relative to our discussion:

1. Direct harm from the event, for example, you were the crime victim

2. Harm involved—has some reasonable relation to the victim’s situation and not
participating will continue to cause harm to the victim, or to others who
cannot advocate for themselves

Standing is important because it gives the victim a place in the court case, and it
allows the victim to have a voice in the process. Yet, access to the courts was
limited by the language of the laws, even constitutional changes, that permitted
state governments to exercise discretion to infringe severely on, or completely
eliminate, victims’ rights guaranteed by those laws (Beloof, 2005). Although the
first and second waves were critical to victims’ rights, they fell short of giving
victims a complete role in the CJS process.

Third-wave victims’ rights have focused the conversation around rights that victims do not have and expanded
the discussion into new areas, like cyber victims (Giannini, 2015), the rights of sexual assault victims in the
military, and restitution for victims of child pornography (Cassell, 2015). The increased focus on victims, not
just in the United States but also globally, shows a shift from basic rights to empowering victims to have an
active and vital role within the CJS. The movement has improved court precedent and legal statutes, like the
Crime Victims’ Rights Act, that have expanded victims standing in the courts. The third wave has increased
victims’ access to lawyers and compensation. It has also made it possible for victims to testify in court, both
during the case and during sentencing, and to be notified of proceeding in the case, as well as actions that might
happen with the offender, such as release. Discussions even consider criminal laws in terms that fully protect
victims against all dimensions of victimization, which would not have been imaginable several decades ago
(Cassell, 2015; Leary, 2015).

Increasingly, conversations comparing U.S. victims’ rights to other countries and international victims’ rights is
growing. The purpose of these comparisons is to ensue victims rights globally. One areas that is being
discussed is including the rights of genocide victims to be heard during Hague’s criminal court cases, which
historically was not allowed. These changes have empowered victims and given victims an increasingly
protected place within the CJS.

Victims’ rights have advanced significantly during the last 30 years. Victims are gaining greater
integration into the CJS process and are becoming more protected within the system.
Image: Love shouldn’t hurt. Author: Sydney Sims.

Source: License:

Help-Seeking for Victims

In addition to the victims’ rights movement, which has expanded the role of victims in the cases around their
victimization, the body of knowledge is growing about how victims seek help, including triggering their rights
within the CJS. Help-seeking is when a victim reaches out to others in order to get help after a victimization.
The help-seeking literature breaks help-seeking into either formal or informal help-seeking. Due to the high
rates of crime victimization linking to mental health and medical problems, help-seeking among crime victims
represents an important area of study (McCart, Smith, & Sawyer, 2010).

Who is likely to seek help, and why, varies across crime type, gender, race, sexual
orientation, legal status, and many other factors. McCart, Smith, and Sawyer (2010)
identify the following as factors that would determine whether someone would seek help:

• Predisposing characteristics—at the individual level (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity,
education, income, marital status)

• Enabling—resources at the individual and community level that can either facilitate
or impede service use (e.g., insurance coverage, transportation, social support,
awareness of services)

• Need—the individual’s subjective perception of a need or an evaluated need provided
by a professional

Generally, we know that men are less likely than women to seek help, but when men do
seek help, they are more likely to call the police than family or friends. Women are more
likely to use both formal and informal help-seeking but tend to seek help from friends and
family before seeking help from the police or some other formal source of help (Kaukinen,
2002). In addition, according to Kaukinen (2004), victims seek help at differing degrees of
intensity. They either engage in (1) minimal or no help-seeking, (2) seek help from family
and friends, or (3) seek substantial help (family, friends, social and mental health service
providers, and police). Much of the research on help-seeking has focused on intimate
partner violence and sexual violence, which with be talked about in-depth in future

Formal Help-Seeking

Formal help-seeking is getting help from the CJS, specifically the police, as well as other
formal help like hospitals, doctors,and mental health professionals (McCart, Smith, &
Sawyer, 2010). Formal help-seeking can either be driven by the victim contacting the
police or medical services, a witness calling the police or medical services, or medical
services contacting the police because they suspect their patient is the victim of a crime.
For example, doctors are required to report to the authorities if they suspect that a child
patient is being abused. Many states grant immunity for the violation of doctor-patient
privilege if the doctor is aware that a crime occured and reports it, such as a gunshot
wound (Schleiter, 2009). Some states, like Hawaii, even mandate that doctors report
injuries that were clearly related to criminal activities (Schleiter, 2009).

Victims reporting their crime to the police triggers a host of systems to help the victim.
This includes the ability to have the offender(s) arrested and an investigation started, the
prosecutor to open a case, and for the formal justice process to occur. If the crime is never
reported, none of these things occur. Reporting also allows victims to submit claims for
property insurance, as well as to victims compensation programs.

The decision to seek police help for victims can be complex. Factors that impact
this decision can include severity of the crime, injury, the victim-offender
relationship, demographic factors, and trust of the police.
Image: Women talking to police. Authored by: Kenneth Lu.
Jan_29,_2016_(31761490084).jpg. License: CC-BY 2.0

The percentage of victims who report crimes depends on the crime, but can range
from 66 percent for robbery to as low as 41 percent for simple assaults and 42
percent for sexual assaults (Rand, 2008). This percentage is still very low, due to a
number of factors. For example, immigrants in the United States illegally are less
likely to report victimization, even if the crime was severe, because of the fear of
being deported (Reina, Lohman, & Maldonado, 2014). Distrust of the police also
affects crime reporting by immigrants (Messing, Becerra, Ward-Lasher, & Androff,
2015), communities with a history of being targeted by the police, such as African
Americans (Tyler, Jackson, & Mentovich, 2015), and those who have a history of
being the victims of police brutality (Desmond, Papachristos, & Kirk, 2016). It
should be noted that Gill, et al. (2014) found that community policing, when it is
implemented well, raised the level of trust of police among communities, which
helps police solve and prevent crime.

Victims of
crime who are in the United States illegally are less likely to seek formal
help for fear of revictimization as well as deportation, even when the
crime is serious.
Image: Container used for illegal immigration to the U.S. Authored by:
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

License: CC-0

Other reasons people do not seek help through formal lines can include shame or
embarrassment at being a victim (especially of fraud and theft), a lack of
knowledge of the CJS, feeling intimidated by the CJS, or perceptions that the CJS
cannot help. When a victim knows their offender, it reduces the likelihood that they
will work with the police. This is especially true for victims of minor assault, but is
not true for victims of sexual assault (Felson & Lantz, 2016).

Formal help-seeking can be a very important way for victims to recover and
become empowered, yet reporting and use of mental health services and medical
services remains low. One reason for this is the lack of access to services,
especially good mental health services, after victimization. Rural communities, in
general, have fewer of these resources, making the ability of victims to seek
medical and mental health help even more difficult. Services are also lacking for
those seeking medical attention for injuries, including for rape and aggravated
assault. This presents an important area in need of change in order to help victims.

Family and friends are critical supports for victims. They serve as an
emotional and physical support system right after victimization, through
seeking formal help, and during long-term recovery.
Image: Two people embraced on a bench overlooking the beach and
surf. Authored by: Circe Denyer.
image=106818&picture=love-on-the-beach. License: CC-0

Informal Help-Seeking

In addition to formal lines of help-seeking, victims seek help through informal
sources, such as family, friends, coworkers, and social services. Research (Barrett &
St. Pierre, 2011) has shown that victims are much more likely to report victimization

to family and friends (as high as 70 percent) and are more likely to engage with
informal social networks for support than with formal help-seeking.

Family and friends are one of the most important resources for victims, regardless
of whether they report their crime to the police or not (Kaukinen, 2002). Research
has shown that the reaction of the first person the victim tells will affect their
willingness to report the crime and see it through to the end of the court case.
Family and friends affect not just the short-term response to the victimization but
also how the victim sees themselves. They can either empower or disempower
victims. Family and friends can bolster a sense of safety and security and can
increase the sense of self-worth, as well as the efficacy, of a victim.

Studies that look in-depth at informal help-seeking have made several interesting
findings. Reyns and Englebrecht’s 2014 study of stalking victims found that the
more serious the event, the greater the use of informal help-seeking, as well as
increased loss of time at work. Women have been shown to be more likely to use
informal help-seeking, and findings are mixed about race, age, and marital status,
as it seems to depend on the crime and seriousness of the event (McCart, Smith, &
Sawyer, 2010). It is that more serious crimes necessitate the calling of the police
and using more formal help-seeking, meaning that there is less need for informal
help-seeking, especially as the sole source of help-seeking.

Vigils and
rallies are common ways that victims of crime can be mourned and
memorialized by family and friends. Above is an example of a vigil held
by students after the Virginia Tech shooting in April 2007. Displays of
community solidarity and support can be a powerful way to support
victims who survived.
Image: 1000 points of light – Students at Virginia Tech hold a
candlelight vigil after the Virginia Tech massacre. Authored by: alka3en
of flickr.
File:Virginia_Tech_massacre_candlelight_vigil_Burruss.jpg License:
CC-BY 2.0

As discussed in earlier modules, family and friends can be important emotional and
physical support systems as well as financial support. The literature on help-
seeking often links formal and informal help-seeking together and shows how they
can complement each other. When friends and family support the victim through
formal help-seeking, the advancements from victims’ rights movement are greatest,
giving the victim a stronger voice in the process. The work that is done to help

victims recover is also part of a philosophy called restorative justice, which we will
discuss in the next section.


Barrett, B. J., & Pierre, M. S. (2011). Variations in women’s help-seeking in
response to intimate partner violence: Findings from a Canadian population-based
study. Violence Against Women, 17(1), 47–70.

Beloof, D. E. (2005). The third wave of crime victims’ rights: Standing, remedy,
and review. BYU Law Review, 2005(1), 255–359.

Cassell, P. G. (2015). Introduction: The maturing victims’ rights movement. Ohio
State Journal of Criminal Las, 13(1), 1–4.

Desmond, M., Papachristos, A. V., & Kirk, D. S. (2016). Police violence and
citizen crime reporting in the black community. American Sociological Review,
81(5), 857–876.

Felson, R. B., & Lantz, B. (2016). When are victims unlikely to cooperate with the
police? Aggressive Behavior, 42(1), 97–108.

Gill, C., Weisburd, D., Telep, C. W., Vitter, Z., & Bennett, T. (2014). Community-
oriented policing to reduce crime, disorder and fear and increase satisfaction and
legitimacy among citizens: A systematic review. Journal of Experimental
Criminology, 10(4), 399–428.

Giannini, M. M. (2015). Measured mercy: Managing the intersection of executive
pardon power and victims’ rights with procedural justice principles. Ohio St.
Journal Criminal Law, 13, 89.

Leary, M. G. (2015). The third dimension of victimization. Ohio St. Journal
Criminal Law, 13, 139.

Kaukinen, C. (2002). The help-seeking decisions of violent crime victims: An
examination of the direct and conditional effects of gender and the victim-offender
relationship. Journal of Interpersonal violence, 17(4), 432–456.

Kaukinen, C. (2004). The help-seeking strategies of female violent-crime victims:
The direct and conditional effects of race and the victim-offender relationship.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19(9), 967–990.

McCart, M. R., Smith, D. W., & Sawyer, G. K. (2010). Help-seeking among
victims of crime: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Traumatic Stress,
23(2), 198–206.

Messing, J. T., Becerra, D., Ward-Lasher, A., & Androff, D. K. (2015). Latinas’
perceptions of law enforcement: Fear of deportation, crime reporting, and trust in
the system. Affilia, 30(3), 328–340.

Rand, M. R. (2008). Criminal victimization, 2007 (U.S. Department of Justice
Report NCJ 224390). Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs.

Reina, A. S., Lohman, B. J., & Maldonado, M. M. (2014). “He said they’d deport
me” factors influencing domestic violence help-seeking practices among Latina
immigrants. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(4), 593–615.

Reyns, B. W., & Englebrecht, C. M. (2014). Informal and formal help-seeking
decisions of stalking victims in the United States. Criminal Justice and Behavior,
41(10), 1178–1194.

Schleiter, K. E. (2009). When patient-physician confidentiality conflicts with the
law. AMA Journal of Ethics, 11(2), 146–148.

Tyler, T. R., Jackson, J., & Mentovich, A. (2015). The consequences of being an
object of suspicion: Potential pitfalls of proactive police contact. Journal of
Empirical Legal Studies, 12(4), 602–636.

5.2 Compensation for Victims

• Compare types of restorative justice and victim compensation.

The outcomes of engaging the formal CJS include opportunities to partake in both restorative justice as
well as compensation programs. Both of these were mentioned briefly in prior modules. This section will
expand on what they are, how they are implemented, and their effectiveness.

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is when the victims and the offenders are able to mediate a restitution to the
satisfaction of everyone. This can include the community they live in, as well as others who might be
impacted by the crime. The idea behind restorative justice is to bring balance back to individuals and the
community. Victims are able to express their experience to the offenders, and offenders are able to take
responsibility for their actions in addition to redeeming themselves in the eyes of the community (Maruna,
2016). Restorative justice creates a process for those directly involved to come up with solutions through
dialogue and mediation (Butler & Maruna, 2016). This is vastly different than other notions of justice,
which focus on what laws have been broken and what the offender deserves for punishment. The
restorative justice movement has been integrated with social justice movements, both working to empower
victims, offenders, and communities.

According to Zehr (2005, p. 27), restorative justice asks the following questions:

1. Who has been hurt?
2. What are their needs?
3. Whose obligations are these?
4. What are the causes?
5. Who has a stake in the situation?
6. What is the appropriate process to involve stakeholders in an effort to address causes and put things

Many of the principles that are used in the current implementation of restorative justice come from
aboriginal peoples, including those of the United States, Canada, and New Zealand. The idea is not just
that offenders get what they deserve for their crimes, but also that now that they have served their time,
they are welcomed back into the community, and are able to be full members of it. This approach is
radically different than the current U.S. system. It gets to the root of the problem, whether that is directly
between the victim and the offender or at broader social issues, and works to solve the core problem
before it becomes a crime (Mirsky, 2004).

Group discussion settings provide an opportunity for victims, offenders, mediators, and others
impacted by the crime to come together to find resolutions for the underlying problems that led
to the crime as well as express any feels about the incident. It allows the offenders the
opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and get help to prevent future crime.
Image: Group discussion space. Authored by: Unknown.
Source: License: CC-0

Programs that implement restorative justice principles are found in almost every
victim assistance program in the United States. Programs that are associated with
restorative justice include the following:

• Victim/offender mediation or dialogue: offenders and victims talk about their

• Peacemaking circles: combine victim reconciliation, offender responsibility,
and community healing to talk through what happened and what can be done
to fix it.

• Former prisoner assistance and involvement: helps former prisoners to
properly reintegrate back into society as full citizens.

• Community service: giving back to the community through volunteer work.

Although these types of programs have been shown to be effective “add-ons” to the
CJS (Hoyle, 2012), they have certainly not become mainstream programs within
the CJS. They have been applied primarily to lower level crimes and within the
juvenile system, more than with violent crimes (Butler & Maruna, 2016), although
some success has been seen at using restorative justice with more serious crime
(Van Camp, 2014).

Most of the programs are optional programs, in which the victim or the offender
have to choose to be part of the program, rather than the program being a normal
part of the process.

In restorative justice the focus is on the victim-offender relationship and anyone
else who was harmed by the crime. This was historically how criminal law
operated, with the victim being the primary driver of the resolution for the
victimization. The underlying philosophy is that crime, and other social ills, are the
result of broken relationships within society; therefore, the only way to fix society
is to restore those relationships (Umbreit, 2010). Some have argued that restorative
justice is either a set of practices for collaborative problem solving or a way to
solve crime. Unfortunately, as of yet, these two ideas have not been integrated
together, and certainly the current state of restorative justice is not reflecting its
ability to stop crime, which is called desistance (Maruna, 2016).

Butler and Maruna (2016) point out that in order for restorative justice to have real
meaning, it needs to be a much more integral part of the process. Butler and
Maruna recommend integrating restorative justice into the disciplinary process
within prisons. Right now, restorative justice and disciplinary hearings are not seen
as legitimate processes. This would allow prisoners, both the offender and victims,
to have their voices heard and a resolution come into play that works for everyone.

Both critics and advocates of restorative justice note that while it can be used as
one strategy, the lofty goals of it solving issues of crime is limited. Even countries
with large restorative justice programs (such as the United States, New Zealand,
and Canada) are having little overall impact on rescuing incarceration (Wood
2015). As Braithwaite noted in 1998, it should be used as one tool in the largest

corrections. In order for it to be effective at all, there also needs to be strong social
support systems, such as the social safety net, that would decrease the need for

Victims Compensation Plans

As discussed in Module 4, victimization costs a significant amount of money to
victims and their families. These costs include medical expenses, mental health
care, and lost wages, among other things. The cost of victimization can be a
significant additional burden on victims, especially those who do not have
healthcare. These costs can also cause additional stress for the victim and their
support system to figure out how to pay for these expenses. The history of victims’
funds in the United States harkens back as far as the 1925 Federal Probation Act,
which allowed restitution to be ordered as part of probation conditions, although it
was not mandatory and the language was vague (Sever, 1985).

Victims’ funds, in their current incarnation, began with the 1984 federal Victims of
Crime Act (VOCA), which established the Crime Victims Fund. The VOCA
expanded the 1925 Act to include sentences that were not just probationary and
created a dedicated fund for victims restitution. This fund is contributed to by fines,
fees, and assessments in federal criminal cases, forfeited bail bonds, as well as by
private donations. The U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime
(OVC) administers the fund, which supports thousands of programs nationwide.
According to the OVC (n.d.), as of 2013 more than $9 billion had been deposited to
help fund victims’ recovery.

The administration of the fund goes from the OVC to federal, state, and tribal agencies who administer the
fund locally. By 2002, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and
Guam had established crime victim compensation programs. Although some variations occurs across these
programs, some basic requirements must be met in order to get compensation. According to the National
Center for Victims of Crime (n.d.), in order to qualify for victims compensation, most states require
adherence to the following:

• Report the crime promptly to the police.
• Cooperate with the police and prosecutors in the investigation and prosecution of the offense.
• Submit an application for compensation within a specific time frame.
• Were not been committing a crime at the time or involved in other serious misconduct that lead to the
injury or death.

• Have expenses that are not covered by insurance or some other program, such as Workers’
Compensation or Medicaid.

In addition, the United States has a fund for victims of state-sponsored terrorism, including those who
have been held hostage.

Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. This was
the impetus for creating the Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund.
Image: Two American hostages in Iran hostage crisis. Authored by: unknown.
File:Two_American_hostages_in_Iran_hostage_crisis.jpg. License: CC-0


Victims funds have specific requirements as to who can qualify for compensation
and limitations as to the amount of compensation someone can receive. Some of
these limitations restrict the amount that can be spent on funerals, counseling, or
medical expenses. According to the OVC, the total amount someone can receive is
capped, which can range from $10,000 to $100,000, although states set the
guidelines for their own programs.

For example, the state of North Carolina limits the total amount awarded to
$30,000 for medical expenses and $500 for funeral expenses (NC Public Safety,
n.d.). In contrast, the state of California will pay up to $70,000 per victim and will
cover the following:

• Crime scene clean up
• Funeral and burial expenses
• Home or vehicle modifications for victims who became disabled
• Income loss
• Medical and dental treatment
• Mental health services up to 40 hours
• Relocation
• Residential security system (CalVCB, 2017)

Compensation plans are meant to help the victims and their families through some
of the stress, both emotional and financial, that victimization causes. Although
these compensation plans can help, it still may take a long time for a victim to
realize the full extent of the issues they face from their victimization. One
limitation, of course, is that because many crimes are not reported, this type of
formal assistance is not an option, leaving victims and their families to cover all of
the short- and long-term costs of victimization. The goal of the victims’ rights
movement, restorative justice, and compensation plans is to help victims become
empowered and recover from their victimization as much as one can. As the
victims’ rights movement continues to advocate for victims’ rights, it is hoped that
future victims will have access to even more avenues for healing and recovery.


Braithwaite, J. (1999). Restorative justice: Assessing optimistic and pessimistic
accounts. Crime and Justice, 25, 1–127.

Braithwaite, J. (2000). The new regulatory state and the transformation of
criminology. British Journal of Criminology, 40(2), 222–238.

Butler, M., & Maruna, S. (2016). Rethinking prison disciplinary processes: A
potential future for restorative justice. Victims & Offenders, 11(1), 126–148.

CalVCB. (2017). Compensation benefit reference guide. Retrieved from https://

Hoyle, C. (2012). Victims, the criminal process, and restorative justice. In R.
Morgan, M. Maguire & R. Reiner (eds.), The Oxford handbook of criminology (5th
ed., pp. 398–425). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Maruna, S. (2016). Desistance and restorative justice: It’s now or never.
Restorative Justice: An International Journal, 4(3), 289–301.

Mirsky, L. (2004). Restorative justice practices of Native American, First Nation
and other indigenous people of North America: Part one. Retrieved from https://

Sever, L. M. (1985). The Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982: Who are the
victims of which offenses? Valparaiso University Law Review, 20(1), 109–144.

National Center for Victims of Crime. (n.d.). Crime victim compensation. Retrieved

North Carolina Public Safety. (n.d.). Crime victim compensation. Retrieved from

Umbreit, M. (2010). Restorative justice dialogue: An essential guide for research
and practice. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Van Camp, T. (2014). Victims of violence and restorative practices: Finding a
voice. Philadelphia, PA: Routledge.

Wood, W. R. (2015). Why restorative justice will not reduce incarceration. British
Journal of Criminology, 55(5), 883–900.

Zehr, H. (2005). Changing Lenses—A New Focus for Crime and Justice (3rd ed.).
Scottdale PA: Herald Press.

6 Sexual Assault Victims
Learning Outcome: Evaluate sexual victimization and society’s response.

6.1 Characteristics of Sexual Victimization

• Analyze the different types of sexual assault and harassment and victim

Sexual violence is common. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS,
2015), a sexual assault happens every 98 seconds in the United States. One in six
women and one in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape in
their lifetime (RAINN, n.d.). In addition, almost 50 percent (43.9 percent) of
women and 23.4 percent of men have experienced forms of sexual violence during
their lifetimes (Breiding, 2015). These forms of sexual violence include sexual
coercion, unwanted sexual contact (e.g., kissing or fondling), noncontact unwanted
sexual experiences (e.g., being flashed or forced to view sexually explicit media),
and stalking. Most victimizations occur at home or work, with around 70 percent
occurring near the home or at school of victims or victims’ relatives (RAINN, n.d.).

Sexual violence can include sexual coercion, unwanted sexual contact,
and noncontact unwanted sexual experiences, such as being flashed, and
Image: Proserpina. Authored by: Paolo Gamba.

Source: License:
CC-BY 2.0

For the purposes of this course, when talking about all of these types of
victimization together, we will call it sexual violence. This module talks broadly
about sexual violence. Discussion of sexual violence against specific populations is
covered in subsequent modules. (Sexual abuse toward children and the elderly is
discussed in the module “Victimized Children and Elderly” intimate partner
violence is discussed in the module “Victims of Intimate or Family Violence”.)
This module examines sexual violence, how it’s defined, its prevalence, social
factors that contributed to its pervasiveness, as well as how society and the criminal
justice system (CJS) has responded to it. This section examines the definitions and
statistics associated with different types of sexual victimization.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual
favors, sexual comments, sexist hostility (misogynistic jokes), and other verbal or
physical harassment of a sexual nature (EEOC, n.d.). It can include the promise of
rewards for sexual favors. Sexual harassment was made illegal by the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, and the scope of sexual harassment was expanded in future laws around sexual
violence, although the law does not cover things like teasing, flirting, or offhand
comments. Laws also cover rules around sexual harassment in the workplace, which
will be discussed in the module “Victimization at Work or School”. Nearly half of
women in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and France have reported
experiencing sexual harassment, speaking to how pervasive sexual harassment is
globally (J.M.F., 2017). According to a survey reported by Statistica (2017), 42 percent
of surveyed women and 11 percent of surveyed men stated they have been sexually
harassed. This means that 27 percent of adults in 2017 reported being a victim of sexual

Many behaviors that we would think of today as sexual harassment were considered
perfectly acceptable behaviors in past years. These included grabbing, touching, and
inappropriate comments or jokes that might make someone uncomfortable. This is more
commonly carried out by a man to a woman in a face-to-face setting. The women’s and
victims’ rights movements made people more aware, and less accepting, of sexual
harassment. Most people are aware that grabbing someone is not appropriate, but even
today some may not consider sexual comments and innuendos as a form of sexual
harassment. Because the victim may not understand that a crime has taken place, the
incident can go unreported. Victims reporting of incidents might also be affected by
power dynamics between victims and perpetrators, the reputation of the perpetrator, the
culture where the harassment took place, and how obvious the harassment was (Webber
Nuñez, 2017). When victims do not report victimization, it creates opportunities for
future victimization and might even empower a perpetrator. The fear of retaliation,
increased harassment, secondary victimization, and victim blaming also keep victims
from reporting harassment.

Cyberstalkers use social media as well as search engines to target and harass
victims. Cyberstalking was included under the Violence Against Women Act
in 2000, but it continues to grow as social media technologies become easier
to use and more common in society.
Image: Cyberstalking. Authored by: Anonymous.
License: CC-0

In addition to face-to-face harassment, online harassment has become more common.
Cyberharassment is when the behaviors just described are moved into the digital
sphere, such as through e-mail or social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Van Royen,
Poels, and Vandebosch (2016) found that the public visibility of the incident, and the
impossibility to remove the content, created a situation where the victim felt like they
had little control over the situation. This resulted in increased anger, frustration, and
shame. While these feelings were shown to increase reporting, victims also felt as if the
providers ignored reported sexual harassment. Cyberharassment victims use several
strategies to cope with victimization, including changing online behavior patterns,
blocking perpetrators, reporting the harassment, and using both informal and formal

Because sexual harassment takes so many forms, the response to it can range from mid-level stress, significant
mental health problems (e.g., post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]), withdrawal from social events,
employment issues, and physical health problems. Victims of both face-to-face and cyberharassment use some
emotionally focused coping techniques (trying to decrease the negative emotional responses associated with the
harassment), including denial and downplaying of the situation, which may not be good long-term strategies.
Emotionally focused strategies fail to deal with the root cause of the harassment, which means the situation
itself has not been eliminated and future harassment is possible. Research has shown that a problem-focused
approach (directly tackling the root of the problem) can be one of the strongest ways to manage emotional
responses to harassment (Scarduzio, Sheff, & Smith, 2018). A problems-focused approach can be used with
both face-to-face or cyberharassment.

