DEFINITION OF THE TERM ‘VICTIM’. The word “victim” has its roots in many ancient languages that covered a great distance from northwestern Europe to the southern tip of Asia and yet had a similar linguistic pattern: victima in Latin; and, vinak ti in Sanskrit (Webster’s 1971). In the original meaning of the term, a victim was a man or animal put to death during a religious ceremony in order to appease some supernatural power or deity. Over centuries, the term has picked up additional meanings.
Now it commonly refers to individuals who suffer injuries, losses, or hardships, for any reason.
People can become victims of accidents, natural calamities, disasters, or social problems such as warfare, discrimination, political witch hunts, and other injustices. Crime victims are people harmed by illegal acts. Victimology as an academic term contains two elements: • One is the Latin word “Victima” which translates into “