Harassment, unfortunately, continues to be a common experience in Western culture (Gentry, 2015). Those
who break cultural barriers and boundaries and demand change are often threatened with violence, both against
them personally and against family, friends, and colleagues (Krook, 2017). When this happens, harassment
becomes the more serious category of stalking, which is discussed next.

Stalking is a form of harassment. Victims can be stalked by a stranger or someone they know.
Victims should always document stalking behaviors, such as e-mails, phone messages, unwanted
gifts, or threats. This documentation can be used as evidence should the victim decide to file a report
with the police.
Image: Stalker. Authored by: Unknown.
Source: License: CC-0


Stalking is considered an aggravated form of harassment. According to RAINN (2018), stalking behaviors can
include the following:

• Making threats against someone, or that person’s family or friends
• Nonconsensual communication (repeated phone calls, e-mails, text messages, and unwanted gifts)
• Repeated physical or visual closeness (waiting for someone to arrive at certain locations, following
someone, or watching someone from a distance)

• Any other behavior used to contact, harass, track, or threaten someone

According to the BJS (2017), stalking is when a victim experiences any of these behaviors at least two
times and was afraid for his or her safety or for the safety of those around him or her. If the victim does
not report a feeling of fear, then it is categorized as harassment. Around 5.3 million people reported
being stalked in 2012, as reported from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) (Catalano,
2012). According to Breiding, (2015) 15.2 percent of women and 5.7 percent of men have experienced
being stalked during their lifetimes. Women were much more likely to be the victims of stalking, with
about 2.2 percent of all women in the United States experiencing stalking compared to 0.8 percent of men
(Catalano, 2012). However, men and women experience about the same levels of harassment,
demonstrating that while both genders experience the components of stalking, not all of these involve fear.
Young people (ages 18–24), those who were divorced or separated, as well as both mixed-race and Whites
were more likely to be stalked. Seventy percent of all victims knew their stalkers, with around 20 percent
being a former intimate partner and 15 percent being a friend, roommate, or neighbor. According to the
BJS (n.d.), around 46 percent of stalking victims have had one or more unwanted contacts per week, and
11 percent had been stalked for 5 years or more.

It is estimated that only around 40 percent of stalking incidents are reported to the police (males 37
percent and females 41 percent). The likelihood that a person is willing to report stalking to law
enforcement is affected by the severity of the stalking, the loss of time at work, level of fear, and
willingness to acknowledge the victimization. Victims who know the perpetrator might be hesitant to tell
anyone because they do not want the person to get in trouble. Victims are less likely to report
cyberstalking because they think there is little that can be done.

About 25 percent of stalking occurs online, known as cyberstalking. Cyberstalking uses digital means to
stalk or harass and can include false accusations, defamation, monitoring, identity theft, threats, and
doxing (Spitzberg & Hoobler, 2002). Doxing involves the online practice of gathering and publishing
private details about an individual, usually with the intent to threaten, embarrass, or harass the victim.
Cyberstalking victims have similar experiences and coping mechanisms as those who experience
cyberharassment, although the likelihood of engaging in formal help-seeking is greater because the
severity of the harassment with cyberstalking is greater.

When media critics, like Anita Sarkeesain, and game developers, like Brianna Wu, called
attention to sexism and gender violence within the video game culture, they experienced severe
forms of stalking. This included doxing, threats of rape, and death threats during #gamergate.
#Gamergate supporters used 4chan, Reddit, and Twitter to attack the critics and to encourage
others to harass them. Sarkeesain had to cancel a talk when someone threatened to blow up the
facility during her talk. Although this is an example of one extreme case, harassment is not an
uncommon experience.
Image: Brianna Wu and co-Founder Amanda Warner, having a bit of fun at the office. Authored
by: Shannon Grant.
Source: License: CC-BY 4.0

Victims are affected by stalking in several ways. The Network for Surviving
Stalking reported the following:

• One third of victims lost their job, relationship, or were forced to move
because of the stalking.

• Ninety-two percent reported physical effects and 98 percent reported
emotional effects.

• Half of the victims changed their telephone number, gave up social activities,
and their performance at work declined.

• Mental health issues included sleep disturbances, anger and distrust to
depression, self-harm, and suicide attempts.

As noted by Reyns and Englebrecht (2014), the severity of the stalking impacted
how much help a victim sought. Many of the coping strategies used by victims of
stalking mirror those used by victims of harassment—they engage in multiple types
of coping strategies as they try to recover. Strategies may include denial of the
stalking, blaming others, and help-seeking from informal and formal systems,
including the police. Blaming others to reduce shame and embarrassment, can
however, simply reinforce the idea that harassment is normal. In addition, some
victims may do nothing because they feel that even if they came forward, the
harassment was likely to continue (powerlessness) (Scarduzio, Sheff, & Smith,
2018). Law enforcement is often called if the stalking is very severe, such as threats
of rape, death, or other types of violence.

Rape and Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is touching another person without that person’s consent and
includes rape, groping, child sexual abuse, or the torture in a sexual manner. Rape
is a type of sexual assault involving sexual penetration carried out without a
person’s consent. The lack of consent is when physical force, coercion, or abuse of
authority is present in the act, or the act of sexual assault is committed against a
person who is incapable of giving valid consent, including being unconscious,
intoxicated, incapacitated, having an intellectual disability, or not of being of legal
age to consent. The idea of consent, which is defined as the informed agreement
and approval of sexual activity (Basile, Smith, Breiding, Black, & Mahendra,
2014), is one of the more difficult aspects of sexual assault and rape cases. Studies
have shown that men consistently perceive women’s actions as more sexual than
they were intended. In addition, a verbalized “no” to sex may be interpreted as
“keep trying,” or even “yes” by offenders. Some may believe that when injuries are
not visible, the woman must have consented. If a man solicits sex from another
man, the pursuer may be regarded as virile (Whisnant, 2009).

According to Breiding (2015), 19.3 percent of women and 1.7 percent of men in the
United States were raped during their lifetimes. According to the BJS (2016) the
rate of rape or sexual assault that was reported to the police was 0.3 per 1,000, with

323,450 incidents reported in 2016, as compared to the rate of unreported rape or
sexual assault (0.9 per 1,000 according the NCVS).

Rape and sexual assault can have significant impacts on victims. These include
mental health issues, loss of relationships and trust, problems physically recovering
from the rape, and the potential of facing sexually transmitted diseases and
pregnancy. The response of a victim is highly individualized. Many women
experience shock, denial, confusion, anxiety, and/or emotional numbness
immediately after the incident. Some may even experience memory loss. Research
has shown that traumatic experiences may trigger the body to not encode memories
into long-term memory, which is why some victims do not remember many details
surrounding the event (Holh & Conway, 2017). Some victims are affected by the
assault for a long time, whereas others appear to recover rather quickly. Denial,
especially right after the event, may be more common among victims who are
assaulted by someone they know (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, n.d.).

According to RAINN,

• 94 percent of women who are raped experience symptoms of PTSD shortly
following a rape.

• 30 percent of women report symptoms of PTSD up to 9 months after the rape.
• 33 percent of women who are raped contemplate suicide.
• 13 percent of women who are raped attempt suicide.
• Approximately 70 percent of rape or sexual assault victims experience
moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent

Developing PTSD has been found to be dependent on a number of factors, such as
(Möller, Bäckström, Söndergaard, & Helström, 2014):

• The severity of the incident
• The number of prior incidents
• The need for medical attention
• The presence of multiple perpetrators and/or multiple incidents

Knowing these factors in a case helps direct victims toward appropriate social and
medical services. As with other types of sexual violence, help-seeking after rape
depends on the severity of the incident, the need for medical attention, whether
drugs and alcohol were involved, familiarity with the perpetrator, and fear of
victimization. Walsh et al. (2016) found that victims of drug or alcohol-related rape
were less likely to seek medical, crisis, or police services. They believe this might
be because substance involvement does not fit stereotypical rape scripts, including
peritraumatic fear and injury. Victims in these type of rapes have reported worse
memory for the event, which could reduce acknowledging the rape, which they
found to be the best predictor of seeking services. Race can also play a role in
seeking help. African American women are less likely to seek help from formal
agencies when compared to White women, due to stigma, experiences of racism,
and historical oppression (Bryant-Davis et al., 2015), relying more on informal
(religious and social) support systems to cope with victimization. In addition,
Hispanic sexual assault victims, including those with illegal immigration status, are
less likely to use formal help-seeking, with medical attention being the most
common form of formal help-seeking (Sabina, Cuevas, & Schally, 2012). The lack
of seeking medical and mental health services can increase the likelihood of
developing PTSD, depression, suicidal ideation, and unwanted pregnancies.

The rape of
Lucretia has inspired many authors, including Shakespeare, to use rape
as a narrative in their writing. In this story, Tarquin raped Lucretia and
threatened to kill her if she rejected his advances. The next day she
exposed him, which led to the overthrow of Rome. She also killed
herself because she was now damaged and no longer a value to her
family. These feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and being tarnished are
common among rape victims. The story demonstrates the way many
victims see their limited power after their victimization and some think
the only way to escape is through suicide.
Image: Tarquin and Lucretia. Authored by: Titian.
Source: License:

Sexual violence, regardless of the type, continues to be a significant problem in the
United States. Part of its entrenchment is due to cultural norms, biases, and
expectations. Another reason for its entrenchment is due to reluctance to report
sexual violence. Public and private responses to sexual violence may also
contribute to its entrenchment in the United States.


Basile, K. C., Smith, S. G., Breiding, M. J., Black, M. C., & Mahendra, R. R.
(2014). Sexual violence surveillance: Uniform definitions and recommended data
elements, version 2.0. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and
Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Breiding, M. J. (2015). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking,
and intimate partner violence victimization-national intimate partner and sexual
violence survey, United States, 2011. American Journal of Public Health, 105(4),

Bryant-Davis, T., Ullman, S., Tsong, Y., Anderson, G., Counts, P., Tillman, S., …
& Gray, A. (2015). Healing pathways: Longitudinal effects of religious coping and
social support on PTSD symptoms in African American sexual assault survivors.
Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 16(1), 114–128.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2015). National crime victimization survey, 2010–
2014. Retrieved from:

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (n.d.). Stalking. Retrieved from:

Cameron, P., Jelinek, G., Kelly, A. M., Murray, L., & Brown, A. F. T. (2000).
Textbook of adult emergency medicine (4th ed.). Sydney: Churchill Livingstone.

Catalano, S. (2012). Stalking victims in the United States—Revised. Retrieved

Gentry, C. E. (2015). Epistemological failures: Everyday terrorism in the West.
Critical Studies on Terrorism, 8(3), 362–382.

Hohl, K., & Conway, M. A. (2017). Memory as evidence: How normal features of
victim memory lead to the attrition of rape complaints. Criminology & Criminal
Justice, 17(3), 248–265.

J.M.F. (2017). What is sexual harassment and how prevalent is it? The Economist.
Retrieved from:

Krook, M. L. (2017). Violence against women in politics. Journal of Democracy,
28(1), 74-88.

Möller, A. T., Bäckström, T., Söndergaard, H. P., & Helström, L. (2014).
Identifying risk factors for PTSD in women seeking medical help after rape. PloS
one, 9(10).

Reyns, B. W., & Englebrecht, C. M. (2014). Informal and formal help-seeking
decisions of stalking victims in the United States. Criminal Justice and Behavior,
41(10), 1178–1194.

Sabina, C., Cuevas, C. A., & Schally, J. L. (2012). Help-seeking in a national
sample of victimized Latino women: The influence of victimization types. Journal
of Interpersonal Violence, 27(1), 40–61.

Scarduzio, J. A., Sheff, S. E., & Smith, M. (2018). Coping and sexual harassment:
How victims cope across multiple settings. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47(2),

Spitzberg, B. H., & Hoobler, G. (2002). Cyberstalking and the technologies of
interpersonal terrorism. New Media & Society, 4(1), 71–92.

Stastica. (2017). Share of Americans who have been victims of sexual harassment
as of 2017, by gender. Retrevied from:

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). National Center for PTSD: Sexual
assault against females. Retrevied from:

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (n.d.). Sexual harassment.
Retrieved from:

Van Royen, K., Poels, K., & Vandebosch, H. (2016). Help, I am losing control!
Examining the reporting of sexual harassment by adolescents to social networking
sites. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking,19, 16–22.

Walsh, K., Zinzow, H. M., Badour, C. L., Ruggiero, K. J., Kilpatrick, D. G., &
Resnick, H. S. (2016). Understanding disparities in service seeking following
forcible versus drug-or alcohol-facilitated/incapacitated rape. Journal of
Interpersonal Violence, 31(14), 2475–2491.

Webber Nuñez, K. (2017). Toxic cultures require a stronger cure: The lessons of
Fox News for reforming rexual harassment Law. Penn State Law Review, 122, 1–

Whisnant, R. (2017). Feminist perspectives on rape. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.). The
Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (fall 2017 ed.). Stanford, CA: Stanford
University. Retreived from:

6.2 Responding to Sexual Victimization

• Compare how society and the criminal justice system have responded historically to sexual assault
victims and how that response is changing today.

Victims and Society

According to Powell (2016), a number of layers within society place barriers in front of victims. Using
a public health model to discuss them, she outlines the following barriers:

• Societal-level support: legal structures, popular representations, and persistent gender inequalities
allow the differential valuing of people within society, especially by gender and sexual orientation,
which impacts victim blaming and access to help.

• Institutional and organizational support: barriers to reporting sexual violence both in the formal
justice processes and in organizations (i.e., workplaces, schools, etc.) may not take victim reports
seriously, and/or minimizes the responsibility of perpetrators.

• Relationship and peer-level support: socialization within family and friends normalizes or
minimizes sexual aggression.

• Individual-level support: individually held attitudes and beliefs minimize sexual violence, blame
victims, and excuse perpetrators.

In many societies, there is a culture of patriarchy, which is the dominance of men and the preference of
masculine-defined traits over females and feminine-defined traits. What is deemed by a society as
masculine and feminine is culturally and temporally specific. Patriarchal societies value characteristics
deemed as masculine, such as physical strength, dominance, aggression, and winning, and see
characteristics such as compassion and being nurturing, as being weak and inferior. Sexual violence has
long been used as a tool to ensure subordination of “weak” individuals (Bell & Naugle, 2008). Dianne
Herman (1988) suggested that sexual aggression is not just common, but is often normalized in cultural
expectations and sexual practices, coining the term rape culture (Powell, 2016). As Powell (2016)
pointed out, rape culture helps identify the sociocultural basis—and thus the shared social (rather than
individual) responsibility—for sexual violence. Powell (2016) further points out that the dominance of a
“nonconsent” culture limits the right of subordinated individuals to make sexual decisions.

Although there are changes in the United States around gender, sexuality, race, and class, a strong
entrenchment of patriarchal views still exist. These patriarchal views attempt to normalize sexual
violence. Patriarchal biases can be seen in the workplace, schools, media, and politics. One of the
biggest reactions to patriarchal biases is the #MeToo movement. In raising awareness of sexual violence
victimization, many women realized that they had experienced harassment, but they had not thought it
was wrong because sexual aggression (and ensuing subordination) was common. This is one example
that demonstrates the continued entrenchment of cultural norms around sexual violence.

As part of the growing awareness of rape culture and victim blame, demonstrations and
advocacy groups, such as the SlutWalk, Take Back the Night, V-Day and other works done
by Eve Ensler, have called into question the narratives around accusing women of wanting to
be raped, which is an important part of rape culture.
Image: SlutWalk London 2011. Authored by: Garry Knight.
Source: License: CC-0

Victim Blaming

One of the more common social and system responses to sexual violence is to
blame the victim for their victimization. A large body of research supports that
victims of sexual violence are often blamed for their own victimization. The level
of blaming is often correlated to how similar the victim is to the observer and may
also be related to the observer’s perception of their own potential victimization.
This behavior is called the Defensive Attribution Hypothesis (Grubb & Turner,
2012). Another victim-blaming behavior is called the Just world theory. It
explains unforgivable, random acts as being the fault of the victim (they deserved
the act), and therefore there is justice in the world. Victim blaming impacts the
victims, and it affects how society and the CJS interact with the victims (Grubb &
Turner, 2012).

Rape myths are stereotypes that societies have about rape victims. Significant
research shows that rape myths impact victims, namely their willingness to report
and how they are treated by society and the CJS (Grubb & Turner, 2012). The most
common myths, according to Grubb and Turner (2012), are the following:

• Blame the victim for their rape (she asked for it/ wanted it/ liked it).
• Express a disbelief in claims of rape (it wasn’t really rape; rape is a trivial

• Exonerate the perpetrator (he didn’t mean to, the signals were not clear, they
were both drunk, etc.).

• Allude that only certain types of women are raped (she was a loose or

These myths are even more strongly applied to those who had consumed alcohol or
drugs before their victimization, or if they had a sexual history (Grubb & Turner,
2012). For instance, sex workers are much more likely to be blamed for their rape
compared to other victims (Sprankle, Bloomquist, Butcher, Gleason, & Schaefer,

We see these victim blaming and myths about victims in media reports (vanRyne,
2015) as well as on social media when there is discussion of high-profile cases
(Stubbs-Richardson, Rader, & Cosby, 2018). These attitudes impact male victims
as well as female victims. Male victims are seen as weak, and thus they are treated
with less respect because they are perceived as violating cultural norms around the
male gender. According to Javaid (2016), male victims get poor treatment from law
enforcement, their victimizations are less likely to be believed, and they may be
thought to be falsely accusing their perpetrator.

Victims and the CJS

Research has begun to examine how police, victims, and cases are impacted by
victim blaming and rape myths (Sleath, 2017). Victim blaming is pervasive in the
interactions between victims and law enforcement, including whether or not to

investigate or prosecute cases (McMillian, 2018). It also impacts victims’
experiences during trials and plea bargaining (Smith & Skinner, 2017), victims’
access to services to aid recovery, and it impacts the language used in laws about
victimization of sexual violence.

Blaming the victims leads to a serious overestimation of the number of false
claims, which impacts how seriously the CJS considers an individual claim of rape
(De Zutter, Horselenberg, & van Koppen, 2017). According to RAINN, out of
every 1000 rapes, only 310 will be reported to the police. There is a long history of
law enforcement either not believing or blaming the victims and attributing their
victimization to the victims’ actions, clothing, sexual history, and demeanor
(O’Neal, 2017). In addition, if reporting to the police attracts attention of the media
or the community, the victim may be isolated and blamed further, especially if the
perpetrator was well known in the community. Knowing that only 57 of every 1000
rapes will lead to an arrest may further discourage victims from reporting their

Victims drop out of prosecuting the case for a number of reasons, including fear of
degradation, being disbelieved by those in the CJS, and a belief that the legal
system will fail to punish the perpetrators (Grubb & Turner, 2012). If a victim
persists, around 11 cases out of 1000 get sent to the prosecutor’s office for
prosecution and only around seven will lead to a conviction (RAINN, n.d.).
Insensitive treatment by members of the CJS magnify victims’ feelings of
powerlessness, guilt, and shame. There is research outlined in Grubb and Turner
(2012) that shows how attribution of rape myths have impacted this entire process,
including the number of convictions and type of sentences. Smith and Skinner
(2017) demonstrated how rape myths are still common in the courts and how they
impact the outcome of court cases. The CJS has recently begun to address how
victims of sexual violence are treated.

Changing the Culture

Recently, victims, their families, and victims’ advocates have taken to social media
to insist that society become aware of sexual violence. The current wave of
activism started, as a reaction to the 2016 presidential campaign. The activism
resulted in the Women’s March, one of the largest events in history with between
3.5 and 5.5 million people participating in the United States and in more than 600
cities on every continent (Women’s March Global, 2018). The marches focused on
issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, immigration, health care, workers’
rights, environmental issues, and much more. It was the single largest protest in the
history of the United States.

Many people felt empowered enough afterwards to speak out about issues of social
injustice and to start demanding changes. The Women’s March launched an
increased wave of activism around victims rights, including sexual violence, and it
inspired more women than ever to run for elected office in 2017 and 2018. Other
movements, such as #BlackLivesMatter, have also addressed these issues through
the intersections between sexism and racism.

Between the
Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, and the #MeToo movement, the
issues surrounding sexual violence are coming to the forefront of
dialogue in the United States, pushing for increased resources to help
victims and to create cultural changes.
Image: #MeToo sign at a 2018 Women’s March. Authored by: Alec
License: CC-BY 2.0

In October 2017, the #MeToo movement (which started in 2006), demonstrated how pervasive sexual violence
is globally. Polling research done by ABC after the movement started found that around 54 percent of women
experience harassment (matches with the NCVS). Those polled stated that 95 percent of offenders, the majority
of whom were men, were not punished in any way (Zillman, 2017). The movement was started by Tarana
Burke in 2006, as a way to empower minority women from underprivileged communities. It was expanded by
Alyssa Milano in October 2017, via social media, to demonstrate just how widespread sexual violence is. The
movement has morphed from being not just about empowerment, but also about finding ways to hold
perpetrators accountable and to change cultures that support, directly as well as indirectly, sexual violence.

Legal Remedies

Numerous laws are in place around sexual violence (from rape to sexual harassment). Yet in many cases,
victims are required by law to prove their victimization. Although this can be somewhat easier in the case of
rape, most sexual violence ends up as “he said, she said,” especially in cases of harassment and stalking.
Victims need evidence that supports their case, and the lack of evidence beyond their own word makes it
difficult to trigger legal protections and systems to help victims. While in the case of rape there is often physical
evidence, the notion of what is considered consent is also in flux. In the case of harassment, it must be
considered “severe or pervasive” in order to be actionable (Webber Nuñez, 2017). If an organization has a
culture of harassment and discrimination, the perpetrator may have additional layers of protection, such as cases
at Fox News, NPR, Uber, The Weinstein company, and many others.

Calls for equality have increased the perceptions of victims as believable. Younger people, in general and
within the CJS, are more likely than people of an older generation to believe a victim of sexual violence
(Klettke, Hallford, & Mellor, 2016). The inclusion of victims’ advocates within the CJS has increased reporting
of sexual violence, improved police response to victims, and has decreased victims distress levels (Campbell,
2006). Victims’ advocates and researchers have also gained insights into why victims’ memories might not be
as accurate, which is an important factor in having the victims be credible. Advocates are pushing for CJS
professionals to understand and integrate this body of research into their considerations of cases.

Advocates have put forward several alternative means of strengthening harassment laws. The first is expanding
the use of systemic harassment claims (Webber Nuñez, 2017). The second limits the use of confidential
settlements and mandatory arbitration agreements. Issues with these have come to light recently in the U.S.
gymnastics case and the Fox News cases, where victims are not able to report or discuss their victimization to
anyone because of these agreements. Victims of Larry Nassar had reported his assaults on them for decades, but
victims were not allowed to talk to others about their assaults because of these arbitration agreements. This
allowed both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University to protect Nassar, leading to a high victim count.

Larry Nassar was accused of molesting at least 250 girls and young women starting as far back as
1992, using his role as the doctor for both the USA Gymnastics as well as Michigan State University
Gymnastics teams. In 2018, he was found guilty and sentenced to up to 175 years. Some women who
reported him were given money to sign a sign a nondisclosure agreement, limiting their ability to
report him. A number of gymnasts joined in the #MeToo movement, including Olympic medal
winners, bringing greater attention to the cultural issues within the sport that allowed for the abuse to
Image: USA Gymnastics Team Rio 2016. Authored by: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil.
Licence: CC BY 3.0

Burke (founder of the #MeToo movement) has made several suggestions for
changes to improve the CJS and society’s response to sexual violence, including
timely processing of rape kits, improving the vetting of people who work with
children to reduce child sexual abuse, creating or updating policies around sexual
violence thereby reducing the tolerance of sexual violence, and creating clear
pathways in all industries for reporting of sexual violence. The wave of support for
these changes will hopefully lead to further resolution of some of the issues, as well
as lead to a cultural shift.


Bell, K. M., & Naugle, A. E. (2008). Intimate partner violence theoretical
considerations: Moving towards a contextual framework. Clinical Psychology
Review,28, 1098–1107. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2008.03.003.

Campbell, R. (2006). Rape survivors’ experiences with the legal and medical
systems: Do rape victim advocates make a difference? Violence against women,
12(1), 30–45.

De Zutter, A., Horselenberg, R., & van Koppen, P. J. (2017). The prevalence of
false allegations of rape in the United States from 2006–2010. Journal of Forensic
Psychology, 2(119), 2.

Grubb, A., & Turner, E. (2012). Attribution of blame in rape cases: A review of the
impact of rape myth acceptance, gender role conformity and substance use on
victim blaming. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17(5), 443–452.

Herman, D. (1988). The rape culture. Culture, 1(10), 45–53.

Hohl, K., & Conway, M. A. (2017). Memory as evidence: How normal features of
victim memory lead to the attrition of rape complaints. Criminology & Criminal
Justice, 17(3), 248–265.

Javaid, A. (2017). Giving a voice to the voiceless: Police responses to male rape.
Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 11(2), 146–156.

Klettke, B., Hallford, D., & Mellor, D. (2016). Perceptions of credibility of sexual
abuse victims across generations. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 44,

McMillan, L. (2018). Police officers’ perceptions of false allegations of rape.
Journal of Gender Studies, 27(1), 9–21.

O’Neal, E. N. (2017). “Victim is not credible”: The influence of rape culture on
police perceptions of sexual assault complainants. Justice Quarterly, 1-34.

Powell, A. (2016). Unpacking “rape culture” after Stanford and beyond. Social
Justice blog, 07/06/2016. Retrieved from:

RAINN. (n.d.). The criminal justice system: Statistics. Retrieved from: https://

Sleath, E., & Bull, R. (2017). Police perceptions of rape victims and the impact on
case decision making: A systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 34,

Smith, O., & Skinner, T. (2017). How rape myths are used and challenged in rape
and sexual assault trials. Social & Legal Studies, 26(4), 441–466.

Sprankle, E., Bloomquist, K., Butcher, C., Gleason, N., & Schaefer, Z. (2017). The
role of sex work stigma in victim blaming and empathy of sexual assault survivors.
Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 1–7.

Stubbs-Richardson, M., Rader, N. E., & Cosby, A. G. (2018). Tweeting rape
culture: Examining portrayals of victim blaming in discussions of sexual assault
cases on Twitter. Feminism & Psychology, 28(1), 90–108.

VanRyne, A. (2015). Language in news media regarding the victim precipitation
and sexual assault of women. The Review: A Journal of Undergraduate Student
Research, 16(1), 64–74.

Women’s March Global. (2018). Look back, march forward. Retrieved from:

Zillmen, C. (2017). A new poll on sexual harassment suggests why “Me Too” went
so insanely viral. Forbes. Retreived from

7 Victims of Intimate or Family
Learning Outcome: Analyze the causes of domestic violence, cycles of violence,
and the ways to break the cycle of violence.

7.1 Domestic Partner Violence and Abuse

• Examine domestic violence and how it has changed over time.

Before the mid-1800s, many legal systems viewed husbands beating their wives
and parents beating their children as acceptable (Felter, 1997). Spousal abuse, also
known as intimate partner violence (IPV), stemmed from the idea that it was a
husband’s job to discipline his wife. She was legally considered to be his property
and his responsibility. Violence by husbands toward wives has been a cultural
norm. The mid-1850s saw a change to this notion, especially in the Western world.
The legal restrictions against IPV started in Tennessee in 1850 and spread
throughout the United States and the United Kingdom (Kleinberg, 1999). Wife
beating was made illegal everywhere in the United States by 1920, the same year as
women earned the right to vote.

Changes in the rights of women and the efforts of social movements have changed
the narrative in the West around domestic violence. Despite these changes, spousal
abuse is still widespread globally. According to the United Nations (2015), 35
percent of women experience IPV annually. Women’s organizations and
nongovernmental organizations have pushed for legal restrictions to ensure that this
practice stops. Included in these efforts are the United Nations Development Fund
for Women, Amnesty International, and the World Health Organization. Although
these international efforts are underway to curb violence against women, headlines
about acid attacks, honor killings, and dowry killing continue to draw attention,
underscoring the need for further changes to stop the violence.

There is a myth
about the Rule of Thumb, which was that English law stated that a
husband could not use a stick wider than his thumb to beat his wife.
Although the origins and validity of this are debatable, the saying
became popular during the women’s rights movement when discussing
the history of domestic violence.
Image: Judge Thumb: Warranted Lawful. Author: James Gillray.
File:Judge_Thumb.jpg. License: CC-0

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women
(1993) called into question the historically unequal power relations between men
and women. Specifically, they argued that violence is one mechanism to keep
women in subordinate social positions relative to men across many cultures,
worldwide. Although men experience domestic violence, especially as children, the
majority of victims, especially of severe violence and domestic homicide, are
women. In the United States, around 15 percent of all violent crime is intimate
partner violence. According to McQuigg (2011), victims of domestic violence in
the United States are overwhelmingly women. According to the Centers for
Disease Control (2012), 4.8 million women and 2.9 million men are victims of
physical assault from their partners. The amount of domestic violence in a country,
in particular against women, is linked to how much equality and power women
have in a society. Women with more social power experience greater security and
less partner violence.

Current work in the United States and internationally focuses on changing cultural
narratives around the value of women and working to increase victims’ access to
support services, women’s access to education, provide more employment
opportunities, and to ensure access to reproductive health care. These changes have
been shown to decrease intimate partner and other types of family violence (such as
child abuse and selling children into slavery).

Family violence is defined as the repeated behaviors of one family member to
maintain power and control over another. The need to control others is a cause of
domestic violence. Perpetrators use a combination of physical, sexual, and
emotional harm or threats of harm, economic deprivation, and fear to get what they
want. Often perpetrators want to control where the victim goes, what the victim
does, and who they interact with, to isolate them and maintain control over them.
Nonviolent relationships may slowly become abusive over time. Typically, during
the early stages of abuse, the perpetrator will ask for forgiveness, bring presents,
and act extremely nice after an abusive situation, thereby making it easier for the
victim to excuse the abusive behaviors. Over time, the severity of abuse and
manipulation tends to increase, and the cycles between abuse and calm become
compressed. Walker (1979, 2016) was the first to describe and name this behavior
the cycle of abuse.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) uses the same definition as family violence (the
techniques are the same), but IPV happens between people who are in an intimate
relationship, including marriage, cohabitation, dating, as well as between ex-
spouses or partners. This term includes heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, and
homosexual relationships and can happen in dyadic (just two people) as well as
polyamorous relationships (multiple partners). IPV is also known as spousal abuse,
battering, domestic violence, or common partner violence when it involves an ex-

Prevalence of Family Violence

Domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes, with only 50 percent
reporting to law enforcement (Truman & Morgan, 2014). As discussed in earlier
modules, when someone knows the perpetrator, they are less likely to report. In
addition, males are even less likely to report, and their abuse is likely to be
overlooked because of social stigma. Despite underreporting, IPV is pervasive,
with one in three women and one in four men experiencing victimization in their
lifetime, and one in four women and one in seven men experience severe physical
violence (The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2011). IPV
represents 15 percent of all violent crimes in the U.S. (Truman & Morgan, 2014).

Rape is a common occurrence of domestic violence—45.4 percent of women and
29 percent of men report being raped by their intimate partner (Breiding, 2014). In
addition to rape, 72 percent of all the murder-suicides in the United States were
intimate partner situations, and 94 percent of those murder victims were women
(National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, n.d.).

Women are also more likely than men to be killed by their partner: 34 percent of all
female murder victims were killed by an intimate partner, whereas only 2.5 percent
of male murder victims were killed by an intimate partner (Gerney & Parsons,

IPV in the LGBT Community.

According to Walters et al. (2013), bisexual women are 1.8 times more likely than
heterosexual women to experience IPV over their lifetime, while lesbians and
heterosexual women experience around the same amount. Males were the
perpetrators for 90 percent of IPV against bisexual women and 50 percent of
lesbian women. Lesbians stated that males committed physical violence, rape, and/
or stalking against them (Brown & Herman, 2015). Bisexual men seem to
experience more IPV than heterosexual or gay men (Brown & Herman, 2015).
Goldberg and Meyer (2013) found that 26.9 percent of gay men had experienced
IPV in their lifetimes, with 12.1 percent having experienced it in the past year.
Although it is a new area of research, it appears that transgender people may
experience even higher rates of IPV than others. Langenderfer-Magruder et al.
(2014) found that 20.4 percent of cisgender people have experienced IPV or dating
violence, compared to 31.1 percent of transgender people have experienced IPV or
dating violence.

Covariates of Domestic Partner Violence

Domestic, or
intimate partner, violence is any type of aggressive behavior in a
relationship. Forms of this abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, and
economic. Domestic violence is now recognized as a public health
problem in the United States.
Image: Domestic Violence. Authored by: Unknown.
USMC-101026-M-6457M-002.jpg. License: CC-0

According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), there are a number of risk
factors for domestic violence.

Employment:When victims, especially women, are making more money than
their partner, a perpetrator might feel threatened by their partner’s economic power.
Experiencing domestic violence can create a cycle where it becomes harder to have
economic power and financial independence, making the victim more dependent on
the offender and limits their options of leaving. Tolentino et al. (2017) found a
relationship between supervisor evaluations, domestic violence, and jobs.
Specifically, those experiencing domestic violence received lower performance
reviews and were less likely to get promotions than those who had not been
experiencing domestic violence. The need to hide their victimization as well as
recover from abuse, can lead to needing time off or losing jobs, thereby creating

further economic hardships. Imbery (2014) found that around 50 percent of women
lose their jobs because of IPV. In addition, domestic violence is associated with
isolation, making finding a job harder for victims.

Low-income families are at higher risk for intimate partner violence. Poverty
creates severe stressors that also limit the coping options for the victim.
Image: Wallet with no cash. Authored by: Kate Ter Harr.
Source: License: CC-
BY 2.0

Poverty: There tends to be more IPV among lower-income families. Women are more
likely to be trapped in poverty, including as a single-headed household, for a variety of
social factors including lower pay for women (wage discrimination). There is a
relationship between being on social assistance programs and higher rates of domestic
violence that supports this idea (Satyanathan & Pollack, 2012). In addition, women in
poverty may feel more trapped in abusive situations. The intersection of poverty and
IPV is one of the leading causes of homelessness among women as well (ACLU, n.d.).
Although there are some protections (for example, around housing) in the Violence
Against Women Reauthorization Act, significant issues associated with IPV remain. For
example, nuisance laws can be used to evict IPV victims because they call the police or
the household makes too much noise (Imbery, 2014).

Guns and Domestic Violence: Over the past 30 years, more intimate partner homicides
in the United States have been committed with guns than with all other weapons
combined (Everytown for Gun Safety, n.d.), with 19 percent of all domestic violence
involving a weapon (Truman & Morgan, 2014). More than 50 percent of all women
killed during a domestic dispute were killed with a gun (Gerney & Parsons, 2014).
According to Gerney & Parsons (2014), “From 2001 through 2012, 6,410 women were

murdered in the United States by an intimate partner using a gun—more than the total
number of U.S. troops killed in action during the entirety of the Iraq and Afghanistan
wars combined.” In addition, in 57 percent of all mass shootings, the shooter killed a
current or former spouse, intimate partner, or some other family member. Simply having
a gun in the home increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent, and guns in the home
are known to significantly increase the potential for IPV to turn into homicide or serious
physical harm (Campbell et al., 2003).

Changes in the Laws to Protect Victims

As discussed in module “Victims and the Criminal Justice System”, victims’ rights have
changed over the last 30 years. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act contained
several provisions on domestic violence, including the following:

• Funding a hotline for victims and special domestic violence crime units in
local communities

• Training law enforcement about domestic and sexual violence
• Limiting the ability of perpetrators to follow victims across state lines
• Full funding of rape kits and legal/court fees associated with protection orders
• Ensuring that victim protection orders are recognized and enforced in all
jurisdictions within the United States

• The ability of tribal courts to try non-native spouses or intimate partners of
Native American women in domestic or dating violence cases

• Undocumented domestic violence victims get asylum and apply for a green
card in exchange for helping law enforcement officials prosecute their
perpetrators (FindLaw, n.d.)

In addition to federal laws, states also have laws on domestic violence. By 2005, 23
states and the District of Columbia had enacted mandatory arrest for domestic
violence if the officer has probable cause to believe it occurred, regardless of
whether the victim wants an arrest. If the officer thinks that both parties were
engaged in violence, they will arrest both of them. Research has shown this can
have an adverse impact on the victims, and some jurisdictions are changing that
policy to just arresting the primary aggressor. Legal solutions to domestic violence
continue to evolve both through the courts and well as through legislation, and
some of these are starting to reflect research and best practices to ensure the victims
are safe from abuse.


American Civil Liberties Union. (n.d.).Women’s right project: Domestic violence
and homelessness. Retrieved from:

Breiding, M. J. (2014). Prevalence and characteristics of sexual violence, stalking,
and intimate partner violence victimization—National Intimate Partner and Sexual
Violence Survey, United States, 2011.Morbidity and mortality weekly report.
Surveillance summaries (Washington, DC: 2002), 63(8), 1.

Breiding, M. J., & Armour, B. S. (2015). The association between disability and
intimate partner violence in the United States. Annals of epidemiology, 25(6), 455–

Brown, T., & Herman, J. (2015). Intimate partner violence and sexual abuse
among LGBT people. Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2016). Criminal victimization, 2016. Retrieved from

Campbell, J. C., Webster, D., Koziol-McLain, J., Block, C., Campbell, D., Curry,
M. A., … & Sharps, P. (2003). Risk factors for femicide in abusive relationships:

Results from a multisite case control study. American Journal of Public Health,
93(7), 1089–1097.

Centers for Disease Control. (2012). Understanding intimate partner violence.
Atlanta, GA: Author. Retrieved from

Everytown for Gun Safety. (n.d.). Guns and violence against women. Retrieved

Felter, E. (1997). A history of the state’s response to domestic violence.” In C. R.
Daniels (Ed.), Feminists negotiate the state: the politics of domestic violence.
Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

FindLaw. (n.d.). Federal domestic violence legislation: The Violence Against
Women Act. Retrieved from

Gerney, A., & Parsons, C. (2014).Women under the gun: How gun violence affects
women and 4 policy solutions to better protect them. Center for American Progress.
Retrieved from

Goldberg, N., & Meyer, I. (2013). Sexual orientation disparities in history of
intimate partner violence: Results from the California Health Interview Survey.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(5), 1109–1118.

Imbrey, L. (2014). The intersection of poverty and domestic violence. Coalition on
Human Needs. Retrieved from

Kleinberg, S. J. (1999).Women in the United States, 1830–1945. New Brunswick,
NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Langenderfer-Magruder, L., Whitfield, D. L., Walls, N. E., Kattari, S. K., &
Ramos, D. (2016). Experiences of intimate partner violence and subsequent police
reporting among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer adults in Colorado:
Comparing rates of cisgender and transgender victimization. Journal of
Interpersonal Violence, 31(5), 855–871.

National Institute of Justice. (2007). Causes and consequences of intimate partner
violence. Retrieved from

Satyanathan, D., & Pollack, A. (2012). Domestic violence and poverty. Retrieved

Tolentino, L. R., Garcia, P. R. J. M., Restubog, S. L. D., Scott, K. L., & Aquino, K.
(2017). Does domestic intimate partner aggression affect career outcomes? The role
of perceived organizational support. Human Resource Management, 56(4), 593–

Truman, J. L., & Morgan, R. E. (2015). Nonfatal domestic violence, 2003–2012.
Journal of Current Issues in Crime, Law & Law Enforcement, 8(4).

United Nations. (2015). The World’s Women 2015: Chapter 6: Violence against
women. Retrieved from

Walker, L. E. (2016). The battered woman syndrome (4th Ed.). New York:
Springer Publishing Company.

Walker, M. (1999). The inter-generational transmission of trauma: The effects of
abuse on the survivor’s relationship with their children and on the children
themselves. The European Journal of Psychotherapy, Counselling & Health, 2(3),

7.2 Factors of Intimate Partner Violence

• Analyze the cycle of domestic violence and factors to help break the cycle.

The Cycle of Domestic Violence

Walker (1979) first proposed the cycle of violence as a way to examine and explain the cycle of abuse that
occurred in domestic violence, including child abuse as well as IPV. The cycle of violence, as briefly described
in the last section, is the cycle that the perpetrator and victim go through that lead to the violent event.

Domestic violence is not a one-time event but follows the cycle shown above. Advocates for
breaking domestic abuse discuss breaking this cycle, as well as the intergenerational cycles of abuse.
Image: Cycle of Abuse. Authored by: Avanduyn.
Source: License: CC-0

The first phase is tension building. For example, the perpetrator begins to pick on the victim about small things
and is demeaning to the victim. Tension then escalates to threats, isolation, and arguing. The abuser feels like

they are losing control of the situation, and the tension builds as the abuser tries to regain control of the
situation. The victim tries to calm the perpetrator, complies with their request(s), and tries to make them happy
in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. Eventually the perpetrator feels so out of control the incident occurs.
The incident might be verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. The abuse, and the fear it creates, is a tool that
allows for future forms of manipulation and control. It is often after the abusive incident that a victim will
leave, although that is not often after the first cycle, as there is still hope that this was a one-time event. With
each cycle, the level of fear becomes a counterweight to their desire to leave the relationship. In addition,
blaming the victim for what happened is a powerful tool. For example, if the victim just did as the perpetrator
asked, then there would never be another incident, so it’s the victim’s fault. This emotional manipulation and
destruction of self-esteem are reasons why victims end up staying in an abusive relationship. In addition, lack
of resources, social isolation, and fear of revenge by the perpetrator, are other factors as to why the victims stay.
The fear of revenge is important as most domestic violence homicides happen as the victim is leaving the
relationship (Derose et al., 2005).

Themaking up or reconciliation phase occurs right after the incident and is
associated with a state of calm in the relationship. During this period, the victim
may receive presents from the perpetrator to make up for the abuse. In this phase,
victims often say things like, “it wasn’t that bad,” and start to excuse the offender’s
behaviors. The victim may also take responsibility for the event during this phase.
Denial can play an important part of this phase for both parties. They might deny
how serious the event was because they are both happy during this phase.

During the calm phase, or honeymoon phase, the victim will do their best to be the
“ideal’ partner, and often early in this phase the perpetrator seems to be pleased.
Depending on other factors, like financial stability, dynamics of the relationship, as
well as other relationships outside the home, the length of the calm phase can vary.
Eventually, the abuser will begin to build tensions again, which results in starting
the cycle over. Over the course of the relationship the honeymoon phase may
become shorter or nonexistent. In addition, the cycle may increase in frequency and
tension and violence may increase.

Intergenerational cycles of abuse, also known as transgenerational abuse, is the
abuse passed from one generation to the next (Walker, 1999). Several factors
increase the likelihood of being an abuser, including the length of time the abuse
occurs, the severity of the abuse, and feeling unwanted or unloved (Goldman,
1989). Around 30 percent of mistreated children become abusers (Widom, Czaja,
& DuMont, 2015). Children raised in a living situation where abuse is common can
perceive it as normal and possibly as an indication of being loved. Growing up in
an abusive home sets the potential for that child to grow up and become either an
abuser or the victim of abuse, thus passing it on to their children. DeGregorio
(2013) pointed out that abuse at a young age can impact brain development, which
is something that practitioners who are working to end the cycle of abuse need to
account for in their treatment plans.

Although being abused does not necessarily mean someone will become an abuser,
it does increase their odds of becoming abusive (Millett, Kohl, Jonson-Reid, Drake,
& Petra, 2013; Widom, Czaja, & DuMont, 2015). Also, Abajobir et al. (2017)
found that the odds of physical IPV victimization were significantly higher in
children who had experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect and
emotional abuse, compared to those who did not experience abuse. Breaking the
cycle of violence is an important strategy to combat future domestic violence.

Strategies for Breaking the Cycle of Violence

Domestic and dating violence awareness is part of a broader global campaign to
create solutions and interventions to break cycles of domestic violence. In 1977 in
the United States, the “Take Back the Night” campaign, as well as the International
Women’s Year Conference,shined a light on the issues of domestic violence and
the need for more work to be done to eliminate it. In 1978, the National Coalition
Against Domestic Violence was created to help build shelters and grassroots
services for victims, including sharing information and supporting research to help

better understand domestic violence. In 1980, teen dating violence also became a
topic of discussion, as abused teens are more likely to enter a marriage where abuse
is present. In 1981, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence created
Domestic Violence Awareness week to connect advocates working to end domestic
violence across the country. In 1989, Congress declared that October would be
domestic violence awareness month. The activities across the United States had
three common themes:

• Mourning those who have died because of domestic violence
• Celebrating those who have survived domestic violence
• Connecting those who work to end domestic violence

These efforts encouraged research on domestic violence and its solutions, awareness of domestic violence,
and advocacy and legal protections for domestic violence victims. Campaign and coalition efforts also led
to the creation of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, which helps professionals
(police, medical providers, human services staff, and advocates at local, state and federal agencies) in the
field. Organizations today are working to bring awareness of dating violence to college campuses, to
address issues of abuse and assault in the military, and are in marginalized communities to help empower
victims, as well as working toward social and cultural changes needed to stop domestic violence.
Activities such as these are also conducted globally.

Social movements around domestic and sexual violence have done a lot to bring change around
this issue. Currently, domestic violence in the military has become an important area of

advocacy work. The U.S. military has increased awareness and prevention programs in order to
help combat these issues among its ranks.
Image: Take Back the Night March. Authored by: Spc. Lauren Wanda.
%27Take_Back_the_Night%27_150430-A-DP178-021.jpg. License: CC-0

Services play an important role in breaking the cycles of domestic violence. There are several types of
services with different functions for victims. They are accessed by victims in different ways. These are
discussed next.

Formal Help-Seeking: Police are often gatekeepers to services. Social services (including victims
advocates and child protective services to help families) can become available for victims if police are
notified of an incident. Changes in the legal code to increase mandatory arrest reflect the research that
victims who know their perpetrator are less like to seek arrest and charges. Most states have mandatory
arrest laws, which allow police to make an arrest if there is probable cause for them to do so, thereby
taking the weight off the victims’ shoulders (Hamby, Finkelhor, & Turner, 2015).

Hamby, Finkelhor, and Turner (2015) suggested that referral by the police to services can be important.
While many services are underfunded, police have opportunities to let victims know about shelters,
hotlines, safety planning, and other interventions available in the community that can be helpful. In
addition, advocate services become available for victims when they report to the police as well.

Social Services: IPV victims can use a number of services to escape their situations. Shelters are one of
the more common services provided for victims and their children, although they tend to be underfunded,
which means space for families can be limited. In addition, some shelters have restrictions on who can use
them. For example, male IPV victims have limited opportunities for shelter and there may be restrictions
imposed on teen sons accompanying their mothers to a shelter. Access to transportation, as well as the
ability to pay for it, can be factors that victims need to overcome. Some shelters, and even police agencies,
will help coordinate transportation for victims. Victims who need to leave in a hurry might also need
clothing, toiletries, and other personal items once they leave their homes.

In addition, victims might need counseling, life skills training, job training, or educational opportunities in
order to overcome their victimization. Many domestic violence agencies help victims get the right

Cathy Freeman, an athlete and indigenous advocate, meets with survivors to create social
change and increased respect for women within indigenous communities. In the United States,
60 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be physically assaulted, and 66
percent say they have been the victims of psychological aggression by a partner in their
lifetime, which is higher than almost any other minority group. The majority of the perpetrators
were non-natives (97 percent). The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA)
that passed in 2013, finally allowed tribal courts to try non-natives, giving increased access to
protections for Native Women.
Image: A meeting with domestic violence survivors. Authored by: Jason Pini/AusAID.
File:Cathy_Freeman_talks_to_survivors_of_domestic_violence_(10679044746).jpg. License:
CC-BY 2.0

Legal Services: Legal services are important in helping IPV victims. Victims need
to be able to obtain a restraining order or separation or divorce services, which can
be expensive. Some locations offer legal aid to victims to help them with the
process. If a victim fled home with their family to escape the perpetrator, legal
services can help force the perpetrator to leave the home so that the victim and
family can return to it. If the perpetrator was arrested, the victim might need legal
advice around pressing charges against the perpetrator as well.

Victim Advocates: According to the National Center for Victims of Crime,
advocates offer information about legal and social services, emotional support, and
can go to court with victims. Some advocates staff crisis hotlines, run support
groups, or provide in-person counseling. In addition, advocates might also make
court appearances for the victim in order to help them understand the process and
ensure their voice is heard in legal proceedings. Advocates may be directly linked
to the criminal justice system or be part of a nonprofit organization that helps
victims. Additional duties might include the following:

• Providing information on victimization, crime prevention, legal rights and

• Helping victims with safety planning
• Helping victims with victim compensation applications
• Helping victims submit comments to courts and parole boards
• Intervening with creditors, landlords, and employers on behalf of victims
• Providing referrals for other services for victims
• Helping to arrange funerals
• Notifying victims of inmates’ release or escape

Barriers to Services

Like other types of crime, IPV victims often do not seek formal help from the
police or medical services, but rather they use family and friends as their primary
source of support. One issue with using families is that many victims and offenders
come from families where domestic violence is happening, which can undermine
their ability to leave their perpetrator. In addition, there can be shame associated
with being a victim, especially if the victimization has been occurring for some
time. There can be social shaming toward victims because nonvictims do not
understand why they would not have left right away, rather than potentially staying
for years in an abusive relationship.

In addition, many victims believe that the police, and the criminal justice system as
a whole, are not effective. As discussed in previous modules, this attitude is more
common among minorities, immigrants, and communities that have negative
histories with law enforcement. This includes Latina populations, where there are
intersections of cultural barriers, language barriers, and a distrust of law
enforcement (O’Neal & Beckman, 2017).

There are also issues around victims calling the police, particularly in areas that
arrest both partners if they were mutually violent. Men, in particular, are hesitant to
call the police because police are much more likely to arrest the man, even if he
was the victim. In addition, victims are less likely to call or cooperate with the
police if the incident was minor, even if it was part of a larger IPV relationship.

When offered services, some victims do not get a lot of information about the
services, or they find them difficult to access. Further, they sometimes find that the
services have run out of money to help them, creating a “black box” of victims’
services (Hamby, Finkelhor, & Turner, 2015).

The LGBT+ community has additional barriers to services, including the legal
definition of IPV not including same-sex couples, the potential of “outing”
themselves if they seek help which can lead to social, economic, and family
consequences, and negative attitudes about the LGBT+ community from service
providers and law enforcement (Brown & Herman, 2015). In addition, there are
few shelters for men, and even fewer for gay men.


Best practices in breaking the cycle of domestic violence involve empowerment of
victims. Victims who have access to financial resources, mental health, social
services, and legal protections and who feel empowered to make changes to their
lives are likely to break free of their violent relationships. This is important to break
the intergenerational cycle of violence as well. Services need to be survivor-
defined, which emphasizes the client choice, partnership, and sensitivity to the
unique needs, contexts, and coping strategies of individual survivors (Goodman et
al., 2016).


Abajobir, A. A., Kisely, S., Williams, G. M., Clavarino, A. M., & Najman, J. M.
(2017). Substantiated childhood maltreatment and intimate partner violence
victimization in young adulthood: A birth cohort study. Journal of Youth and
Adolescence, 46(1), 165–179.

Brown, T., & Herman, J. (2015). Intimate partner violence and sexual abuse
among LGBT people. Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute.

DeGregorio, L. J. (2013). Intergenerational transmission of abuse: Implications for
parenting interventions from a neuropsychological perspective. Traumatology,
19(2), 158–166.

Durose, M. R., Harlow, C. W., Langan, P. A., Motivans, M., Rantala, R. R., &
Smith, E. L. (2005). Family violence statistics: Including statistics on strangers
and acquaintances. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice
Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Goodman, L. A., Thomas, K., Cattaneo, L. B., Heimel, D., Woulfe, J., & Chong, S.
K. (2016). Survivor-defined practice in domestic violence work: Measure
development and preliminary evidence of link to empowerment. Journal of
Interpersonal Violence, 31(1), 163–185.

Hamby, S., Finkelhor, D., & Turner, H. (2015). Intervention following family
violence: Best practices and help-seeking obstacles in a nationally representative
sample of families with children. Psychology of Violence, 5(3), 325.

Hoeffler, A. (2017). What are the costs of violence? Politics, Philosophy &
Economics, 16(4), 422–445.

Millett, L. S., Kohl, P. L., Jonson-Reid, M., Drake, B., & Petra, M. (2013). Child
maltreatment victimization and subsequent perpetration of young adult intimate
partner violence: An exploration of mediating factors. Child Maltreatment, 18(2),

National Center for Victims of Crime. (n.d.).What is a victim advocate? Retrieved

O’Neal, E. N., & Beckman, L. O. (2017). Intersections of race, ethnicity, and
gender: Reframing knowledge surrounding barriers to social services among Latina
intimate partner violence victims. Violence against Women, 23(5), 643–665.

Walker, L. E. (2016). The battered woman syndrome. New York: Springer
Publishing Company.

Widom, C. S., Czaja, S. J., & DuMont, K. A. (2015). Intergenerational
transmission of child abuse and neglect: Real or detection bias? Science,
347(6229), 1480–1485.

8 Victimized Children and Elderly
Learning Outcome: Differentiate child and elder abuse and neglect and society’s

8.1 Abuse and Neglect

• Compare child and elderly abuse and neglect, including laws and factors that lead
to abuse.

Child Abuse and Neglect

Until the development of formal child protective services in the 1960s and
1970s, most law enforcement was not included in the process of protecting
children’s well-being. Even with the creation of child protective services and
the intervention of law enforcement, child abuse and neglect are still
significant issues in society because of barriers to reporting and the risk
factors from caregivers that lead to neglect and abuse.
Image: Michael C. Ivering’s Child Abuse Monument. Authored by: Harvey
Source: License:
CC-BY 2.0

For much of human history, what happened to children was considered a family matter,
although extreme physical abuse, sexual abuse, or death would receive attention from
whatever authority was in charge of that jurisdiction. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the
plight of children started to enter the public domain, first looking at delinquents and
their effects on society, and later turning to issues surrounding neglect or abuse. As
discussed in earlier modules, the early laws around child abuse developed out of social
movements around workers’ rights, poor laws, and creating homes for juvenile
delinquents or abused children (the refuge movement). It wasn’t until the development
of formal child protective services (CPS) in the 1960s and 1970s, that law enforcement
was included in the process of protecting children’s well-being.

Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect

Definitions associated with child abuse stem from the work of Kemp and his
seminal work on battered child syndrome. Today, the term most often used is
child abuse. Child abuse is defined as the physical, sexual, or psychological
maltreatment or neglect of a child, often by a parent or other caregiver. Abuse is
not only the mistreatment but also the neglect of a child. Inadequate food, shelter,
clothing, medical care, or supervision are all forms of neglect and can include the
lack of appropriate attention from any adult responsible for a child, such as
teachers, daycare providers, or nannies (Theoklitou, Kabitsis, & Kabitsi, 2012).
Child abuse can occur in a child’s home, school, care center, or community.

According to Welch, Wilhelm, and Johnson (2013), child abuse and neglect can be
divided into six subcategories:

• Supervisory neglect: failing to keep the child from being harmed. Examples
include not supervising a child around weapons or leaving a child with
someone not capable of watching after the child.

• Physical neglect: failing to provide the basic physical necessities, such as a
safe and clean home, adequate amounts of food, and clean water

• Medical neglect: not providing medical care for an injured or sick child or
withholding care with the intent to cause death

• Emotional neglect: not providing nurturance, encouragement, and support;
rejecting or humiliating a child, or giving bizarre forms of punishment which
leads to emotional issues

• Educational neglect: not providing access to adequate education and the
resources to actively participate in the school system

• Abandonment: leaving a child alone for a long period of time without a

Infanticide is the killing of a child under one year of age, which often occurs by
the hands of their parents or caregivers—particularly by mothers. Historically, this
was considered acceptable, especially if the child had deformities or abnormalities
or the family was not able to take care of the child for some reason. It is still an
issue today: children under one year-of-age are at a higher risk of death due to
neglect and abuse than other children. In the United States, boys are more likely to
be the victim of infanticide, as opposed to places like China, where the social
pressure for a boy and the limitation of only one child per family results in girls
being the more likely victims of infanticide (Kindschi Gossekin, 2010).

One of the most
famous examples of infanticide is when the Pharaoh, a ruler in ancient
Egypt, decreed that every male Hebrew be killed. Jochebed, the mother
of Moses, hid her newborn son for three months. When she could hide
him no longer, she made a wooden chest watertight with slime and pitch
and let the chest float in the Nile hoping he would live. When Pharaoh’s
daughter went to bath herself by the Nile, she discovered the basket and
took pity on the baby.
Image: Moses and Jochebed. Authored by: Pedro Américo.
_Mis%C3%A9s_e_Jocabed_-_1884.jpg. License: CC-0

Causes of Abuse

Several factors contribute to child abuse. The most common factors include difficulty meeting the
demands of parenthood. Some parents lack the skills to cope when the stress of childcare combines with
other stressors. Without coping skills, parents’ tempers may get the best of them, causing them to abuse a
child. Other factors contributing to child abuse include substance abuse, other types of domestic violence
in the home, lack of parenting knowledge, economic stress, being young or immature, mental health and
other emotional issues, and being in other difficult or abusive relationships (Dixon, Browne, & Hamilton-
Giachritsis, 2005; Ney, Fung, & Wickett, 1992).

Stith et al. (2009), in a paper that looked across a large body of research, found that family cohesion,
parents’ anger, stress, and low self-esteem, and whether the parent sees the child as a problem, are all
strong predictors of child abuse. Lowell and Renk (2017) found that how a child’s and mother’s
temperament and emotional regulation work together is a significant contributor to child abuse. If a
mother’s and child’s temperaments do not mix well together, and if the mother also lacks the ability to
regulate her emotions, then abuse becomes more likely. All of these factors contribute to the possibility of
child abuse—no single factor has been identified as a universal cause of child abuse.

Statistics on Abuse and Neglect

According to the U.S. Administration for Children & Families (2016), approximately 676,000 children
were victims of abuse and neglect in 2015, with 3.4 million children coming to the attention of CPS.
Those under one year-of-age are the most common victims of maltreatment. The most common form of
abuse for all children is neglect (74.8 percent) followed by physical abuse (18.2 percent) and sexual abuse
(8.5 percent).

In 2016, 1,750 children died from abuse and neglect, with 70 percent of those under three years of age,
and 44 percent of deaths were children younger than one year of age, which is classified as infanticide
(Children’s Bureau, 2016). Of those children who died, 74.6 percent had been neglected, and 44.2 percent
had been physically abused, including in combination with some other type of mistreatment. Drugs and
alcohol were found to be the most common factors present when a child death occurred from abuse or
neglect, and 78 percent of perpetrators were parents.

Deployments, and issues adjusting upon return from deployments, added to normal life
stressors increase child abuse among military families. According to the National Child
Traumatic Stress Network, 54 percent of all military child abuse cases are perpetrated by the
active duty parent as opposed to the spouse. Military children experience more severe forms of
maltreatment and physical abuse, including fatal child maltreatment and shaken baby syndrome.
In addition, rates of domestic violence and alcohol abuse, both of which are linked to child
maltreatment, are higher in military populations. The military has put child abuse campaigns in
place to try to deal with these issues.
Image: Silent Scream. Author: U.S. Department of Defense.
O-0000I-001.jpg. License: CC-0

Laws Protecting Child Abuse Victims Today

All 50 states have laws that help protect children. Many of the programs for child
protection are partially funded through federal laws. The Child Abuse Prevention
and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which was first passed in 1974 and most recently
reauthorized in 2016, is federal legislation that helps with prevention, assessment,
investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities through grants to public
agencies and nonprofit organizations. It established the Office on Child Abuse and
Neglect. This office collects and analyzes data on child abuse, using the data to
help create best practice programs. CAPTA also created a minimum definition of
child abuse and neglect to create consistency across the United States. This law
also changed how children are treated in the courts, including having closed
courtrooms for testimony, leading questions for young children, dolls to help with
testimony, and two-way closed-circuit TVs (if requested) to help the child testify.

Other laws have been created to modify or enhance CAPTA. For instance, the
Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 requires a safe care plan for
infants affected by substance abuse, drug withdrawal, or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum
Disorder at birth. Healthcare providers are required to follow the progress of the
infant to ensure treatment needs are being met and to reduce the potential for abuse
by the parent who also had an addiction issue.

The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015 was enacted to combat domestic
child human trafficking and support child abuse investigation and prosecution
programs. t also created services for victims of child pornography. The Child
Protection Act of 2012 increased penalties for the possession of child pornography,
and it created the position of National Coordinator for Child Exploitation
Prevention and Interdiction to protect child witnesses and victims from harassment
and intimidation.

There is a series of laws around sex offender registries in the United States. All 50
states and the District of Columbia maintain public sex offender registries
accessible by the public over the Internet. Registration happens when someone is
convicted of a sex crime (note that what sex crimes qualify for registry varies by
jurisdiction). One issue with registries is that around a quarter of all registrants are
juveniles, including children as young as nine years of age (Pitman & Parker,
2013). There are three main sex offender registry laws:

• The Jacob Wetterling Act of 1994 requires states to implement a sex
offender and crimes against children registry. If states do not comply, they
forfeit 10 percent of federal crime funds for the state. It is named for 11-year-
old Jacob Wetterling who was abducted by a stranger in 1989. His mother was
instrumental in creating this legislation in Minnesota and influencing the
federal law.

• Megan’s law requires states to make information about registered sex
offenders available to the public. It’s a subsection of the Wetterling Act. This
is named after Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old girl who was raped and

murdered by her neighbor, who had two prior convictions around the sexual
abuse of small children.

• The AdamWalsh Child Protection and Safety Act, passed in 2006,
organizes sex offenders into three tiers and mandates that Tier 3 (the most
serious tier) and two-time offenders update their whereabouts every three and
six months, respectively. States are required to disclose information of Tier 2
and Tier 3 offenders publicly. It created a national DNA database and a
national child abuse/neglect registry to make sure kids are not placed in the
care of, or adopted by, people convicted of child abuse or neglect. The act was
named after Adam Walsh, a seven-year-old Florida boy who was abducted
and murdered in 1981. His father, John Walsh, has become a major advocate
around child abuse and is known for his work as the host of America’s Most

Many other federal and state laws have been written to help protect children in the United States from neglect
and abuse. There is an increasing awareness about the need to protect children and increase penalties for those
who harm children.

Elder Abuse and Neglect

We are currently seeing the largest increase in the aging population in the history of the world, as the baby
boomers, those born from 1945 to 1965, become senior citizens. By 2050, the over-65 population in the United
States is projected to be 83.7 million, which is double the population of 43.1 million in 2012. The number of
people 85 and over is projected to grow from 5.9 million in 2012 to 8.9 million in 2030, representing a
significant population that has the potential to experience elder abuse.

As people age, the need for strong social supports increases. The elderly often need help for their
daily routines. With the number of senior citizens increasing globally, the need for strong support
and protection systems is also increasing in order to help prevent abuse and neglect of this vulnerable
Image: Old but all with colors. Authored by: Capture Queen.
Source: License: CC-BY 2.0

Elder abuse and neglect occurs when there is a lack of appropriate care of someone considered elderly when
there is an expectation of trust and care (Administration on Aging, 2009). According to the Administration on
Aging (2009) and Robinson, de Benedictis, and Segal (2012), elder abuse comes in the following forms:

• Physical abuse – inflicting physical pain or injury on a senior, including through physical restraints or
drugging the person

• Sexual abuse – nonconsensual sexual contact of any kind
• Neglect – failing to provide food, shelter, health care, or protection
• Financial exploitation – the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or assets of a senior
• Healthcare fraud – overcharging or double billing for care, or not providing the care but having people pay
for it, overmedicating or undermedicating, and recommending fraudulent remedies

• Emotional abuse – inflicting mental pain, anguish, or distress through verbal or nonverbal acts, such as
humiliation, intimidation, and threats

• Abandonment – desertion by anyone who has assumed responsibility for care or custody of an elderly

• Self-neglect – the failure of an elderly person to perform essential self-care tasks, which threatens his or
her own health or safety

An abuser is typically a family member, such as a spouse, partner, adult child or their spouses or partners,
grandchildren, or other extended family members. This leads elder abuse to be considered a type of
domestic violence. Similar to child abuse, perpetrators can include a friend or neighbor, in-home help, and
care providers in adult day care or in nursing homes. In some cases, elder abuse is a continuation of
domestic abuse that has been occurring across their entire lifetime; in other cases, it is new abuse because
the person has reached a period where they are more vulnerable. In some cases of self-neglect, the
situation is one in which the person, or couple, is just no longer capable of caring for themselves or one

According to Robinson, de Benedictis, and Segal (2012), a number of signs indicate abuse is happening.
Physical signs of elder abuse can include unexplained injuries, such as cuts and bruises (especially on the
wrist and ankle areas that can be from restraints), unusual weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, and
bedsores. Emotional signs can include sudden withdrawal from normal activities, signs of depression or
anxiety not associated with other issues occurring in their lives, lashing out, and fear around certain
caregivers. Signs of neglect can include poor condition of their living space, such as bug infestations,
soiled bedding and clothes, lack of self-care like bathing and grooming, and unsafe living conditions, such
as no water or a lack of power. Some signs of financial exploitation include unpaid bills or services being
stopped (turning off the power and water to the home), large and unexplained withdrawals from their bank
accounts or credit cards, and missing cash. Of course, in order for abuse to be noticed or recognized,
someone other than the abuser must notice these issues and be able to report them, which is why elder
abuse is one of the most underreported types of abuse.

Causes of Elder Abuse

Two factors that increase the risk of elder abuse are the stress on the caregiver and the
vulnerability of an aging person. A person’s dependence on their caregiver, whether that is in
their home or in a facility, the lack of knowledge about how to seek help and fear of retaliation
for reporting are common reasons why the elderly do not report abuse. The leads to much
higher level of elder abuse than are reflected in official statistics, similar to child abuse.
Image: Elderly person. Authored by: rawpixel.
Source: License: CC-0

Two types of factors increase the risk of elder abuse. The first stems from the
increased vulnerability of the aging person; the second stems from the stress of the
caregiver. According to Hildreth, Burke, and Golub (2011), some risk factors on
the part of the elderly include the following:

• Declining health, including memory problems (such as dementia), physical
disabilities, and mental health issues such as depression

• Lack of social supports to help with care or to detect abuse by others
• Abuse of alcohol or other substances
• A tendency to be verbally or physically combative with the caregivers
• A shared living situation, especially living with their caregiver

Risk factors associated with stressors on the caregiver include the following:

• Feeling overwhelmed or resentful at having to care for the elderly person
• Having a history of substance abuse or a history of abusing others
• Being dependent on the older person for housing, finances, or other needs
• Having a history of mental health problems
• Being unemployed
• Sharing a living situation with the elderly person
• Lacking caregiver support, including breaks from care, assistance with care, as
well as time for self-care to reduce caregiver burnout

Another growing concern is elder abuse in nursing homes and other care facilities.
More than 3.2 million adults live in nursing homes and other long-term care
facilities in the United States, with up to 40 percent of all adults needing care at
some point in their lives. Nursing home abuse can take all of the forms of abuse
listed earlier. Abuse in nursing homes increases the potential for death by 300
percent, according to the Nursing Home Abuse Guide (n.d.). The need for care can
be a barrier to detection and reporting and to getting care in the future. Those who
report abuse have often experienced abuse at other facilities, and they can be
hesitant to move to another facility.

A number of factors have been shown to help prevent abuse according to Pillemer,
Burnes, Riffin, and Lachs (2016). The first is caregiver support that includes
housekeeping, meal preparation, respite care, and adult day care, all of which gives
the caregiver a break or relieves some of the duties they have to perform. Other
important forms of caregiver support include education on care and support groups.
A second factor to mitigate elder abuse is the use of money management programs.
These programs can include people who help set up automatic bill pay and direct
deposits for income and who keep an eye out for unusual activity on their client’s
accounts. A third factor is the use of a multidisciplinary treatment team, put in
place when abuse is noticed, to prevent future abuse and to help the elder recover
from abuse. Team members can be drawn from criminal justice, health, and mental
healthcare services, victim services, legal services, adult protective services,
financial services, and long-term care.

Statistics on Abuse and Neglect

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, around 10 percent of all elders
are abused. The most common forms are verbal mistreatment, financial
mistreatment, and physical mistreatment. The Office of Victims of Crime (2012)
found that more than 90,000 persons over the age of 65 were the victims of violent
crime in 2010. In addition, people age 60 and older made 14 percent of fraud
complaints and 13 percent of identity theft complaints, and a dramatic rise of these
crimes has been noticed among this population. According to Lifespan of Greater
Rochester et al. (2011), financial abuse costs around $3 billion annually, and most
of the children of the exploited elderly were not aware of the problem regardless of
how involved they might be.

According to the National Council on Aging, in almost 60 percent of elder abuse and neglect incidents, the
perpetrator is a family member, two thirds being adult children or their spouses. In addition, a study by New
York State found the incidence rate was nearly 24 times greater than the number of cases referred to social
services or law enforcement. This demonstrates the prevalence of elder abuse and neglect and just how
underreported it is (Lifespan of Greater Rochester et al., 2011). The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study
showed that only 20 percent of cases of neglect, exploitation, abuse, or self-neglect are reported (Tatara,
Blumerman, Kuzmeskus, & Duckhorn, 2015). In addition, the National Research Council (2003) reported
around 20,000 complaints of exploitation, neglect, and abuse coming from nursing homes and assisted-living
facilities, including physical and sexual abuse.

Elder abuse is underreported because there is a lack of detection by others, a lack of knowledge about how to
report abuse by the elderly, and a lack of ability for the elderly to report because of social isolation, access to
transportation, and communication technology such as phones and computers.

Laws Protecting Elder Abuse Victims

According to the National Council on Aging, in almost 60 percent of the reported elder abuse and
neglect incidents, the perpetrator is a family member, and two thirds were adult children or their
spouses. Like with other types of domestic violence, the fact that the perpetrator is a family reduces
the likelihood of reporting by the victim. Doctors, in-home providers, and community members can

be key figures in discovering abuse if they are aware of the signs, which can help elderly, include
self-neglect which can go unnoticed until the situation is extreme.
Image: Hospice care of elderly. Authored by: unclelkkt.
Source: License: CC-0

Whereas children have many federal and state laws for their protection, the majority of laws around elder abuse
are at the state level. The goal of legal protections is to create programs and policies for elder abuse prevention,
reporting, and intervention as well as to create consequences for perpetrators. This section will focus on the
federal laws because they apply to everyone.

The Older Americans Act (1965) is one of the first pieces of legislation to address the needs of aging
Americans. It was created to fund programs that help seniors, including meals-on-wheels, transportation
services, and other direct programs to help seniors live independently for as long as possible. It was
reauthorized in 2016 and included definitions of elder abuse and authorized federal funding for the National
Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA, a collaborative program to promote and support awareness and training
initiatives as well as multidisciplinary responses to elder abuse). Part of its mission is to focus on tribal
interventions and awareness (American Society on Aging, 2012). Unfortunately, funding for the act has not
kept pace with the demand or the cost of the programs, leading to many services and programs for seniors being
limited, which can pose additional burdens on caregivers and increase the risk of elder abuse.

The Elder Justice Act of 2009 was part of the Patient Protection and Affordable
Care Act. It was the first piece of federal legislation to specifically address elder
abuse issues. It coordinates federal elder abuse detection and prevention programs
within the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services with experts in
the field to create policies and programs around prevention, detection, treatment,
intervention, or prosecution. The act helps better integrate technologies across
providers and improve long-term care programs, including training and education
of providers. It creates grants to help adult protective services (APS) at the state
and local level to develop best practices for reporting and investigating elder abuse.
The act also requires owners, operators, and employees of long-term care facilities
to report suspected crimes and establish background checks on prospective direct
patient access employees of long-term care facilities and providers. Unfortunately,
while the act has many worthy goals and objectives, Congress has significantly
underfunded this program, limiting its impact.

The Violence Against Women Act included elder abuse as a part of federal
domestic violence crimes covered under the act. Part of the act gives funds to the
Office on Violence Against Women to offer grant funding for training and services
to address elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation involving victims who are 50 years
of age or older.

The Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2009 authorized federal grant funding to train
state and local prosecutors, courts, and law enforcement personnel to better handle
elder abuse cases. It established the Elder Victims grant program to create and
coordinate emergency services to victims of elder abuse. These provisions were
enacted in March 2010. The Elder Abuse Victims Act of 2009 has been pending in
the Senate Judiciary Committee since February 2009.

As the size of the aging population increases significantly, so will the incidence of
elder abuse increase. This speaks to the importance of greater awareness of, and
preventative actions for, elder abuse. Laws to protect elders, the creation of
responses and best practices around the treatment of elder abuse, and improved
training and reporting practices will be necessary as elder abuse increases with the
rise in the elderly population.


American Society on Aging. (2012). Elder abuse: What is the federal role?
Retrieved from

Dixon, L., Browne, K., & Hamilton-Giachritsis, C. (2005). Risk factors of parents
abused as children: A mediational analysis of the intergenerational continuity of
child maltreatment (Part I). Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46(1), 47–

Hildreth, C. J., Burke, A. E., & Golub, R. M. (2011). Elder abuse. Jama, 306(5),

Kindschi Gossekin, D. (2010). Heavy hands: An introduction to the crimes of
family violence (4th eds.). New York: Prentice Hall.

Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc., et al. (2011). Under the radar: New York State
elder abuse prevalence study, self-reported prevalence and documented case
surveys, final report. Retrieved from

Lowell, A., & Renk, K. (2017). Predictors of child maltreatment potential in a
national sample of mothers of young children. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment
& Trauma, 26(4), 335–353.

National Center on Elder Abuse. (n.d.). Statistics/data. Retrieved from https://

National Child Traumatic Stress Network. (n.d.). Child maltreatment in military
families: A fact sheet for providers. Retrieved from

National Council on Aging. (n.d.).What is elder abuse? Retrieved from: https://

National Research Council. (2003). Elder mistreatment: abuse, neglect, and
exploitation in an aging America. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Ney, P. G., Fung, T., & Wickett, A. R. (1992). Causes of child abuse and neglect.
The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 37(6), 401–405.

Office of Victims of Crime. (2012). Elder abuse. Retrieved from https://

Pillemer, K., Burnes, D., Riffin, C., & Lachs, M. S. (2016). Elder abuse: Global
situation, risk factors, and prevention strategies. The Gerontologist, 56(Suppl_2),

Pittman, N., & Parker, A. (2013). Raised on the registry: The irreparable harm of
placing children on sex offender registries in the U.S. New York: Human Rights

Robinson, L., de Benedictis, T., & Segal, J. (2012). Elder abuse and neglect:
Warning signs, risk factors, prevention, and help. Retrieved from https://

Stith, S. M., Liu, T., Davies, L. C., Boykin, E. L., Alder, M. C., Harris, J. M., … &
Dees, J. E. M. E. G. (2009). Risk factors in child maltreatment: A meta-analytic
review of the literature. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14(1), 13–29.

Tatara, T., Blumerman Kuzmeskus, L., & Duckhorn, E. (2015). The National
Center on Elder Abuse incidence study: Final report. National Center on Elder
Abuse at the American Public Human Services Association in Collaboration with
Westat, Inc. for the Administration for Children and Families and The
Administration on Aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Theoklitou, D., Kabitsis, N., & Kabitsi, A. (2012). Physical and emotional abuse of
primary school children by teachers. Child Abuse & Neglect, 36(1), 64–70.

Welch, G., Wilhelm, L., & Johnson, H. (2013). The neglected child: How to
recognize, respond, and prevent. Lewisville, NC: Gryphon House.

8.2 Reporting Abuse and Neglect

• Outline reporting and responding to elder and child abuse and neglect,
including protection agencies, removal, and protections.

Reporting Child Abuse

Law enforcement is the primary way that the abuse and neglect of children become
known to the authorities. When law enforcement becomes aware of an issue, the
police as well as CPS become involved in investigating the case. Although
reporting can come from children, it often comes from mandatory reporters or other
adults aware of the situation. Calls can go to the police or to child abuse hotlines,
which then often transfer directly to CPS.

Many states have identified specific professionals who are classified as mandated
reporters. If these people are aware of abuse or neglect, they are required by law to
inform law enforcement of the problem. Mandated reporters often include social
workers, medical and mental health professionals, teachers, and childcare
providers. The use of individuals (such as clergy and therapists) as mandatory
reporters can vary by state. For example, 27 states as well as Washington, D.C.,
require clergy to report abuse to the authorities (Child Welfare Information
Gateway, n.d.).

Once a report is made, either police or CPS examine the report and then decide
whether to investigate the complaint. If a complaint is not investigated, it’s called
being “screened out”. There are three main reasons why a complaint might be
screened out, according to Stop It Now (n.d.):

• There’s not enough information on which to base an investigation.
• CPS or police judge the information to be inaccurate or false.
• The information in the report doesn’t meet the definition of child abuse or

When a report is “screened in”, a preliminary investigation occurs within one to
five days to determine whether or not the department will proceed with a full
investigation. If a full investigation is needed, CPS might use a team approach,
including police, a protective services worker, doctors, therapists, and social
workers to help with the investigation.

Investigations and Outcomes

Although CPS has a common end goal of keeping families together as much as
possible, the investigative process can take several paths. A variety of factors go
into the determination of what should happen during an investigation. According to
Child Welfare Information Gateway, the following things occur during an
investigation for child abuse:

• A check of agency records to determine any prior involvement of the family
with CPS

• A visit to the child’s home
• An interview or observation of the child victim, other children in the home,
the child’s parents, caregivers, or others living in the child’s home

• Risk and safety assessments and an evaluation of the home environment
• Checks of criminal records and central registry records for adults in the home
• Medical and mental health evaluations

The first question for an investigation is whether the child is in immediate and direct harm and in need of
removal. The investigator may also determine if there are other immediate remedies for the situation. Let’s
consider an example of a child reported to be underfed. There might be a number of reasons why that is so, and
it is the task of the investigator to evaluate the situation. For example, if the parents do not have enough money
for food, then a CPS social worker can help them get food assistance, help them submit free or reduced-price
lunch forms if the child is in school, or provide them access to food pantries to alleviate the problem. In this
example, the investigator determined that neglect was taking place, but the reason for the neglect was remedied
and the case could be closed.

However, if there is a suspicion that the parents are punishing the child by denying him food, a more in-depth
investigation would be warranted. If abuse is found, families will be assigned a case manager and other team
members to address the problems that are leading to the abuse because abuse is a symptom of other underlying
issues that need to be addressed in order to create a safe home. This can include getting social and financial
services to help parents reduce economic stress, especially if they are poor. Parenting and anger management
classes or substance abuse treatment may be options, or the family might get mental healthcare, including
therapy and medication, if that is needed. Parents can get help applying for daycare vouchers to help with
childcare. If the housing is unsafe, team members can also help the family find adequate housing. A caseworker
will be assigned to the family to check in regularly on the family’s progress. This type of monitoring can last
for years, depending on the child’s situation and outcomes.

If harm is being done and the abuse cannot be immediately mitigated, then the child may need to be removed
from the home. Because removal of a child from the home is something to avoid if possible, the conditions
must be considered severe. If removed, CPS tries to put the child with a relative or other family member, and
unless there are extenuating circumstances, it’s only for 72 hours. In rare cases, the rights of the parent might be
terminated, and the child removed from the home permanently. This can be the case if there is severe,
significant, and long-term abuse.

The system is far from perfect, and some cases escape detection until it is too late. According to the Children’s
Bureau, around 30 percent of children who died in 2016 had prior contact with CPS within the three years prior
to their death.

Like many social services, CPS often has a high caseload. Working for CPS is a stressful job, with starting
salaries between $35,000 and $50,000 annually (Calder, 2016). Many CPS agencies have high turnover rates,
both because of more fruitful opportunities in less stressful positions in other agencies, as well as because of
burnout (Salloum, Kondrat, Johnco, & Olson, 2015). The turnover in personnel can cause gaps in case
management, which is problematic for people of any age,but especially for children and their families who need
protection and services in order to create a safe home (Jonson-Reid et al., 2015).

Reporting Elder Abuse

Elder abuse incidents are underreported.
Image: Elderly hand. Authored by: unclelkt.
Source: License: CC-0

As discussed earlier, there is a significant lack of reporting of elder abuse in the United States. Adult
Protective Services (APS), like CPS, is a special social service agency that looks into issues of abuse
and neglect for disabled adults. This includes everyone over the age of 18, including the elderly. Like
child abuse, there are mandatory reporters, such as doctors and home healthcare workers, who must
report any suspicions of abuse. The investigation for elder abuse is similar to that of child abuse, where
the first thing is to determine whether there is abuse and whether the person is in danger and needs to be
removed from the living situation. An investigation may include the following:

• A visit to the elder person’s residence for observation
• Interviews with the elder and other individuals who are aware of the elder person’s situation
• A review of the elder’s treatment and healthcare records, including records from the nursing home
if he or she is in one

Once the initial investigation is complete, the Elder Abuse/Neglect Unit or another agency specializing
in services to older adults, will work with local law enforcement to determine a course of action.
Because the caregiver and abuser is often a family member, people are reluctant to pursue a case, which
places investigators in a difficult situation. A competent adult has the right to refuse help, and this can
end an investigation, even if there is abuse. Because this is also considered a form of domestic violence,
state and local domestic violence laws come into place, including arresting someone for abuse.

Outcomes of APS Investigations

If there is a case for abuse, the criminal justice system will follow its course of referral to the district
attorney for the start of a case through the criminal system. Of course arresting the caregiver of
someone who has physical and mental health issues is fraught with its own concerns: who will care for
the person in the meantime? Is there somewhere the elderly person can go while the situation is being
resolved? How will the elderly person respond to the removal of the caregiver given their dependence
on that person? If APS is coming in because of self-neglect on the part of the elderly person, they will
try to keep the person in his or her home living independently for as long as possible. This can include
helping the person find services to help him or her.

Victims’ advocates, domestic violence services, social services, and other agencies and organizations
can be notified to help the victim. APS can also link victims of abuse to other services in the
community, such as mental health counselors, and to the courts for a restraining order if needed
(National Adult Protective Services, n.d.). If the abuse took place in a nursing home, other policies also
come into play, including an investigation of the home and its overarching organization, its policies,
and its history of any prior issues. If there are other citations, the location could be closed, and the
residents moved to other facilities. Unfortunately, there are not enough nursing homes in the United
States, and many have waiting lists.

There is an increasing demand for space in nursing homes as the elderly population
increases, and high-quality homes are expensive. High turnover and understaffing in nursing
homes create additional stress, which can lead to increased abuse and neglect.
Image: Nursing care. Authored by: sasint.
Source: License: CC-0

Even if nothing happens beyond the initial investigation, including if the elderly
person does not want to press charges, things can be done to help ensure the person
is safe. According to Markarian (2012), the following actions help the elderly

• Police can put the person on a “high propensity” list and stop by their house
on a regular basis.

• CPS can make appropriate referrals to social service agencies and ensure that
follow up can happen so that victims don’t fall through system cracks.

• Social workers can work with hospital staff on a safe “discharge plan” for the

• Police can advise local domestic violence agencies and advocates as well as
APS for monitoring.

• Advocates and APS can create a personal safety net that includes doctors, in-
home healthcare providers, neighbors, senior centers, guardianship and other
courts, and anyone who would visit the home, like meals-on-wheels, and let
them know to alert authorities if there are any issues.


Both child and elder abuse are serious issues impacting vulnerable populations who
have less power and access to help than other groups of people. This vulnerability
makes their abuse harder to detect and less likely to be reported unless it is serious
and noticeable to others. The increased awareness and protections that have been
put in place to protect these two groups will hopefully decrease the amount of this
type of victimization.


Calder, R. (2016). Low pay, heavy caseloads causing an exodus of child-welfare
workers. New York Post. Retrieved from

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (n.d.).Mandatory reporters of child abuse
and neglect. Retrieved from

Jonson-Reid, M., Drake, B., Kohl, P., Guo, S., Brown, D., McBride, T., … &
Lewis, E. (2017). What do we really know about usual care child protective
services? Children and Youth Services Review, 82, 222–229.

Markarian, A. L. (2012). Protecting elder abuse victims: Building the case,
building the team. National Center for Victims of Crime. 2012 National
Conference, New Orleans, LA. Retrieved from

National Adult Protective Services. (n.d.). How APS helps. Retrieved from http://

Salloum, A., Kondrat, D. C., Johnco, C., & Olson, K. R. (2015). The role of self-
care on compassion satisfaction, burnout and secondary trauma among child
welfare workers. Children and Youth Services Review, 49, 54–61.

Stop It Now. (n.d.).What might happen after a report is filed? Retrieved from

9 Additional Victims
Learning Outcome: Analyze victimization of special populations and property

9.1 Special Population Victims

• Assess mental and physical disabilities victimization and the system


According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2015) of the
U.S. population 12 and older who were not institutionalized, 14 percent were
disabled, and of those, 42 percent were elderly. According to the Americans with
Disabilities Act (2008), a person with a disability has a physical or mental
impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.

Disabilities are most often classified according to six areas of potential limitations:

• Hearing—is deaf or has serious difficulty hearing
• Vision—is blind or has serious difficulty seeing, even with corrective lenses
• Cognitive—has serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making
decisions because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition

• Ambulatory—has an impairment or unsteady gait that makes it impossible or
impractical to walk or climb

• Self-care—has difficulty completing normal necessary daily routines such as
dressing or bathing

• Independent living—has a physical, mental, or emotional condition that
impedes tasks such as visiting a doctor or shopping on one’s own

Disabled people experience a unique type of discrimination called ableism.
Ableism is the social preference of a normal body and mind over those who are
different. Disabled people often experience a world in which their differences limit
their ability to function, and they experience social attitudes and norms that
discriminate and act in a negative way toward them (Friedman & Owens, 2017).
Structural limitations, which are a type of discrimination and thus a type of
victimization, include limiting access to buildings, restrooms, streets and sidewalks,
transportation, routine medical care, and education. Ableism can impact the
treatment of disabled victims and offenders by law enforcement, social services,
protective services, as well the courts and correlational system (Proctor, 2011).

The disabled can
make easy targets for victimization because of their perceived weakness
and is especially true for those with a cognitive disability. In addition,
they can face structural obstacles, like inaccessible buildings, which
increase their struggle to live like everyone else.
Image: Man sitting in a wheelchair. Authored by: Amanda Mills.
and-was-in-the-process-of-exiting-building. License: CC-0


According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Harrell, 2017), disabled people were
2.5 times more likely than the general population to become victims of crime , with
one in five people targeted because of their disability. Those over age 65 were
excluded from this study because being elderly increases the odds of victimization,
as discussed in the module “Victimized Children and Elderly”. Of the six potential
limitation categories listed previously, those with cognitive disabilities were the
most likely to be victimized, including for economic crimes and sexual assault,
while those with hearing disabilities had the lowest victimization rate. According to
the Office of Victims of Crime (OVC, n.d.), those with cognitive disabilities are
between four and ten times more likely to experience victimization than those who
are not cognitively disabled.

According to Harrell (2017), 40 percent of disabled victims knew their offenders
compared to only about 32 percent of nondisabled victims. According to the OVC
(n.d.), in their survey of women with disabilities, 56 percent reported being abused,
and of those, 87 percent were physically abused and 66 percent said they were
sexually abused. Most (74 percent) said their abuse was ongoing, and 55 percent
said there had been several abusers over the course of their lives. Although
pervasive abuse was clearly occurring among the women in this study, only 33
percent sought help.

Brown, Demyan, and Agha (2014) discussed how women with disabilities
experience more severe sexual assault by more perpetrators over a longer period of
time compared to nondisabled women. They also point out that while there is little
research on sexual assault of disabled men, their levels of victimization might be
even higher than that of women. Also, similar to elderly victims, the disabled might
also be denied access to adaptive equipment or withholding of medication or food
as a form of abuse or neglect.


As stated earlier, according to the OVC (n.d.), only 33 percent of disabled victims
seek help. Like other types of victimization, many victims know their perpetrators,
including family members and professional caregivers in the home or in facilities.
This fact reduces the likelihood of reporting a crime. Disabled victims have similar
reasons for not reporting, including embarrassment, fear of not being believed, and
shame around being a victim. They also are concerned that their disability will be
used against them by law enforcement and protection services. Specifically, victims
worry that agencies will use their disability to ignore their victimization or that
reporting will lead to them being institutionalized (Brown, Demyan, & Agha,
2014). Like the elderly, they might depend on the perpetrator for their survival and
access to the outside world, thus limiting their ability to report the crime as well as
the potential for retaliation by their caregiver if they report abuse. They might have

limited knowledge of available support services, and their voices can be easily
silenced and ignored.

There is quite a bit of research on disabled victims’ negative treatment by law
enforcement when victimization is reported. This research supports the idea that
persons with disabilities have fears around reporting. One recent example is the
case of Charles Kinsey, an African American mental health therapist who worked
at a group home in Miami, Florida. Kinsey was trying to find a 23-year-old patient
who had wandered off from the group home. SWAT was looking for a suicidal man
when they came upon Kinsey and the patient. Kinsey laid on the ground on his
back with his hands up, and the 23-year-old sat on the ground holding his toy truck.
As Kinsey tried to tell the officers that his client could not understand the
instructions to lie on the ground with his hands up, one of the officers shot three
rounds at the unarmed pair, striking Kinsey in the leg. Kinsey stated the police
rolled him onto his back, handcuffed him, and left him bleeding without assistance
for 20 minutes. Cell phone video and images support Kinsey’s story. Unlike
Kinsey’s patient, who was not able to clearly communicate and interact with law
enforcement, Kinsey did communicate but was shot. This example demonstrates
how much more difficult it is for some disabled to interact with law enforcement
effectively, and it demonstrates why laws and training are critical for law
enforcement. The officer who shot Kinsey was arrested and charged with attempted
manslaughter and negligence but was acquitted. Events like this further the belief
among the disabled community that law enforcement may not understand the
situations fully and raise fears that they may not act appropriately.

As pointed out by Perlin and Lynch (2016), it is only recently that best practice
programs have been created to train police on how to deal properly with disabled
individuals, especially those with cognitive disability and mental health issues.
Historically, police interactions could escalate quickly because of a lack of
understanding of mental illness and cognitive impairment and how to deal with
mentally disabled individuals. Disabled individuals are more likely to experience
humiliation and escalated use of force, which may not be necessary and can lead to
the use of deadly force. Individuals with disabilities’ interactions with law
enforcement can leave them feeling unheard, unprotected, and often in jail. Crisis
intervention training is a new potential best practice around police response. This
training, according to Perlin and Lynch (2016), has seen a dramatic shift in issues
between law enforcement and cognitively impaired and mentally ill individuals,
reducing arrests for “nuisance crimes” and other issues associated with this

enforcement agencies work with a variety of people with disabilities,
including those who are homeless. Homeless people, especially those
with disabilities, are much more likely to be victims of crime. The
intersection of homelessness, disability, and gender increases the
likelihood of victimization.
Image: A beggar. Authored by: Mattes.
Source: License:

Being part of the criminal justice system is also problematic for the disabled.
Disabled offenders—including the homeless, beggars, and those committing minor
crimes as well as serious crimes—who end up in jail are more likely to experience
victimization while in jail and prison. As pointed out by Petersilia (2001), inmates
with disabilities were more likely to be victims of abuse and assault while in
detention compared to other inmates. In addition, the disabled might need
accommodations, which can lead to isolation within the facility. This isolation

might exacerbate mental health issues and could increase the potential for the
disabled to be victimized by fellow inmates and staff.

The Joint Statement by the National Council on Disability et al. (2007) points out
that advocates and social services are behind on helping the disabled, including
gaps in their knowledge of the many forms of discrimination against the disabled
and awareness of access fo shelters, services, and housing that are capable of
working with the disabled. For example, advocates may not be aware that the Fair
Housing Act (as amended in 1988) covers temporary housing for disabled crime
victims. Many advocates who do not often work with disabled victims are also not
aware of community agencies that might help, limiting their ability to refer victims
to services. These gaps in awareness of rights and services for the disabled can lead
to victims not trusting that they will get help and a reluctance to report
victimization. This lack of trust and reluctance to report could lead to further

Laws That Protect Disabled Victims

A number of laws discussed in prior modules also apply to people with disabilities, including the Violence
Against Women Act, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and the Child Protection Act. In
addition, parts of other laws not yet discussed apply to the disabled. Many broad nonvictimization laws,
like the Fair Housing Act, also have sections that address nondiscrimination against the disabled and
include provisions to ensure that they are accommodated. For example, the Voting Accessibility Act
ensures that the elderly and the disabled have access to polling stations and other special accommodations
when voting to ensure they are not disenfranchised or discriminated against.

The Violence Against Women Act established provisions for intimate partner violence against disabled
women. As pointed out by Breiding and Armour (2015), both disabled men and women are at greater risk
for intimate partner victimization. They suggest that prevention efforts include targeting the disabled
population because of this greater risk. The act includes a grant program to improve state and local
training, services, and access to safe and effective services for disabled individuals. The act also provides
an outreach grant for nonprofits, targeting underserved populations, which includes the disabled. Both
grants aim to improve access to victimization services for the disabled.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires accommodations for people with disabilities in all
areas of public life in order to provide them the same opportunities as everyone else. This

includes ensuring accommodations for disaster and crime victims. Many people who work as
victim advocates are not aware that these requirements apply to shelters, emergency housing,
and other interventions that crime victims might need.
Image: Deaf section for Hurricane Katrina evacuees at the Houston Astrodome. Authored by:
Andrea Booher.
_Photograph_by_Andrea_Booher_taken_on_09-10-2005_in_Texas.jpg. License: CC-0

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), passed in 1990, ensures the civil
rights of all disabled persons (similar to that of the Civil Rights Act). It covers
equal opportunities in state and local government services, public accommodations,
employment, education, transportation, and telecommunications. Because law
enforcement, the courts, corrections, and social services fall under state and local
governments, they are required to comply with the requirements of the ADA.
Issues in law enforcement interactions may occur when the officer does not realize
a person is disabled and thinks they are just not complying. The officer has a
responsibility to determine the person’s ability to respond and change their
interaction techniques accordingly, as opposed to assuming noncompliance and
using force. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division
developed guidance to increase police awareness of disabilities and to promote
proper training for law enforcement on how to interact with the disabled and ensure
ADA compliance. Much of this training is still being developed, and issues
between law enforcement and the disabled continue today.

Crime Victims with Disabilities Awareness Act, passed in 1998, was supposed to
raise awareness of the issues facing crime victims with cognitive disabilities. The
act mandates the collection of data on victimization in order to create stronger
protections and new strategies to reduce victimization among this population. The
act has increased the amount of data available for studying victims with disabilities.

The Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (1980) allows the Department
of Justice to investigate and correct serious deficiencies that impact the health and
safety of institutionalized persons, including the disabled. As discussed earlier,
disabled people who are institutionalized or in prison are more likely to be
victimized. Facilities covered by this act include public nursing homes, mental
health facilities, state and locally operated jails and prisons, juvenile correctional
facilities, and institutions for individuals with intellectual disabilities. It does not
cover private facilities, which is becoming problematic as the use of private
detention centers and nursing homes becomes more common (FindLaw, n.d.).

Although laws protect the disabled, clearly a need exists for more training and
programs to assist the disabled. More work is needed within the community to
inform the disabled about their rights and the services they can receive if they are
victimized. Improvements to the criminal justice and social service systems could
help ensure disabled victims feel like they will be heard if they report a crime.
Improvements in detecting abuse, especially for those who are isolated in facilities
or by caregivers, may reduce the risk of victimization among the disabled.


Americans with Disabilities Act. (n.d.).What is the definition of disability under
the ADA? Retrieved from

Breiding, M. J., & Armour, B. S. (2015). The association between disability and
intimate partner violence in the United States. Annals of Epidemiology; 25(6): 455–

Brown, A., Demyan, A., & Agha, S. (2014). Research on victimization among
people with disabilities. National Institute of Health. Retrieved from https://

FindLaw. (n.d.). Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act. Retrieved from http://

Friedman, C., & Owen, A. L. (2017). Defining disability: Understandings of and
attitudes towards ableism and disability. Disability Studies Quarterly, 37(1).

Harrell, E. (2017) Crime against persons with disabilities, 2009–2015. Bureau of
Justice Statistics. Retrieved from

Joint Statement by the National Council on Disability, Association of University
Centers on Disabilities, and the National Center for Victims of Crime. (2007).
Breaking the silence on crime victims with disabilities in the United States.
Retrieved from

Nixon, M., Thomas, S. D., Daffern, M., & Ogloff, J. R. (2017). Estimating the risk
of crime and victimisation in people with intellectual disability: A data-linkage
study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 52(5), 617–626.

Perlin, M. L., & Lynch, A. J. (2016). ‘To wander off in shame’: Deconstructing the
shaming and shameful arrest policies of urban police departments in their treatment
of persons with mental disabilities. In D. Rothbart (Ed.), Power, humiliation and
conflict (NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2839820). Available at SSRN:

Perlin, M. L., & Gallagher, M. (2017). Why a disability rights tribunal must be
premised on therapeutic jurisprudence principles. Psychological Injury and Law,
10(3), 244–253.

Petersilia, J. R. (2001). Crime victims with developmental disabilities: A review
essay. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 28(6), 655–694.

Proctor, S. N. (2011). Implicit bias, attributions, and emotions in decisions about
parents with intellectual disabilities by child protection workers (Doctoral
dissertation). Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

9.2 Property Crime Victims

• Examine property crime and system responses.

The most common forms of crime in the United States are property crimes, and yet they get little
attention by the media compared to crimes like murder. The most commonly reported property crimes
are burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson, which are considered part of the Part I index
offenses used by the FBI to calculate crime rates. Theft-type crime, according to the FBI (2016), is “the
taking of money or property, but there is no force or threat of force against the victims.”

Stealing a bicycle is one common example of larceny-theft. The owners of this bicycle only
locked up the front wheel, which is easy to remove, leaving the rest of the bike vulnerable to
theft by simply removing the wheel. According to Jaffe (2014), around half of all active
cyclists have their bike stolen, especially in cities. Although there are bike registries, few
cyclists register their bikes, and many believe that the police will not or cannot do anything
to help recover their property, so they do not report the theft, even though two-thirds of
recovered stolen bikes were reported to the police.
Image: Bicycle theft. Authored by: Popperipopp.

Source: License: CC-0


Although definitions around different types of property crime can vary across states, the four used for
by the FBI are fairly consistent across the country. The FBI defines these four crimes as follows:

• Burglary—the unlawful entry into a structure (home, barn, office, and railroad car are all included,
but not motor vehicles) to commit a felony or theft. Burglary has three subcategories: forcible
entry, unlawful entry without use of force, and attempted forcible entry.

• Larceny-theft—the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the
possession or constructive possession of another, including bicycles, parts of motor vehicles,
shoplifting, and any other theft that occurs without force or fraud.

• Motor vehicle theft—the theft of a self-propelled vehicle that runs on land surfaces and not on rails
• Arson—willful or malicious burning or attempted burning of a structure, vehicle, or aircraft, with
or without intent to defraud.


Burning down of buildings and motor-vehicles is the most common type of arson.
Many cases that might be arson do not have enough evidence to support claiming
arson as the cause and, thus, go uncounted in arson statistics.
Image: Arson destroys cabin. Authored by: Mangrove Mike.
Source: License: CC-
BY 2.0

The reporting of property crime tends to be somewhat higher than for other crimes because
many people want to receive money for their loss through their insurance and that requires a
police report. Although the statistics reported by the FBI are not perfect, they are closer to the
true amount of crime than some types of violent crimes like sexual assault and aggravated

According to the FBI, in 2016 there were 7,919,035 property crime offenses (a rate of 2,450 per
100,000 people). Over the past 10 years, the property crime rate has decreased by 19.9 percent.
The number of property crime offenses cited by the FBI is about half of what the Bureau of
Justice Statistics found in using the NCVS. The BJS cites 15,917,430 property crimes in 2015
(Morgan & Kena, 2016), showing the dark figure of property crime. (The dark figure of crime is
a term used by criminologists to describe crimes that are never reported or never discovered.)
The most common crime was larceny-theft, which accounted for 71.2 percent of all property

crimes followed by burglary (19.1 percent) and motor vehicle theft (9.7 percent), according to
the FBI. Property crime losses cost the United States around $15.6 billion in 2016.

Larceny was the most common type of property crime. There were 5,638,455 reported larceny-
thefts in 2016, with a rate of 1,750 per 100,000 people, which is a decrease of 20.2 percent since
2007. The annual cost of larceny-theft is $5.6 billion, with each theft costing an average of
$1,000. There were 1,515,096 reported burglaries in 2016, which was down 30 percent
compared to 2007. Burglary costs around $3.6 billion in property loss, and the average cost per
offense is around $2,361 (FBI, 2016). The majority of burglaries (69.5 percent) occurred in a

Motor-vehicle theft is separated from other types of property crime because of the frequency at which it occurs. In
2016, there were 765,484 reported motor-vehicle thefts, which is a rate of 236.9 per 100,000 people. Compared to
2007, 2016 saw a 30.4 percent drop in this type of theft. Motor-vehicle thefts cost $5.9 billion in 2016, with an
average cost of $7,680 per theft.

It is difficult to get good statistics on arson because of how it is classified. Arson is a fire that is intentionally set, so
fires that are not thought to be suspicious or are of unknown origin are not included in arson statistics. Other factors
that affect the statistics on arson are that agencies vary in terms of reporting fires as arson, and their abilities to
thoroughly investigate fires for arson also varies. In 2016, there were 43,249 arsons reported to the FBI.

During the 1960s and 1970s, 10 different African American churches were burned down, often as part of
the backlash over the Civil Rights Movement. One of the more famous examples of this type of arson is
the 16th Street Baptist Church, which serves as the headquarters of many of the movement’s meetings in
Birmingham, Alabama. On September 15, 1963, two members of the KKK planted 19 sticks of dynamite
in the basement of the church, exploding it during Sunday morning service, killing four young girls and
wounding 22 others. This was part of a string of 45 bombings targeting African Americans.

Image: Facade of 16th Street Baptist Church. Authored by: Andre Natta.
Source: License: CC-BY 2.0

A clearance rate is where there is an arrest and the case is turned over to the prosecutor, or it is solved by
exceptional means, which is when the case can be considered cleared but without the arrest of the offender such as
when the offender is dead or extradition to the United States is denied.

Property crimes have an 18.3 percent clearance rate, with larceny-theft and arson having the highest
rates at 20.4 percent and 20.8 percent, respectively. This is low compared to violent crime, which has an
overall clearance rate of 45.6 percent; murder and aggravated assault have clearance rates of 59.4
percent and 53.3 percent, respectively. The low clearance rate for property crimes is partially because it
is harder to investigate and solve property crime.


Breaking into motor vehicles is one of the most common types of property crimes. When
people leave valuables in plain sight, the car becomes an even greater target for theft.
Although the recovery of motor vehicles is one of the most cleared types of cases, the
recovery of electronics, purses, and especially cash are rare.
Image: Auto theft. Authored by: skldrd.
Source: License: CC-BY 2.0

According to Morgan and Kena (2016), motor vehicle theft was the most common property crime
reported to the police (80 percent) followed by burglaries (50 percent) and thefts (30 percent). In
addition, the rates of victimizations were higher in urban areas than in suburban and rural areas, fitting
with historic trends in property crime victimization (Morgan & Kena, 2016). Yet, urban property crimes

were less likely to be reported to the police (34 percent) according to the NCVS, when compared to
suburbs (38 percent).

Greenberg and Beach (2004) examined why property crime victims might not report their victimization
to the police. They found that the value of the property lost was a big factor because the more property
lost, the more likely they were to report it. In addition, like other types of crime, the level of fear the
victim experienced also impacted reporting—the more afraid the victim was, the more likely they were
to report the crime. They also found that being advised to call the police by family and friends
significantly increased the likelihood of reporting the crime.

As with other types of crime, barriers such as language, knowledge about services, and historical biases
all come into play for reporting property crimes. Shame and embarrassment about being a victim also
reduces reporting to law enforcement.

According to a 2014 FBI report, a property crime occurred every 3.8 seconds and a violent crime
occurred every 26.3 seconds.
Image: 2014 Crime Clock. Authored by: By Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, D.C. via
Wikimedia Commons.
License: CC-0

Property crime remains the most common crime that occurs in the United States. Although there is no way to
stop a determined criminal, many strategies can decrease the risk of being a property crime victim. Many of the
recommendations to help prevent property crime come from Routine Activities Theory, discussed in the
module “Introduction to Victimology”. That included ensuring that homes, cars, and workplaces have good
locks and other security, which are locked every time you leave. Personal property like purses, electronics, and
other goods should always be secured and not left unattended. Personal items should not be left in vehicles
unattended because they increase the potential for both the items and the vehicle to be stolen. Taking reasonable
steps to create less suitable targets has been shown to reduce the risk of property crime victimization.


Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2016). Uniform crime reports, 2016. Retrieved from:

Greenberg, M. S., & Beach, S. R. (2004). Property crime victims’ decision to notify the police: Social,
cognitive, and affective determinants. Law and Human Behavior, 28(2), 177.

Jaffe, E. (2014). These 8 depressing bike theft statistics show just how bad the problem is. Retrieved from

Morgan, R. E., & Kena, G. (2016). Criminal victimization, 2016. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice,
Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from

10 Homicide Victims
Learning Outcome: Compare types of homicides and the criminal justice system’s

10.1 Definitions of Homicide Victimization

• Analyze homicide victimization and the criminal justice system’s response.

Classifications of Homicide

The vast majority of homicides are reported to the police making it, of all of the
crimes committed, one of the easiest to track. Reporting is often done by a victim’s
family or other community members who discover the body, first responders
coming to help victims, or when police respond to a crime scene.

Homicide is the illegal killing of a human. The fact that the law indicates that
homicide is illegal means there are occasions where it is legal to kill someone, such
as self-defense, war, as well as carrying out the death penalty. Illegal killings can
range from manslaughter to murder, each with varying degrees of severity. The
classification of a homicide depends on the intentions and whether it was
premeditated. Premeditation means some level of planning occurred before the
killing took place. Premeditated killing does not need to be focused on a particular
victim; it just needs to show that there was a plan to kill. Note that attempted
murders are classified under aggravated assaults, including aggravated assault with
a deadly weapon.

First-degree murder is the most common type of homicide. It is where there was
both the intent to kill as well as some level of premeditation (FindLaw, n.d.). An
example would be if someone got into a bar fight, left the bar, went to his car, got a
gun, came back inside, and shot someone. Even though very little time lapsed
between the fight and the killing, the fact that the person went and got a lethal
weapon shows both premeditation and intent.

Second-degree murder is when there was an intention to kill but no premeditation
(FindLaw, n.d.). It can be killing someone in the heat of the moment. An example
would be if two people got into a fight and one cut the other with a bottle and the
victim died. The intention to do serious harm was present because there was a
weapon, but there was a lack of intention to kill. The nuanced difference between
first- and second-degree murder depends on state laws, but it is generally agreed
that the intersection of premeditation and intention distinguishes the two.

Manslaughter is the less serious charge against someone who has committed a
homicide. Involuntary manslaughter is when there was no intention to kill but
someone still died (FindLaw, n.d.). Involuntary manslaughter can include neglect
of a child, elderly person, or disabled person. It can also include reckless behaviors

like drunk driving. Voluntary manslaughter is when there was intent to kill
someone, but there was a reasonable provocation that would cause someone to
“lose control.” One example is the honest but unreasonable use of lethal force for
self-defense. The person might have felt that killing someone was reasonable at the
time, but it is clear to everyone else that the killing was not justified.

Of the four types of homicide, voluntary manslaughter has the most court cases to help refine its
definition. A number of cases have helped define what can be included in voluntary manslaughter.
People v. Barry (1979) is a case in which the husband, Joseph Berry, killed his wife, Rachel
Pessah, after she admitted to adultery. The killing occurred two weeks after her first admission of
cheating, but during those two weeks, according to the case, she had taunted her husband while
she continued to express sexual interest in him. The night of the murder, they fought, and Berry
ended up strangling his wife with a phone cord. The legal angle for this being classified as
voluntary manslaughter was that there had been a long period of provocation as well as the fight
that led the killing to be “in the heat of the moment.” The courts overturned the first-degree
murder to voluntary manslaughter.

Building on the Berry case, both People v. Chevalier (1989) and State v. Shane (1993) held that
just telling someone about adultery was not sufficient provocation to justify killing. The cases held
that there must be adequate provocation, meaning that the events that occurred would cause any
reasonable person to “lose control,” leading to the killing. Opponents of this concept of adequate
provocation point out that people are expected to control their behavior, even when they are angry,
and that this can lead to blaming the murder victim for provoking someone to become so mad they
commit murder. Adequate provocation is difficult to prove because often just the victim and the
perpetrator are present; clearly the victim cannot present his or her side of the story (Roth &
Blayen, 2012).


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics on homicide do not include deaths caused by
negligence, suicide, accident, or justifiable homicides. The FBI has a separate database for
reporting justifiable homicides, which are the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the
line of duty or killed by a citizen during the commission of a felony (FBI, 2016).

In 2016, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports data showed 17,250 murders in the United States,
which is a slight increase since 2007. The vast majority of homicide victims were men (11,821),
with black men accounting for 6,749 deaths and white men accounting for 4,665 deaths. There
were 1,977 Latino victims and 389 Latina victims. Most homicide happens within race—blacks
most often kill other blacks, and whites most often kill other whites.

This figure shows homicide victimization by race and sex. Black men have a much
higher number of victimizations compared to white men, and men overall are more
likely than women to be victims.
Image: 2016 Homicide victims by Race and Sex.
Source: Barnes & Noble Education. License: CC-BY NC SA

Guns are the most common weapon used in homicides; the vast majority of them are handguns. Weapons that
were not guns accounted for 27 percent of all murder weapons. Compared to other countries with similar
cultures, the United States has one of the highest rates of gun use during a homicide, with a gun death rate of
3.85 per 100,000 as compared to Canada, which has a rate of 0.48 per 100,000, Germany (0.12 per 100,000),
and the United Kingdom (0.07 per 100,000) (Aizenman, 2017). The United States is ranked 31st in the world in
terms of gun deaths.

Although the media often discuss the use of semiautomatic rifles, handguns, by far, are the most
commonly used weapon in homicides. They are also the most commonly used gun in suicides.
Image: Weapons used in Homicides.
Source: Barnes & Noble Education. License: CC-BY NC SA

How Police Investigate Homicide

The first thing an officer should do upon arriving at the scene of a potential crime is to check if anyone might
be hurt, call for appropriate backup and assistance, and administer first aid if needed. The most important thing
that needs to happen upon arriving at the scene of a potential crime is to preserve the crime scene as much as
possible. Once law enforcement is aware that a killing has occurred, an investigation is started to determine the
cause of death, to identify the victim(s) and suspect(s), and to determine the circumstances that led to the death.

Police are responsible for the investigation of homicides and bringing all of the evidence to the
prosecutors. Some agencies are large enough to have specific investigators who gather crime scene
evidence and detectives who work exclusively on homicides.
Image: The Minneapolis Police Crime Lab. Authored by: Tony Webster.
File:Minneapolis_Police_Crime_Lab_(19137251083).jpg. License: CC-BY 2.0

Securing the scene is important because officers need to be able to gather as much
evidence as possible as well as identify witnesses in order to ensure they gather all
possible relevant information about a case (Howell, 1999). This is true regardless
of the type of crime that has occurred. Evidence gathering can begin once the scene
is safe and secure and anyone who is injured has received proper medical attention.
All potential evidence, including any weapons, clothing, bullets, fingerprints, body
fluids, need to be noted, numbered, photographed, and collected as part of the case.

Records of everyone who was at the scene, including medical personnel and other
law enforcement as well as bystanders, need to be recorded, and those people need
to be interviewed by the investigating officers. If medical personnel were there
before law enforcement, they need to be interviewed about anything that was
moved and where they were in order to account for footprints and other evidence
that were not part of the crime. If the victim was still alive at the scene but near
death, then an attempt is made to get information from him or her about what
happened and who committed the crime. This is called a dying declaration, and it
can be used in court to give a dead victim a voice (Howell, 1999).

A suspect would be taken into custody if present. If the department is large enough
to have a homicide investigation team or a crime scene team, they would be
brought in to continue collecting evidence. Some agencies are too small and may
contact the sheriff’s department or state investigation agencies for assistance if the
case is going to be complicated. If the investigation might involve the violation of
federal laws, the FBI might also be brought in to assist with the investigation. If the
victim was dead at the scene, the local medical examiners or coroner would be
brought in to assist in the investigation and, in all cases of homicide, the victim will
be taken to the morgue for an autopsy to determine the official cause of death.

All of the evidence collected at the scene is sent to the appropriate labs and is used
as part of the case by the prosecutors. Law enforcement will work with the district
attorney to ensure the accuracy of the evidence. The district attorney will also
determine if there is enough evidence to bring a case against the suspect and what
the charges should be (Howell, 1999).

The Courts and Punishment for Homicide

As stated earlier, the prosecutor decides whether there is enough evidence to bring
charges and determines what those charges will be. If there is a suspect and enough
evidence to charge that person, there might be a bail hearing if the suspect is
eligible for bail. If the person is not a flight risk, bail might be considered;
otherwise, they are kept in custody.

Suspects either hire their own attorney or have one appointed for them if they
cannot afford one. Many public defenders have large caseloads, and the defender’s
office is often underfunded (Van Brunt, 2015), making it difficult to ensure good
legal representation for defendants. According to the U.S. Department of Justice,
73 percent of public defenders have a caseload larger than is recommended (Farole

& Langton, 2007). This means that defendants might be given inadequate legal
representation, which can lead to a more serious conviction than was warranted for
the crime.

Homicide cases are held in the court that has original jurisdiction, which is the
trial court. This is where the cases are tried and the question of facts are determined
(Gaines & Miller, 2009). Specifically, the courts determine what events actually
occurred and how well the evidence demonstrates that the person is guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt, which is the level of proof needed to convict someone of a crime.
A trial court is where the judge and jury hear all of the evidence and witness
testimony around what occurred and determine whether there is enough evidence to
support the charges that were brought. Trials are rare in the United States because
between 90 percent and 95 percent of all cases are decided with plea bargains,
including murder cases.

Once a sentence has been put into place, there is the possibility of appeal to the
appellate court. Unlike the court of original jurisdiction, in the appellate court a
judge decides whether the case should be reversed or remanded back to the original
court for a new trial (Gaines & Miller, 2009). The appellate court does not
determine whether the defendant was innocent or guilty, only whether there were
issues in terms of how the law was applied during the original trial.

Resources for Families of Homicide Victims

As discussed in earlier modules, families of homicide victims have access to a
number of resources, including compensation funds, reconciliation mediation, and
therapy. Larger communities might have support groups and more services to help
families through these times. These types of resources might not be available in
smaller communities where crime, and especially violent crime, is not common
because these resources might not be needed as often.

In addition to dealing with the grief of losing a loved one, the fear of victimization
increases, and all of the issues previously discussed can occur with fear of crime,
such as changes in behaviors and becoming fearful of others. Children, especially,
might need additional help to deal with grief and life changes that come from
homicide. Children might not understand where the victim has gone and might
think the victim will eventually return. People who witness a homicide might have
posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or other mental health issues,
which can be difficult for adults to deal with, let alone children. If the victim was
the primary parent of the child, the child would also have to deal with a new living
situation, which might include foster care or a group home while a more permanent
living situation is arranged. If the victim was the primary income earner in the
family, the family must also find new sources of income to pay for expenses
including medical bills as well as try to ensure stability during their mourning.

Homicide is a tragic crime that not only impacts the victims but entire
communities. It can undermine feelings of security in the community and make
people fearful and feel vulnerable in a place where they should be secure.


Aizenman, N. (2017). Gun violence: How the U.S. compares with other countries.
NPR. Retrieved from

Farole, D. J., & Langton, L. (2010). County-based and local public defender
offices, 2007. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice
Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2016). 2016 Uniform Crime Reports.
Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

FindLaw. (n.d.). Homicide definitions. Retrieved from

Gaines, L. K., & Miller, R. L. (2009). Criminal justice in action. 5th eds.
Wadsworth Education; New York.

Howell, J. M. (1999). Homicide investigation standard operating procedures.
Retrieved from

Roth, L., & Blayden, L. (2012). Provocation and self-defense in intimate partner
and sexual advance homicides. Sydney, Australia: NSW Parliamentary Library.

Van Brunt, A. (2015, June 17). Poor people rely on public defenders who are too
overworked to defend them. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://

10.2 Exception Homicides

• Differentiate extreme and exception homicides, including effects on victims’
families and the criminal justice system’s response.

Serial Killers

A serial killer is commonly defined as someone who has killed three or more
victims with a cooling off period between each killing. However, the FBI defines
serial killing more specifically as two or more murders that are committed as
separate events often, but not always, by someone acting alone (Morton, 2005).
Although serial killers kill for a wide variety of reasons, gratification and power are
often underlying motives. Many killers also have sexual gratification as part of
their motivation. In addition, many want attention, thrills, and even financial gain
that might come from killing (Morton, 2005). According to Aamodt (2015), who
has counted the number of serial killers and their victims globally since 1900,
around 3,000 serial killers have claimed roughly 10,000 victims. The most common
methods of killing are shooting (43 percent) and strangulation (22 percent). Other
common methods include poisoning, stabbing, and bludgeoning.

There is a long history of serial killers globally. Modern serial killers tend to get the
attention of the media, and brutal or long-acting killers tend to end up as part of
popular culture. Victims, on the other hand, rarely end up as part of the cultural
narrative (Eliasson-Nannini & Sommerlad-Rogers, 2012). Victims are part of the
news cycle as it comes to light that a serial killer is at work. Victims might be an
important part of the initial story, but their role often fades once the killer’s identity
becomes known, and then the victims are often relegated to an insignificant part of
the story. Many victims are not even mentioned by the media and in studies of
killers. Eliason-Nannini and Sommerlad-Rogers (2012) found that victims were
more likely to be covered if they were children or elderly or if the killer was not a
white male (Eliasson-Nannini, Bradley, Sommerlad-Rogers, & Pearson-Nelson,

A killer’s choice of victim often depends on available targets as well as some
underlying motive to target that population. For example, killers within the medical
profession are much more likely to choose victims who are patients, caregivers, or
nurses. Killers within the medical profession give several reasons for targeting their
patients, including financial gain, “easing their pain,” and sadistic pleasure. Killers
who target the chronically ill are more difficult to detect because the likelihood that
the victims were going to pass soon anyway is high, so their deaths do not arouse

Female serial killers are rare, accounting for around 15 percent of the total serial
killer population (Hickey, 2013), and women only commit around 11 percent of
murders in general. Women are much more likely to target their families, and
female serial killers have been known to target both husbands and children. Women
who target their husbands for financial gains and kill two or more intimate partners

are considered black widows. Vronsky (2007), in his research, found that female
killers have the same motives as male killers. Female serial killers can be difficult
to detect because women tend to use more subtle methods, placing more potential
victims at risk.

Although serial killers and their crimes make headlines and great thriller movies,
serial killers are rare. Since 1980, 87 serial killers have been caught in the United
States. Among those cases, 68.2 percent of the victims were white and 23.8 percent
were black (this is much different than the homicide statistics presented previously,
in which the majority of the victims were black); 53.8 percent of the victims were
male while 46.2 percent were female. The percentage of female victims is higher in
serial killings than in homicides, partially because the two most prolific serial
killers, Gary Ridgway (the Green River Killer) and Ted Bundy, who each had more
than 30 confirmed victims, tended to target young women. John Wayne Gacy and
Dean Corll, on the other hand, only killed young men and boys.

Whereas Gacy often found his victims through his work or volunteer
work, today’s killers are using technology to lure victims. The Internet is
fast becoming a tool used by serial killers to get victims to meet them in
places. Richard Beasley and John Edward Robinson used websites like
Craigslist and chat rooms to get victims. As social media become more
commonly used, serial killers are grabbing on to technology to help them
Image: John Wayne Gacy. Authored by: White House photographer.
File:Johnwaynegacyrosalynncarter.jpg. License: CC-0

When law enforcement sees a number of victims who have similar characteristics
or are killed in a similar way or situation, they might begin to suspect a serial killer.
Detecting a serial killer can be problematic because U.S. agencies are fragmented,
making it difficult to detect commonalities across jurisdictions. The core
investigation of serial killings mirrors the process of investigating homicides, as
described in the previous section. A task force might be created, and information
might be shared across many jurisdictions to see if other victims might have similar
situations as the victims being investigated by the task force. By working together
and ensuring that all relevant information is in one place for everyone to see, law
enforcement is better able to inform the public about the possibility of a serial

killer, and hopefully prevent additional victims, as well as get information from the
public about potential leads.

If a serial killer is caught and has victims in multiple jurisdictions, the court case
can be complex. It might be possible to bundle all of the cases together if they all
occurred within one county or state. Multiple court cases might also be possible,
which can help ensure a conviction if there was not enough evidence to convince a
jury about the first case. However, it can also mean that victims’ families may have
to go through more stress as they relive the killings. It also means extended media
coverage. The media may want to talk to families, which can be intrusive and cause
families additional grief.

Mass Murders

Mass murder is the killing of multiple people during a single event and includes mass shootings and
bombings (Morton, 2005). A spree killer has multiple victims and may have multiple locations, but the
events occur in a very short period and in close proximity (Morton, 2005). Mass murder is intentional, but
often the choice of victims is indiscriminate, although mass murders are often associated with specific
locations, such as a school, mall, or religious center.

Mass shootings, according to Berkowitz, Lu, and Alcantara (2018), are shootings of four or more people
by a single shooter (although a few cases involved two shooters). The shootings cannot be tied to other
types of crimes, like it being gang-related or part of a robbery, and it cannot have taken place exclusively
in a private home. Most shooters carry more than one weapon, and many of the weapons were obtained
legally (Berkowitz, Lu, & Alcantara, 2018), which is one reason mass shootings are a catalyst for
discussion around gun control in the United States (another reason is that the number of mass shootings is

The first modern mass shooting was at the University of Texas (1966) by Charles Whitman, who killed 16
people from a clock tower on the campus. He had also killed both his mother and wife in their homes the
previous night. The most deadly mass shooting to date is the Las Vegas shooting that took place in 2017
during the Route 91 Harvest music festival. Stephen Paddick killed 59 people and injured 851 in less than
10 minutes. Law enforcement found 12 AR-15 rifles, 10 AR-10 rifles, and a revolver in his hotel room. It
is thought that he shot more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition.

Mass bombings are more common internationally, especially among terrorist organizations who employ
suicide bombings as a common means of accomplishing their goals. As with mass shooters, bombings
target a location, often a crowded place like a market, religious building, or event like a concert, but the
victims are not specific targets. Many of the most notable bombings internationally are associated with
ISIS and other extremist groups. However, in the United States, the largest mass bombing was the
Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, which killed 169 people, including 15 children who attended day care
on site, and damaged 324 other buildings in the blast. It was the worst intentional mass bombing to date in
the United States. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were anti-government extremists seeking revenge
for the Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge incidents.

Compensation for families or victims of mass shootings or bombings would come through the normal
victims’ assistance programs that have been discussed in previous modules. Many mass shooters are killed
during the shooting incident and few shooters or bombers ever go free because of the massive media focus
on the event. Some, like Timothy McVeigh, receive the death penalty if that is an option in the jurisdiction
in which they are tried. Others will spend life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was the location of one of the most
tragic mass shootings in U.S. history. On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot
and killed his mother in her home. Then he drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed
20 first graders and six adult staff members. In the end, 28 people, including the perpetrator,
were killed. It is one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history and is among the five
most deadly mass shootings.
Image: Sandy Hook Elementary School shortly after the shooting. Authored by: VOA.
Source: License: CC-0

Mass murders are not committed just by individuals. State-sponsored mass murder includes the killing of
protesters, mass executions, and genocidal massacres. The 20th century is full of mass murders, including cases
in Rwanda, Bosnia, Angola, Iraq, and Cambodia, along with the infamous genocides committed by the Nazis
during World War II and Stalin in the Soviet Union. Other examples of mass killings include the My Lai
Massacre by the United States during the Vietnam War, the Nanking Massacre by the Japanese Army in China
during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the Wounded Knee Massacre at the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation
in 1890. State-sponsored massacres often involve a military force killing a significant number of unarmed
civilians, often for political gains for the government. According to Querido (2009), the potential for mass
murder against civilians is similar to what could also lead to a civil war. Ethnic minorities in a country are
particularly vulnerable to becoming the targets of mass murder because they are often already perceived as a
“problem group” and tend to lack political and social power to protect themselves (Querido, 2009).

Although we often think of genocides and state-sponsored mass murder as something that happens
“elsewhere,” the history of the United States is littered with examples of state-sponsored mass
murder, specifically against Native Americans. Wounded Knee, shown in the image above, is but
one example of the U.S. military killing large numbers of unarmed civilians. Other examples include
the Buffalo Gap Massacre, Alma Massacre (35 dead), and the Stronghold Massacre (75 dead).
Image: Wounded Knee Aftermath. Authored by: Trager & Kuhn.
Source: License: CC-0

Victims of state-sponsored mass murder have little recourse. Because massacres are often associated with other
types of internal issues, many victims have to wait until there is some form of peace and stability in the country
in order to begin the process for justice and compensation. There are some avenues within the international
courts, with the International Criminal Courts having taken on cases for Bosnia and Rwanda, but these need to
be brought by other nations, not by individuals or organizations, making it difficult at best to get justice, let
alone any assistance to help those who were victims and their families.

As with serial killers, mass murder, regardless of its form, leads to the perpetrators being the focus of both
research and the media. This is true even in the case of state-sponsored mass murder, where we hear about
Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and Mladic, who were the leaders of their countries when mass murders
occurred. Victims are rarely named or described outside of memorials (assuming there is one for the victims)
partially because of the sheer number of victims, but also because there is such a great fascination with why
someone would choose to become a mass killer.

Gang Homicides

Gang activity has been kept separate from other types of violence because of the underlying reasons
behind the violence, which is often revenge or illegal activities. Gangs in the United States have been
around since the 1800s, especially in places like New York City, where poor European immigrant kids
sought to both protect themselves and find ways to make money (for example, the 5 Point Gang, an Irish
gang in the 1820s). There were nativist anti-immigrant gangs in New York as well, like the Bowery Boys.
Many of these gang members had working class or day labor jobs (Howell, 2015). European immigrants
were the main population from which gangs drew their members through the 1950s, although Hispanic
and black gangs began to appear as well. While gang fights and violence were part of the gang narrative of
this time, the use of lethal violence was limited by the types of weapons available.

The number of non-white gangs began to increase after World War II, with an increase in public housing,
a continuation of segregated communities, and decreasing economic opportunities in cities. By the 1980s,
the predominant gang composition was non-white (Howell, 2015). Starting in the 1970s, the formation of
the Bloods and Crips in the Los Angeles area became a major turning point for lethal violence among
gangs as local street gangs joined together under federated alliances to increase resources and
opportunities for members. Starting in the 1980s, the crack epidemic and the War on Drugs brought gang
violence, and crime in general, to a critical point (Howell, 2015). Gangs consisting of more diverse
immigrant populations from Central and South America have also become commonplace, with gangs like
MS-13 making national news as part of a renewed narrative about “bad immigrants.”

The National Gang Center (2012) estimates around 31,000 gangs exist in the United States, with two
thirds in large cities or suburban areas. Gang-related homicides account for around 13 percent of all U.S.
homicides. Peaking in the early 1990s with the drug wars, gang violence has remained a significant cause
of victimization for U.S. urban centers. The rate is often higher for major cities with high concentrations
of gang members, such as Los Angeles, where 58 percent of all homicides in 2006 were gang-related
(Murr, 2007). Many police departments in urban areas cite the same three things as leading to the trends in
gang homicides and the increased rate of homicides in these areas: violence associated with the drug trade,
the sheer number of guns in the United States, and violence and retaliation that is associated with gang
membership (Sanburn & Johnson, 2017). Some cities, such as Dallas, San Jose, Phoenix, St. Louis, and
Memphis, are seeing jumps in their gang-related homicides.

Much of the increase in homicides in the 1980s and 1990s had to do with the increase in gang
violence, both in Chicago as well as across the United States. This violence is directly tied to
the War on Drugs and the crack epidemic.
Image: Homicide rate in Chicago 1870 to 2015. Authored by: Delphi234.
File:Chicago_Homicides_each_Year.svg. License: CC-0

The majority of gang victims mirror the U.S. gang populations: they are primarily young, minority
males living in poor communities in urban areas, meaning that gang violence is disproportionately
impacting communities of color, especially black and Hispanic, but also Asian Americans and Native
Americans. In addition to street violence, concern is also growing about the connections between social
media and gang violence. Recent research by Patton, Rambow, Auerbach, Li, and Frey (2018) shows
that not only are gangs impacting the lives of community members, but there is also now a growing
connection between social-media threats and real-life threats by gang members toward both other gang
members and community members.

Gang violence continues to be a significant problem in large and medium-size cities, where
high rates of poverty and disenfranchisement create opportunities for gangs to recruit young
members. Often gangs require new members to commit an act of violence (called “blood
in”), often against rival gang members. This increases the potential for gang members to
become victims as well as perpetrators.
Image: An MS-13 suspect bearing gang tattoos is handcuffed. Authored by: FBI.
Source: License:

Of course, gangs are the symptom of underlying problems of long histories of poverty, racial
segregation policies, and neglected communities in which good-paying jobs are hard to come by,
especially for those with only a high school education or less. Many programs that are seeking to stop
gang violence are working to combat these issues, as well as prevent gang membership. Because
victims are often also gang members and their families, targeting the root cause of gang violence is an
important and growing strategy to prevent victimization.

Communities are trying to assist gang victims and their families in creative ways. Wayfair, a program
that was started in Los Angeles, was developed to help families of victims throughout the entire
recovery process. They help provide mental health and grief counseling and help with funeral expenses,
relocation costs, and serve as victims advocates throughout court proceedings. The goal of Wayfair, and
programs like it, is to assist the families and develop relationships with relatives and community
members that can help catch and convict perpetrators (Salazar, 2017).


Aamodt, M. G. (2015, November 23). Serial killer statistics. Retrieved from http://

Berkowitz, B., Lu, D., & Alcantara, C. (2018). The terrible numbers that grow with
each mass shooting. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://

Eliasson-Nannini, J., Bradley, C., Sommerlad-Rogers, D., & Pearson-Nelson, B.
(2010). The Social Construction of Serial Murderer Victims: A content analysis of
newspaper coverage. Sociological Imagination, 46(1), 44–64.

Eliasson-Nannini, J., & Sommerlad-Rogers, D. (2012). The Social Construction of
Serial Murder Victims: A multivariate level analysis. The harms of crime media:
Essays on the perpetuation of racism, sexism and class stereotypes, 38–53.

Follman, M., Aronsen, G., & Pan, D. (2018). U.S. mass shootings, 1982–2018:
Data from Mother Jones’ investigation.Mother Jones. Retrieved from https://

Hickey, E. W. (2013). Serial murderers and their victims. Mason, OH: Cengage

Howell, J. C. (2015). The history of street gangs in the United States: Their origins
and transformations. London, UK: Lexington Books.

Morton, R. J. (2005). Serial murder multi-disciplinary perspectives for
investigators. Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved from

Murr, A. (2007). LA’s new gang war. Newsweek. Retrieved from http://

National Gang Center. (2012). National youth gang survey. Retrieved from https://

National Institute of Justice. (2018). Gun violence. Retrieved from https://

Querido, C. M. (2009). State-sponsored mass killing in African wars—greed or
grievance? International Advances in Economic Research, 15(3), 351.

Patton, D. U., Rambow, O., Auerbach, J., Li, K., & Frey, W. (2018). Expressions
of loss predict aggressive comments on Twitter among gang-involved youth in
Chicago. npj Digital Medicine, 1(1), 11.

Salazar, D. (2017, Dec. 29). Gang victims: A program aimed at helping and
healing. Orange County Register. Retrieved from https://

Sanburn, J., & Johnson, D. (2017). Violent crime is on the rise in U.S. cities. Time.
Retrieved from

Vronsky, P. (2007). Female serial killers: How and why women become monsters.
New York: Penguin.

11 Victimization at Work or School
Learning Outcome: Analyze the different types of victimization at school and work and their
effects on both victims and organizations.

11.1 Workplace Violence and Harassment

• Describe causes of workplace violence and how it affects victims and the organizations.

Definition of Workplace Violence

Workplace violence includes bullying, harassment, emotional abuse, emotional or psychological
terror, and violence (Matjasko, Needham, Grunden, & Farb, 2010). According to the National
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (n.d.), around 2 million workers report
workplace violence annually. OSHA (n.d.) puts violence into four categories: criminal intent,
customer/client, worker-on-worker, and personal relationships.

Workplace bullying is defined as offensive, assaultive, and harassing behaviors that
have occurred over a period of six or more months and result in unfavorable
outcomes for the victims. Workplace bullies are common to almost all organizations.
Image: Office space. Authored by: sativis.
Source: License: CC-0

Criminal intent is when someone with no relationship to the workplace commits a violent
crime, such as robbery or assault, on an employee. Criminal intent accounts for 80 percent of all
workplace homicides (FBI, n.d.) and is more common in certain professions, such as taxi

drivers and late-night retailer workers, than other professions. We are most likely to hear about
this type of violence when there is a mass shooting at a workplace, such as the shooting at the
YouTube offices in 2018 and the shooting at an office complex in San Bernardino, California,
in 2015.

Customer/client violence occurs between an employee and a customer. Examples of this include a patient
attacking a nurse or a customer attacking a sales clerk. A number of careers are at greater risk for this type
of workplace violence, with health care being the highest. Other occupations at risk include first
responders (law enforcement and emergency medical services), social workers, teachers, and correctional
officers. Many of these incidents occur when the customer or client is triggered by a disagreement, is
denied services, or has a medical issue.

Worker-on-worker violence is also called workplace bullying or horizontal violence. Einarsen and
colleagues (2003) defined workplace bullying in terms of behaviors that are offensive, assaultive, and
harassing that result in unfavorable outcomes for victims and that the bullying behavior has occurred over
a period of more than six months. Whether overt or covert, intimidation and harassment impact the well-
being of victims (Farmer, 2011). Workplace bullies are common to almost all organizations (Jacobson,
Hood, Van Buren, & Iii, 2014). Between 10 percent and 20 percent of U.S. employees reported being
bullied at least once in the previous six months (Yamanda, 2003). Namie (2014) reported that more than
65 million U.S. employees were dealing with or witnessed someone else experiencing workplace bullying.
The U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey (Yamada, 2015) reported that 54 percent of victims said that the
bullying occurred overtly and happened in front of others, 32 percent said bullying occurred behind closed
doors, and 10 percent said bullying happened in an office with the door kept open, so others could hear.
Female workers experience higher rates of sexual harassment than male workers (Vartia & Hyyti, 2002).

Zillmen (2017) reported that an ABC-Washington Post poll found that 55 percent of women in their
sample experienced unwanted sexual advances. Of the women reporting unwanted advances, 33 percent
said those advances were made by a male, and 25 percent said it was from a colleague who had some say
in their careers. This represents a serious and chronic issue that can threaten women’s careers and

Workplace shootings, like other types of mass shootings, grab national attention. The Fort Hood
shooting was committed by U.S. Army Medical Corps psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan, who
shot and killed 13 people and wounded 30 others in 2009.
Image: Fort Hood Shooting. Author: Sgt. Jason R. Krawczyk.
License: CC-0

The fourth category of workplace violence is personal relationships. This type of
violence happens when relationships outside of the workplace spill into the
workplace. This type of violence brings the threats from outside not only to the
victim, but it also threatens coworkers and clients. Many employers are hesitant to
get involved in the personal lives of their employees. Many employers do not
realize just how personal violence can affect their employees and the entire
company. Employees who experience personal victimization are often late to work,
distracted, take more sick days, and miss work more often. If someone is the victim
of domestic violence, the perpetrator may follow the victim into work, make
inappropriate calls to the victim at work, and make inappropriate comments on the
Internet about the employee and the company.

Another way that workplace violence is categorized is by type of aggression, verbal
or physical, each of which can be passive or active aggression (Baron & Neuman,


• Passive includes failing to provide information needed by the target and
failing to return communication (the silent treatment)

• Active includes insulting, acting condescendingly, yelling, and belittling


• Passive includes getting others to cause harm to the victim and reducing the
victims’ ability to contribute to projects or events such as ensuring scheduling
conflicts and limiting their ability to socialize with coworkers

• Active includes theft, physical attack, vulgar gestures, and intimidating the

According to Baron and Neuman (1996), the most common types of violence are
not the physical assaults (although those are most often discussed in the media).
The most common aggression is verbal, indirect, and passive, and recent changes in
many organizations (e.g., downsizing or increased workforce diversity) have
generated conditions that may contribute to the occurrence of workplace aggression
by increasing worker stress and decreasing workplace resources.

Effect on Victims

Victims of workplace violence can experience increased mental health issues,
lower rates of physical well-being, low worker performance, decreased job
satisfaction, and in extreme cases suicide (Bano & Malik, 2013). Victims of
workplace violence have the same outcomes and effects of other types of violence,
including anxiety, depression, sleep loss, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
(Spence Laschinger & Nosko, 2015). Between 10 percent and 52 percent of
bullying victims’ time at work was “unproductive,” as they try to defend
themselves against the bully, seek support, and mediate the effects on their careers.

Their time at work might also be unproductive because of a loss of focus due to
anxiety and depression (Bano & Malik, 2013). Of the 4,821 workplace deaths in
2016, 409 people were fatally injured in work-related attacks, which is 16 percent
(National Safety Council, n.d.).

Gates, Gillespie, & Succop (2011) looked at the impact of workplace violence on
nurses, who experience high rates of client violence and workplace bullying. The
study looked specifically at the impact of patient violence on emergency room
nurses. Of their sample, 15 percent had symptoms of PTSD. Those who had
experienced a violent event had trouble staying cognitively and emotionally
focused, which could affect their work with other patients, which could affect
patient outcomes because these are emergency room nurses.

As pointed out by Harris, McDonald, and Sparks (2018), sexual harassment in the military continues
to be a persistent problem both because of military culture (including hypermasculinity) and
individual circumstances, like power differential between the victim and the offender. Like the
military, healthcare professionals also experience high rates of workplace violence. Peers, as well as
patients, can be perpetrators of workplace violence in the medical profession (Spiri, Brantley, &
McGuire, 2016).
Image: Nurse explains a report to a patient. Authored by: Kathryn Weigel.
Source: License: CC-BY 2.0

In addition to affecting victims directly, workplace violence also affects coworkers. For example, if a
supervisor is the perpetrator, the victim’s coworkers may worry that they will be victimized as well. The
productivity of victimized workers may decrease as they experience depression or anxiety or miss work to deal
with the effects of being victimized. When a victim’s productivity falls, coworkers often must take up the slack
caused by the victimization. If the perpetrator is a supervisor, others in the victims’ workgroup might also
become afraid of being a victim. If the perpetrator is outside the workplace, such as in criminal intent,
coworkers might worry about becoming random victims of violence. When the violence is client-based,
especially in health care and corrections, coworkers are not only aware of the victimization but might also be in
contact with the perpetrator. This might alter their behaviors toward the client, potentially compromising care.

Effect on Organizations

Workplace violence has several effects on organizations. The most direct effect comes from victims. Stress and
mental and physical health effects on employees affects their productivity, which of course, affects the
organization’s ability to operate effectively and profitably. Employers end up placing the victim’s workload on
other employees while the victim recovers from any injuries (physical or mental) and may need to continue to
rely on other employees to compensate long term if the effect was severe. The employer, depending on the way
their health insurance works, may also have a financial cost for increased need of health care among employees.
Worker’s compensation may also come into play for the victim.

Victimization may also affect the culture of the workplace. Employees may not feel safe, or they may
feel increased stress, which in turn may increase worker burnout and turnover. When an employee
leaves a company, it costs money to recruit and train a new employee and get the new employee
comfortable and proficient in the new job. If the new employee enters a hostile workplace because
bullying has been going on, the newcomer’s time at the company may even be shorter, creating more
hiring costs.

When companies are not proactive about ensuring employee safety, the company may get a bad
reputation, making it more difficult to recruit qualified people to fill vacant positions. This is especially
true when it comes to workplace bullying and client violence. No one wants to work at a hospital,
mental health center, or other company where there is a greater chance of experiencing violence
because no real policies or procedures are in place to help prevent the violence from happening in the
first place.


Although there is no way to prevent workplace violence completely, organizations can help prevent
violence as well as help victims. There is also a growing awareness that sexual harassment and other
types of workplace violence are issues. The ABC-Washington Post poll found that 75 percent of
American workplaces thought sexual harassment was a problem, which is an 11 percent increase since
2011 (Zimmer, 2017). Despite wider awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace, it remains

One of the most important preventions for workplace violence is a zero-tolerance policy, especially for
bullying. The policy can include guidelines in employee handbooks that outline behavior expectations,
as well as a clear set of steps to take if bullying does occur. A zero-tolerance policy might also include
the need to check in on a regular basis for those working in the field, and other out of the office
activities, to ensure that they are okay.

Reducing the amount of cash in registers and reducing access to safes are two ways to make
retail stores less likely crime targets.
Image: Cash Register. Authored by: Aranami.
Source: License: CC-BY 2.0

Stores can lower their risk of being a target of criminal intent by reducing their cash on hand. Another
prevention for criminal intent is to minimize access to buildings or to use pass cards and security to
ensure building safety. This is a safety trend in schools as well. In addition to making it more difficult to
commit workplace violence, it is also important to train everyone to recognize the potential signs of
victimization and what to do if they suspect or witness something such as bullying.

One of the biggest issues around workplace violence is a lack of concrete policies and procedures for witnesses
and victims. Victims may be less likely to report victimization in the workplace, especially if the perpetrator is a
superior or someone who can hurt their careers. A witness may see the violence occurring but not know how to
report it or how to help the victim. Companies need to have human resource personnel who are well versed in how
to handle workplace violence, including having enough autonomy to deal with issues that occur with management.
They also need to be someone that the rest of the employees feel comfortable coming to if they are witnessing

If companies are not willing to create effective policies, organizations, like unions, can pressure companies to
ensure worker safety as part of their negotiation. In addition, a number of lawsuits have forced companies to create
policies and procedures where none existed, to help the victim who was suing. Unions and advocates can also
lobby for laws and policies to help protect workers from all types of violence.


Baron, R. A., & Neuman, J. H. (1996). Workplace violence and workplace aggression: Evidence on their relative
frequency and potential causes. Aggressive Behavior, 22(3), 161–173.

Farmer, D. (2011). Workplace bullying: An increasing epidemic creating traumatic experiences for targets of
workplace bullying. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 1(7), 196–203. Retrieved from http://

Gates, D. M., Gillespie, G. L., & Succop, P. (2011). Violence against nurses and its impact on stress and
productivity. Nursing Economics, 29(2), 59.

Harris, R. J., McDonald, D. P., & Sparks, C. S. (2018). Sexual harassment in the military: Individual experiences,
demographics, and organizational contexts. Armed Forces & Society, 44(1), 25–43.

Jacobson, K. J., Hood, J. N., Van Buren, H. J., & Iii, B. (2014). Workplace bullying across cultures: A research
agenda. International Journal of Cross-Cultural Management, 14(1), 47–65.

Matjasko, J. L., Needham, B. L., Grunden, L. N., & Farb, A. F. (2010). Violent victimization and perpetration
during adolescence: Developmental stage dependent ecological models. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39(9),

Namie, G. (2003). Workplace bullying: Escalated incivility. Ivey Business Journal, 68(2), 1–6.

National Safety Council. (n.d.). Is your workplace prone to violence? Retrieved from

Spence Laschinger, H. K., & Nosko, A. (2015). Exposure to workplace bullying and post-traumatic stress disorder
symptomology: The role of protective psychological resources. Journal of Nursing Management, 23(2), 252–262.

Spiri, C., Brantley, M., & McGuire, J. (2016). Incivility in the workplace: A study of nursing staff in the military
health system. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 7(3), 40.

Vartia, M., & Hyyti, J. (2002). Gender differences in workplace bullying among prison officers. European Journal
of Work and Organizational Psychology, 11(1), 113–126.

Yamada, D. C. (2015). Workplace bullying and the law: US legislative developments 2013–15. Employee Rights
and Employment Policy Journal, 19, 49.

Zillmen, C. (2017). A new poll on sexual harassment suggests why “me too” went so insanely viral. Forbes.
Retrieved from

11.2 School Violence

• Examine school violence, its impact on victims, and system reactions to bullying.

On February 14, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland,
Florida, and began to shoot students, staff, and teachers, killing 17 and injuring 14 others. This was the third
deadliest school shooting, behind Virginia Tech in 2007 (32 dead) and Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 (26
dead). When people think about violence in schools, mass shootings most often come to mind because they are
horrific and grab media attention. However, school shootings are one of the rarer forms of school violence.

After the Parkland shooting, students began a social movement to help ensure their schools are safe
from gun violence. According to theWashington Post, more than 187,000 students in 193 primary or
secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours (Woodrow-Cox &
Rich, 2018). This has led to the creation of active shooter lockdown drills, which are defining the
school experience of this generation.
Image: High school students protest for gun law reform. Author: Fibonacci Blue.
Source: License: CC-BY 2.0

School violence is defined as the interpersonal violence that occurs within a school community either actively
(i.e., through fighting) or passively (i.e., through threats, social isolation, or cyberbullying). The school

community includes being at the school itself, coming or going to school, and school events. School violence is
often reflective of other types of violence that occur among youth. It also can be influenced by factors such as
gang violence that can spill into the school environment; the community, which might have higher risk factors
for violence that kids can be subjected to on their way to and from school; and characteristics of the school
itself. For example, Limbos and Casteel (2008) found that schools with more certified teachers had lower
violence rates. This is because teachers who are certified and trained have been taught classroom management
skills and techniques, while those without certification may lack classroom management skills.

Ramorola and Joyce (2014) found that drug and alcohol use by students increased school violence. Students
who use drugs and alcohol are more likely to be engaging in risky behaviors, thereby increasing their potential
to be a victim as well as an offender. Worthington (2014) found that parental involvement, especially when
parents and teachers communicated with each other, decreased violence. Parental involvement often indicates
that parents are also communicating with their children. Teachers can be made aware of issues outside of school
that could make students more vulnerable to victimization or more likely to be a perpetrator. Increased
awareness of issues that might come into the classroom helps teachers be more prepared and they can help
create interventions for the student. All of these are examples of how the school environment can affect

Types of School Violence

Bullying and belittling can make children fearful, and it can affect their ability to interact well with
teachers and other students.
Image: Bullying. Authored by: Geralt.
Source: License: CC-0

Teachers, students, staff, and security can be perpetrators or victims of violence in a school. This can include
physical violence, including attacking a teacher or student, as well as insults and threats. Student-on-teacher
violence is often unreported because many teachers might not realize they were the target of threats because it
took the form of insults, putdowns, or other behaviors that teachers did not perceive as threatening at the time.
Teacher-on-student violence refers to violent actions or exclusions that occur because of a teacher’s position,
including belittling students or denying them grades or access to materials needed to complete assignments,
both of which are psychological violence. It can even be violent outbursts or abuse on the part of the teacher.

There is a current discussion as to whether corporal punishment in schools, which is still legal in 15 states,
should be considered a form of violence. In the 28 states where it is illegal, the use of force as punishment is
considered violence, while in the 15 states where it is legal, force is just part of the punishment strategy used by

teachers and administrators. According to Sparks and Harwin (2016), during the 2013–14 school year, 109,000
students reported being paddled, swatted, or otherwise physically punished (Clark, 2017). The use of corporal
punishment is most often in lower socioeconomic status schools and occurs almost exclusively in the South;
black students are more likely than white students to experience corporal punishment (Clark, 2017).
Researchers have questioned whether this might create a climate where the use of force to resolve problems
spills over to the students, who may then use force or threats of force to resolve their own problems.

Paddling was a common practice in schools in the 1800s. Many Americans are surprised that
corporal punishment is still an option in U.S. schools. Research shows that the use of this
type of punishment disproportionately impacts minorities and poor kids. Most corporal
punishment takes place in the South.
Image: Prügelstrafe 1842. Authored by: Theodor Hosemann.
schule-1842.jpg. License: CC-0

As with workplace violence and domestic violence, sexual violence is prevalent within schools. School
sexual violence, like other types of sexual violence, overwhelmingly happens to girls and young women
(DeMitchell, n.d.). In addition to more overt forms of sexual violence like rape, more subtle forms of
sexual violence also occur. This can take the forms of teasing as 10- and 11-year-old girls begin to
develop breasts or get their periods, snapping of bras, pulling of hair, or grabbing of bodies
inappropriate ways. It wasn’t until 1999 in Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education that the
Supreme Court ruled that schools are legally responsible for intervening and preventing sexual
harassment in schools and that the failure of teachers, principals, and other staff to intervene when they
are aware of harassment violates Title IX, which requires equal access to education for everyone.

Schools have focused on creating dress codes, including banning tank tops, shorts, and other clothes
that schools deem “too revealing” as their main prevention measure for sexual harassment, although this
is starting to change. Dress codes are not usually applied to young men. This is important to note, as
women are most likely to be the victims and rather than teaching students how not to offend, the focus
is placed on girls. The notion of blaming the victim and making women responsible for their potential
harassment was discussed in depth in the module “Sexual Assault Victims.” Those who debate against
dress codes argue that having dress codes perpetuates victim blaming.

Bullying is the unwanted aggression by another child or group of children who are not related or dating
(as that would be domestic violence). In bullying, the imbalance of power is clear, with the victim being
subjected to physical, psychological, social, or educational harm multiple times (Centers for Disease
Control [CDC], 2016). A child can be the perpetrator of bullying toward one victim and at the same
time be the victim of bullying from other kids. In that case they would be called the bully/victim.
Historically, bullying only occurred face to face, but today, with the increased use of technology by
kids, bullying happens in person as well as digitally, especially through social media. Bullying can lead
to physical injury, social and mental distress, educational impacts, and even death, which can include
homicide as well as suicide.

Statistics around School Violence

Like other types of crimes, the data around school violence can be reported two ways—through official police
and school data or through victims’ surveys. According to the CDC (2014), 7.8 percent of students were in
fights on school grounds. Males were more likely to be in a fight (10 percent) compared to only 5 percent of
females. Just under 6 percent (5.6) of students reported not going to school because they were scared or felt
unsafe attending. In addition, 4.1 percent reported carrying a weapon to school and 6 percent reported being
threatened by a weapon while at school. Bullying was the greatest concern among all issues, with 20.2 percent
reported being bullied while at school and 15.5 percent reported being bullied electronically, with girls having
experienced a much higher rate (24.8 percent at school and 21.7 percent electronically) compared to males
(15.8 percent at school and 9.7 percent electronically).

Cyberbullying is a growing problem among kids in school. The use of cellphones and social media to
bully someone makes it much more difficult for parents and teachers to detect. Parents may not be
willing to check text messages and social media because it would violate their children’s privacy and
trust. The effects of cyberbullying are the same as in-person bullying.
Image: Girl looking at laptop. Authored by:
Source: License: CC-0

While the CDC is using official data, Finkelhor et al. (2016) used a national youth survey, which is similar to
the National Crime Victims Survey. Their research showed that 48 percent of students stated they had been
exposed to violence at school with nearly 30 percent saying they were bullied, 13 percent had witnessed an
assault, and 3.2 percent had been sexually harassed. In addition, 6 percent had missed at least one day of school
because of their victimization, which again is higher than the official data used by the CDC, showing the dark
figure of crime as it relates to school violence.

Although school shootings are talked about much more often in the media than other types of school violence,
shootings at schools represent only 2.6 percent of all juvenile homicides according to the CDC (2014), with a
total of 31 homicides at school, making school still a very safe place in terms of potential homicide.

One of the least discussed types of school violence is sexual assault among college students. According to
Sinozich and Langton (2014), women between the ages of 18 and 24 had the highest rate of rape compared to
all other age groups. On college campuses, 80 percent of victims knew their offender, and yet only 20 percent
reported their victimization (as compared to nonstudents who reported at a rate of 32 percent). The reasons for
not reporting included thinking it a personal matter, it not being important enough to report, or fear of reprisal.
The most vulnerable groups are freshmen because they have fewer ties to campus, are more likely to not know
about college life, and are less knowledgeable about the impacts of drugs and drug use on increasing the risk of
sexual violence. There are similar findings among high school students as well (Vagi, Olsen, Basile, & Vivolo-
Kantor, 2015).

Impacts on Victims

Violence against children can affect their developing brains and can result in long-term physical and
mental effects.
Image: Bullying impacts the brain. Authored by: Geralt.
Source: License: CC-0

Like all other types of violence, including workplace violence discussed earlier in this module, youth violence
causes both physical and mental health issues. In addition to needing to treat physical injuries, many kids also
have mental health issues, which can lead to anxiety, PTSD, and suicide. Bullying, which is one of the most
common forms of school violence, can be extremely devastating for kids, causing social isolation, depression,
anxiety, and even suicide. Children are at increased risk of being bullied if they have poor peer relationships,
low self-esteem, or are perceived as different by their peers (CDC, 2016).

Unlike other types of victimization, school violence also affects the learning environment and can dramatically
affect educational outcomes. When students do not feel safe, they are not as engaged in the learning process.
They are also more likely to skip school or avoid certain classes where they feel threatened, increasing their
potential to either drop out or fail at school.

Victims of bullying often feel fear, shame, and guilt over their victimization. In addition, they might
not have any idea why someone would target them as a victim. This can cause a host of emotional
problems, as well as lead to kids not engaging at school.
Image: Schoolyard bully. Author: Thomas Ricker.
Source: License: CC-BY 2.0

Prevention Strategies

According to the CDC (n.d.), a number of strategies can help prevent school
violence. At the individual level, increasing student problem-solving skills,
improving social skills, and early intervention can both reduce victimization and
stop students from becoming the perpetrator. In addition, ensuring that students are
comfortable reporting victimization early can be critical for ensuring the situation
does not escalate. If students think they will not be believed, or that the school or
their parents can’t do anything about the victimization, they are not going to report
it. The strength of the relationship between students and their teachers, parents, and
peers is a factor in how often victimization is reported. Peer training on how to
effectively and safely intervene in school violence can also help. If students know
what to do if they are witnessing victimization, it can help both the victim and
ensure reporting of the incidents to those who have more power to intervene.

Schools are
working to prevent bullying on their campuses. Many school districts are
creating anti-bullying campaign and are increasing zero-tolerance
policies. One of the most effective strategies to prevent bullying is to
teach kids how to resolve their conflicts in other ways. The earlier kids

are taught these strategies, the more effective they are as the children get
Image: School Sign. Authored by: Eddie∼s.
Bully_Free_Zone.jpg. License: CC-BY 2.0

According to Juvonen (n.d.), schools can help reduce school violence by ensuring
they have strong school policies around school violence, including counseling for
perpetrators to help them learn other ways to deal with their issues. Schools can
create conflict mediation and peer-to-peer groups to help with problem resolution.
They can also increase educational opportunities for students around victimization
and what to do if they become a victim or if they witness victimization. In addition,
schools are increasing the physical security of their campuses, including automatic
locking doors and video equipment. Results are mixed regarding the effect of
school resource officers on reducing school violence. Although the officers might
help with overt violence, they are not good at reducing subtle forms of violence;
they also increase school arrests as well as increase the targeting of minority
students, which can create a hostile learning environment.

According to the CDC, it is important to ensure that educators and other staff are
properly trained to help with conflict resolution and to teach students how to
resolve conflicts peacefully. This type of training includes knowing how to help
build healthy relationships, teachers modeling nonviolent attitudes and behaviors,
and creating a positive school climate. In addition, teachers should effectively
“manage a classroom, resolve conflicts nonviolently, promote positive relationships
between students with diverse backgrounds, and create positive student-teacher
relationships so that students feel comfortable talking with teachers about violence-
related issues” (CDC, n.d.). The earlier this can be taught, the more ingrained it will
be as students reach adolescence and adulthood. In addition, the CDC suggests
ensuring there are after-school activities, which can reduce violence and help
integrate students into the school more, as well as reduce community after-school

Although it is impossible to stop all types of school violence, parents, teachers, and
peers can work to reduce violence through interventions and creating a school
environment that allows victims to have a voice and be heard. School should be a
place where children feel safe and can engage in the educational environment
without fear of their peers or staff.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Youth violence. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Understanding bullying.
Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). School violence prevention.
Retrieved from

Clark, J. (2017). Where corporal punishment is still used in schools, its roots run
deep. NPR: All Things Considered. Retrieved from

Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 1999. Retrieved from https://

Finkelhor, D., Vanderminden, J., Turner, H., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. (2016).
At-school victimization and violence exposure assessed in a national household
survey of children and youth. Journal of School Violence, 15(1), 67–90.

Juvonen, J. (2001). School violence: prevalence, fears and prevention. Retrieved

Limbos, M. A. P., & Casteel, C. (2008). Schools and neighborhoods:
Organizational and environmental factors associated with crime in secondary
schools. Journal of School Health, 78(10), 539–544.

Ramorola, M. Z., & Joyce, T. M. (2014). The links between school violence and
drug usage in schools: External or internal factor? Journal of Sociology and Social
Anthropology, 5(1), 11–18.

Sinozich, S., & Langton, L. (2014). Rape and sexual assault victimization among
college-age females, 1995–2013. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice,
Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Sparks, S. D., & Harwin, A. (2016, August 23). Corporal punishment use found in
schools in 21 states. Education Week. Retrieved from

Vagi, K. J., Olsen, E. O. M., Basile, K. C., & Vivolo-Kantor, A. M. (2015). Teen
dating violence (physical and sexual) among U.S. high school students: Findings
from the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. JAMA pediatrics, 169(5),

Worthington, L. J. (2014). The impact of parental involvement on school violence
at the middle school level (Doctoral dissertation, Bowie State University).

12 Current Issues and the Future of
Learning Outcome: Analyze trends in trafficking and hate crimes.

12.1 Human Trafficking

• Compare various trafficking types, their impact on victims and society, and how organizations are
working to eliminate trafficking.

Defining Human Trafficking

Slavery is the more common term we think of when we discuss human trafficking. Starting in
the Neolithic era, with the rise of agriculture, the demand for hard labor increased, and
slavery became a common practice for cheap labor and continues today.
Image: Slavery in chains. Authored by: Gustavo La Rotta Amaya.
Source: License: CC-BY 2.0

Human trafficking, also known as slavery, is the trade of people, especially women and children, for
the economic benefits of the trafficker. This includes, but is not limited to, sexual slavery, forced labor,
and forced marriage. Human trafficking is a serious problem internationally, with an estimated global
profit from trafficking of around $150 billion annually. Trafficking is different from smuggling because
smuggling is voluntary and once people are at their destination, they are free to go. Trafficking is often
done through deception or coercion and against the victim’s will. Victims are not free to go where they
want when they reach their destination. In addition, not all trafficking involves travel; some people are
trafficked in their hometown. Although there may initially be an agreement between the victim and the
offender, the offender might change the terms or add on additional costs (such as food, clothing, and
shelter) that the victim must “pay for” before they are free, creating bonded labor, which is also illegal
(National Human Trafficking Resource Center, n.d.).

Refugees, internally displaced people, and stateless people are particularly vulnerable to
human trafficking rings because they lack a stable living situation. Their ability to protect
themselves and ensure they are not abused or exploited is very limited.
Image: Unloading Second Refugee Bus. Authored by: Gustavo Montes de Oca.
Source: License: CC-BY 2.0

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (n.d.) and the U.S. State Department divide
trafficking into two types: sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking is recruiting, harboring,
obtaining, and patronizing a person (or child) by force, coercion, or fraud into engaging in commercial
sexual acts. Labor trafficking is the recruiting, harboring, and obtaining people against their will to
involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. This can also include serving in the military
or militant groups if individuals are forced to fight against their will.

Populations most often targeted for trafficking are vulnerable populations, including refugees and
migrants, LGBT individuals, religious minorities, and those who are stateless (they lack an official
home, for example the Kurds and the Bedouins). Children are also a common target and can either be
lured by traffickers or sold by their families. Girls are much more commonly sold into trafficking
situations, including commercial sexual exploitation as well as forced labor and early marriages. Boys

are more commonly sold into labor and as child soldiers. According to the International Organization
for Migration, 35 percent of all trafficked persons were under the age of 18.

trafficking is one of the most common forms of human trafficking. Girls
as young as five are taken from their homes, or sold by their families,
into prostitution rings. Travelers, both foreign and domestic, pay for sex
with young women, which ensures the continuation of the practice. This
practice occurs globally, including in the United States, where up to
300,000 girls are lured into the commercial sex trade annually. The
largest groups trafficked in the United States are runaways and homeless
kids who use sex as a way to provide for their basic needs.
Image: A Silent Plea. Authored by: Kiran Foster.
Source: License:
CC-BY 2.0

Women and girls are disproportionately targeted for trafficking because in many
societies they are not considered as valuable as boys. This is true in societies where
inheritance (wealth and property) is passed through male children. In addition, boys
are considered more useful for working and are therefore more likely to be able to
contribute financially to their families. Girls’ vulnerability and lack of potential
income make them more likely than boys to be sold. In addition, because much of
the trafficking is focused on the commercial sex trade, girls and women are ideal

targets. The sex trade has a particular interest in very young girls, regarding them
as prized assets because, especially internationally, the idea of “deflowering a girl”
is highly valued. Women who are reaching their late 20s and early 30s are often no
longer desirable for commercial sex work, making them disposable commodities to

The use of
children as soldiers is not uncommon. While some children volunteer,
many are coerced or recruited by force. Child soldiers, after the conflict
ends, suffer debilitating psychiatric illness including post-traumatic
stress disorder (PTSD), have poor education rates, and have higher rates
of suicide and violent behaviors as adults. Fourteen countries, including
Iraq and Afghanistan, still widely use children as soldiers as well as
countermovement soldiers for insurgent groups such as ISIS.
Image: A child soldier. Authored by: janeb13.
License: CC-0

Trafficking Statistics

As many as 12.3 million victims are trafficked globally (Smith, 2011). Although
many people associate trafficking with something that occurs overseas, an
estimated 1.5 million people are victims of trafficking in North America. The U.S.
Justice Department estimates that between 1,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked
into the United States annually. The Global Slavery Index (2016) estimates that
number to be much higher, at around 57,000 people. The U.S. National Human
Trafficking Resource Center (n.d.) had 8,524 cases reported to them in 2017, with
most cases occurring in California, Texas, and Florida. Most of the cases were sex
trafficking, with the majority of those taking place in illegal massage businesses
(71.4 percent). According to Cone (2017), in 2016 trafficking increased 35.7
percent over 2015.

Sex trafficking is extremely profitable. Dank et al. (2014) estimated that in the
eight largest cities in the United States, the average pimp and trafficker earned
between $5,000 and $32,000 a week. Most traffickers use manipulation as the best
way to get sex workers to work for pay. Child pornography, which is also
considered trafficking because children are not capable of giving consent, has also
increased over the past five years.

Of course, one of the greatest issues in understanding the true scope of trafficking
is that the victims are silenced through fear and intimidation (Alvarez, 2016); thus,
the ability to track modern trafficking is difficult at best. Victims are told that if
they report, they will be arrested for criminal behaviors themselves or that their
families or their friends who have been trafficked with them might be hurt.
Traffickers often strictly control the movements of their victims to reduce victims’
ability to contact anyone, let alone the police. They can be taken far from where
they grew up, which creates social isolation and reduces the chances of running
into someone they might know that they can ask for help (Alvarez, 2016). There is
also the very real potential that local law enforcement will not believe the victim
had been trafficked and will arrest and charge them with a crime (Alvarez, 2016).

Laws Preventing Trafficking

Today, trafficking is recognized internationally as a violation of international basic
human rights. Human trafficking was legal in the United States until 1863, when
the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people. In addition, laws around sex
trafficking and labor have changed to decrease trafficking in the United States.
Three of these newer laws are discussed next.

The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 protects
undocumented immigrants in the United States who are the victims of trafficking.
This law allows victims to apply for a T visa if they can prove they were the victim
of trafficking and they are willing to help with the prosecution of the perpetrator.
Victims need to be able to report the crime in order for the law to be triggered, but

one of the big issues around this law is that victims fear retribution against their
family or friends if they report the crime.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (2018) added to prior laws by making it
illegal to help sex trafficking by making it illegal to advertise sex trafficking or
benefit from participating in sex trafficking advertising, including electronically.
Some groups, like the ACLU and the Sex Workers Outreach Project, are concerned
that the bill places an unnecessary burden on Internet companies and intermediaries
that handle user-generated content because they would be responsible for
monitoring activities. In addition, sex workers, who are not trafficked individuals,
argue it makes it harder for them to do their jobs and potentially threatens their
safety because they use these platforms to negotiate services.

Safe Harbor Laws help protect victims of trafficking from criminal prosecution because they are considered
under the influence of a trafficker and are being exploited. Unfortunately, this only applies to federal laws, and
not every state has similar protections for victims.

The Effects on Victims of Trafficking

Like other types of victimization, trafficking can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical effects. In
addition to the trauma of being taken from their families and communities, victims of trafficking often
experience extreme violence, which can cause serious long-term physical damage. Victims who are trafficked
often have a severe lack of trust of people, even after being rescued. Victims often have suffered from
starvation, beatings, and rape, all of which have serious physical impacts that need to be dealt with after rescue
(Kaylor, 2015). Victims, especially of sex trafficking, also often have damage to their reproductive systems,
sexually transmitted infections, and might have had multiple pregnancies that may have led to forced abortions
or to miscarriages.

Trafficking victims often suffer severe physical, emotional, and psychological abuse from their
traffickers and the people who control their lives. Victims can struggle to integrate back into their
communities both because of their own issues stemming from their victimization and because of the
social rejection from their communities because they are considered damaged goods.
Image: Hand. Authored by: pexels.

Source: License: CC-0

Like most victims of violent crimes, victims of trafficking often suffer from severe mental health issues,
including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. They might also develop Stockholm syndrome, a
condition in which the victim(s) develop a psychological alliance with their traffickers as a survival strategy.
They can develop positive feelings and attachments to their captors, including thinking of them as protecting
and providing for the victim, even though the perpetrator is clearly exploiting the victim (Alexander & Klein,
2009). This can also make it harder to convince victims to leave their perpetrator and get help. In addition, they
might also participate in violence toward new victims because they view their perpetrators as doing the right

Furthermore, victims who are returned to their communities can also experience social isolation and stigma
because of their experiences. Girls who were trafficked for sexual exploitation may be considered damaged
property and may be considered a blight on their family’s reputation. It may be difficult for the women to
marry, and few financial opportunities might be available for them. Often little funding from government and
large institutions are available to help victims be successful post-trafficking.

Final Thoughts on Trafficking

Human trafficking is a practice as old as human civilization, but it represents an
emerging topic because awareness around it and efforts to abolish it have increased.
Although groups and agencies are working toward the abolishment of human
trafficking, this practice still occurs throughout the world. Global instability and
economic marginalization in certain areas of the world increase the potential
population for trafficking. As long as there is a demand for cheap or free labor,
whether in agriculture, as soldiers, or as sex workers, traffickers will be tempted to
enslave others for profit. In 2017, Europe and America were shocked by videos of
open-air slave-trading markets in Libya where refugees from places like Etruria and
Sudan were being sold for labor throughout the Middle East. Yet, the scenes played
out in Libya were once common during the Transatlantic slave trade and took place
on Wall Street in New York City and in Charleston, South Carolina, and New
Orleans, Louisiana. Ensuring local, national, and international protections and
enforcement of those protections for trafficked individuals are important steps to
getting rid of this problem.

While it is difficult, changing the cultural and social norms around the value of
marginalized groups could greatly reduce the opportunities for trafficking. When
these groups, especially women, are given opportunities for education and
economic independence, the temptation to sell children into slavery is reduced
significantly. If cultural narratives around the value of women were improved, the
potential to see girls just as commodities would be greatly reduced.


Alexander, D. A., & Klein, S. (2009). Kidnapping and hostage-taking: A review of
effects, coping, and resilience. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 102(1),

Alvarez, P. (2016). When sex trafficking goes unnoticed in America. The Atlantic.
Retrieved from

Dank, M. L., Khan, B., Downey, P. M., Kotonias, C., Mayer, D., Owens, C., … &
Yu, L. (2014). Estimating the size and structure of the underground commercial
sex economy in eight major U.S. cities. Washington, DC: Urban Institute.

Hopper, E. K. (2017). Trauma-informed psychological assessment of human
trafficking survivors.Women & Therapy, 40(1–2), 12–30.

Kaylor, L. (2015). Psychological impact of human trafficking and sex slavery
worldwide: Empowerment and intervention. Retrieved from

Minderoo Foundation. (2016). Global slavery index, 2016 [website]. Retrieved

National Human Trafficking Resource Center. (n.d.). Labor trafficking fact sheet.
Retrieved from

Smith, H. M. (2011). Sex trafficking: Trends, challenges, and the limitations of
international law. Human Rights Review, 12(3), 271–286.

12.2 Victims of Hate Crime

• Assess the types and statistics on occurrences of hate crimes and their impact on victims,
individuals, and communities.

Defining Hate Crimes

Hate crimes can be any type of crime that is thought to be motivated by the hate of some
characteristics of the victim, whether that is an individual, organization, or community (Meuche-
Wilson, 2014). Traditionally, the definition of hate crimes often focuses around race, color,
religion, or national origin, but recently gender and sexuality have been added to the definition.

The use of violence as a means to ensure that people stay “in their place” in society is not new,
including in the United States. What we call hate crimes today were prevalent in the 1800s,
especially after the Civil War in the South toward African Americans, and hate crimes have been
used to keep immigrants, Native Americans, and religious minorities in fear throughout U.S.
history. However, the classifying of these acts as hate crimes is relatively new.

The underlying goal of hate crimes is to create a sense of fear in order to ensure that certain groups
stay in their “social place.” Hate crimes are perpetrated by individuals, or groups of individuals,
who perceive the increasing equality in a society as a threat to their own social position and
opportunities. These are often people who identify with the dominant groups in a society. In the
United States, the dominant groups are whites, males, Christians, and native-born Americans.
Those who identify with these groups buy into the idea that if someone from a different group is
given the same status and opportunities, their group loses rights and status.

Race is a primary example. Over the last 150-plus years (since slaves were freed by the
Emancipation Proclamation in 1863), some white communities have had an overt narrative that
blacks and other minorities, by gaining equality, threaten whites’ rights and opportunities. Shortly
after the Civil War, whites, especially but not exclusively in the South, continued to treat blacks as
second-class citizens. This was done not only through the activities of groups like the Ku Klux
Klan (KKK), but also by individuals within a community. While not always violent, the threat of
violence toward minorities who exercised their rights was present. The idea that “negroes” needed
to learn their place in society encouraged the epidemic of lynching, physical assaults, rapes, and
destruction of property targeted toward blacks and their supporters. Activities like this continue in
modified forms today, including cross burnings, threats, and acts of violence.

Violence and the threat of violence is prominent in hate crimes. This image, taken from
the 1915 movie The Birth of a Nation, was the first feature-length movie in the United
States and showed the KKK saving a white community from crazed, violent, freed
blacks in the South, feeding on whites’ fear that blacks would take over their
communities. It helped reignite the KKK as an organization and promoted the need to
suppress African Americans. The KKK recruited members who were part of law
enforcement and politicians, reducing the protection and recourse for targeted
communities nationally.
Image: Birth of a Nation: Klan and black man. Authored by: Unknown (scene from the
movie “Birth of a Nation” (1915).
man.jpg. License: CC-0

When an individual in a community becomes the victim of a hate crime, it sends a
message to the entire community. The incident has a greater impact than what
communities experience around other crimes because hate crime represents a
deliberate attack on an entire group.

Today, Muslims are a prominent group that are targeted for hate crimes. In the first
six months of 2017, there were approximately nine attacks each month on mosques
across the United States, including the Bloomington, Minnesota, bombing at an
Islamic center around the time of morning prayers in August 2017 (Ingraham,
2017). Islamophobia is common not only among hate groups but may also be found
in some government policies. This bias sends a clear message to a minority,
vulnerable community that, even though Muslims have lived in the United States
since the 1600s, they are not welcome here (Interfaith Alliance et al. n.d.).

Since 9/11 there has been a growing anti-Muslim sentiment in the United
States, evidenced by attacks on mosques, violence toward anyone who
might look Middle-Eastern, and hate speech both in person as well as in
the media and social media. The FBI Unified Crime Report (UCR)

showed a 19 percent increase in Islamophobic-motivated hate crimes
between 2016 and 2017.
Image: Protester holding a sign in Washington, D.C. Authored by:
License: CC-0


It is difficult to get clear statistics on hate crimes as compared to other types of
crimes (Gerstenfeld, 2017). The first reason for this is the difficulty in detecting
hate as a motive. In some crimes, like burning crosses on the lawns of blacks, the
motive of hate is clear, but in most other types of crimes, it is not. Law enforcement
needs to look at the words, actions, and evidence that might point to hate and be
convinced that there is enough to clearly define the crime as a hate crime, before
they report it as such. In addition, when a household or organization is victimized
by a hate crime, it is counted as a single victimization, even if many people were
victimized, thereby reducing the numbers of the victimization.

Another reason it is difficult to get accurate hate crime statistics is that different
jurisdictions have different definitions of hate crimes, and in a fair number of
jurisdictions, hate crimes are not investigated specifically as such. For example, the
states of Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Florida reported not having
a single hate crime in their states in 2016 and yet there were clear examples of hate
crimes reported in the media in each of these states, including threats of destroying
religious buildings. This demonstrates a significant issue in terms of officially
reported data.

Official hate crime statistics are reported by agencies and recorded by the FBI. For 2016, there were
6,121 incidents with 7,321 related offenses (FBI UCR, 2016). The following graph shows the
percentage of hate crimes based on the offender(s) biases:

This graph shows the most common reasons given for officially reported hate crimes.
Although official sources underreport hate crimes, the fact that race and religion are the most
common reason for hate crimes is supported by victimization data as well.
Image: Official 2016 Hate Crime Statistics.
Source: Barnes & Noble Education. License: CC-BY NC SA

Of the offenders, 46.3 percent were white, while 26.1 percent were black, and 83.3 percent were over
the age of 18 (FBI UCR, 2016). Most victims were victimized near their home (27.3 percent), while
fewer occurred in public spaces (18 percent), and the least amount of victimizations (3.9 percent) took
place in religious locations (such as churches, synagogues, temples, or mosques). According to the
Southern Poverty Law Center, currently 954 active hate groups operate in the United States, a
significant increase since 2014, when there were 84 groups. The Neo-Nazi group has had the largest
increase (22 percent).

The difference between the official statistics and victimization statistics are significant. The National
Crime Victims Survey estimated that there were around 293,800 nonfatal hate crimes in the United
States, with the vast majority (60 percent) not being captured in official statistics (Meuche-Wilson,
2014). Like official statistics, victimization statistics show race and ethnicity at the top of motivations,
according to victims (51 percent), with religion accounting for 28 percent, gender 26 percent, and
sexual orientation 13 percent. Note that crimes can easily overlap between these categories as well.

According to Meuche-Wilson (2014), 24 percent of hate crimes involved weapons, and the victim
sustained an injury in about 20 percent of violent victimization.

Hate Crime Laws

Four laws at the federal level help define hate crimes in the United States.

The Civil Rights Act (1968). The Civil Rights Act provides additional penalties for anyone trying to
prevent someone from participating in six federally protected activities such as voting, going to school,
trying to get a job, being on a jury, and being in a public place. It only protects those who were affected
because of their race, color, religion, or national origin. The Violence Against Women Act in 1994
added gender to this list, but that was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2000 in United
States v. Morrison. Punishment for violating the Civil Rights Act can range from a fine to the death
penalty if someone was murdered.

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994). This act has a provision that added
increased sentencing penalties for people who were violating federal laws and the crime was
motivated by hate based on race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or gender. The addition
of gender is important as it was the first time that this was included in federal legislation around
hate crime.

Church Arson Prevention Act (1996). This law was motivated by the long history of destroying,
or trying to destroy, religious locations as an act of hate against vulnerable communities. It makes
“damaging religious property or obstructing any person’s free exercise of religious
beliefs” (, n.d. para. 1) a federal crime. This includes any religious property including
headstones, religious buildings, and religious symbols.

Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (2009).Motivated by the
deaths of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, this law removes the prior limitation that the victim
had to be engaging in federally protected activities and expanded it to all types of crime. It also
allows federal law enforcement to investigate hate crimes that local law enforcement might not be
pursuing and mandated that the FBI track gender-based or gender identity-based hate crimes, in
addition to the ones already being examined. It wasn’t until 2016 that we saw this law applied to
gender identity, in the case of Mercedes Williamson, a transgendered woman, who was murdered
by Joshua Vallum in 2015. Vallum received 49 years in prison for that murder (Grinberg, 2016).

Organizations that Work against Hate Crimes

For the last 100 years, many organizations have been created to help combat hate crime and to
help victims. Many of these groups have worked to enact laws that prevent hate crimes and ensure
equality for marginalized groups. Although many groups work to combat this type of crime, this
section will discuss four leading organizations that directly combat hate crimes.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), started in 1913, is one of the oldest anti-hate groups in the
United States. Originating around the goals of creating laws to protect Jews from hate crimes, the
ADL today works against all forms of hate, including anti-Semitism and racism. The league also
tracks extremist groups and helps victims of hate crimes (ADL, n.d.).

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) was started by Morris Dees and Joseph J. Levin Jr.
in 1971 as a civil rights law firm in Montgomery, Alabama. It has become one of the leading legal
organizations targeting hate groups and researching hate crimes in the United States. Since the
mid-1970s, the SPLC has sued various hate groups, including the KKK, to recover damages for
victims of hate crimes. In addition, they work with the FBI and local law enforcement agencies
around hate groups and crimes to help prevent victimization (SPCL, n.d.).

While many think of White Nationalism in the United States as a thing of the past, there
is been a significant resurgence of white supremacy groups since 2016. Borrowing from
the past tactics of the KKK, their use of violence, parades, and intimidation tactics, like
cross burnings, are reigniting the terrorization of minority communities across the
United States. The Charlottesville “Unite the Right” Rally was an event put on by these
Image: Unite the Right Rally. Authored by: Anthony Crider.
%22_Rally_(35780274914).jpg. License: CC-BY 2.0

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is
the oldest civil rights group in the United States. It started in 1908 as a reaction to
the anti-black violence, including lynchings, that were becoming commonplace in
the United States. The goals of the NAACP were to ensure the rights of all
Americans, ensuring the political, educational, social, and economic equality of
minority groups. A prominent legal group during the Civil Rights Movement, the
NAACP continues to help get laws passed to prevent lynching, to integrate schools,
and get fair employment and housing laws passed. In addition, they are working on
“get-out-the-vote” campaigns to make sure that all voices are heard in the election
process. Minority representation through the election process can help increase the
number of protections for minority populations. All of these activities directly help
victimized communities.

The National LGBTQ Task Force was founded in 1973 and is one of the oldest
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex and Allies (LGBTQIA)
civil rights organizations in the United States. Their work helped remove
homosexuality as a mental disorder. The group also pressured the government to
act against the AIDS epidemic when there was a lack of response, and it helped get
gay marriage legalized through the Obergefell v. Hodges case at the Supreme
Court. The group continues to document anti-gay hate crimes and victimization
across the United States. In addition, they are working to get laws passed that will
protect gender identity and expression as a protected status across the United

Hate crimes primarily reflect dominant groups’ fear of changing social norms,
especially as we increase inclusion and equality of all in society. While there are
hate groups associated with minority groups, their ability to create fear in the
dominant community is much more limited than hate crime committed by the
dominant group toward minority groups. The FBI states that not only does hate
crime have a devastating impact on families and communities, but also “because
groups that preach hatred and intolerance can plant the seed of terrorism here in our
country (FBI Hate Crime, n.d. para. 1).” As we see an increase in radicalization of
individuals (especially among whites) in the United States, especially through the
Internet, the potential for hate crimes increases. This is why hate crime is
considered a current and future issue in the United States and globally.

The Future of Victimology

As the field of victimology continues to mature, it has expanded its reach into
emerging areas of crime and victimization. As cybercrime becomes more common,
victimology will need to expand its understanding of how to identify, help, and
prevent cybervictimization. Because technology is changing so quickly, there are
new ways to commit crime emerging all the time, leading to new types of victims.
As hackers target large companies like Equifax, banks, and other large companies,
millions of people may become victims without even knowing it. In addition, the
criminal justice system is struggling to keep up with ways to protect against
cybercrimes. Victims advocates and rights organizations, as well as researchers,

will need to continue to push for policies and programs around cybercrime to
ensure victims are protected and able to recover as best as they can.

In addition, as society continues to wrestle with issues of race, gender, class, and
other types of bias, victimology will be in the forefront of the conversation,
discussing how both institutional and individual biases create opportunities for
victimization against both individuals and communities. With the increase in hate
groups and hate crimes, it is victimology and criminology, as well as other areas,
that will need to advocate for inclusion and protections for all groups in society.

Finally, increased research on domestic violence, harassment, and school violence
are helping to break cycles of violence and victimization. Creating more
opportunities for help for victims, increasing their voices within the criminal justice
system, and ensuring that everyone has the right to be heard, can help victims take
back their power and help healing occur. If victimology and criminology want to
stop crime, they are going to have to look not just at the criminals, but the victims
and the underlying reasons why crime occurs and tackle those underlying issues.
By digging deep into social norms and expectations, we can work to reduce social
issues that can lead to victimization and create clear systems and programs to help
victims recover as best as they can and resume as normal of a life as possible.


Anti-Defamation League. (n.d.). Our history. Retrieved from

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2016). FBI releases 2016 hate crime statistics.
Retrieved from:

Gerstenfeld, P. B. (2017). Hate crimes: Causes, controls, and controversies.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. (n.d.). S. 1853 (104

): Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996.
Retrieved from:

Grinbern, E. (2016). Transgender hate crime guilty plea in federal court is a first.
CNN politics. Retrieved from

Ingraham, C. (2017). American mosques — and American Muslims — are being
targeted for hate like never before. Retrieved from:https://

Interfaith Alliance and Religious Freedom Education Project of the First
Amendment Center. (n.d.).What is the truth about American Muslims. Retrieved

Meuche-Wilson, M. (2014). Hate crime victimization, 2004–2012—statistical
tables. Retrieved from

Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.). Fighting hate. Retrieved from: https://

Wilson, M. M. (2014). Hate crime victimization, 2003–2011—statistical tables.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau
of Justice Statistics.

Do you need academic writing help? Our quality writers are here 24/7, every day of the year, ready to support you! Instantly chat with a customer support representative in the chat on the bottom right corner, send us a WhatsApp message or click either of the buttons below to submit your paper instructions to the writing team.

Order a Similar Paper Order a Different Paper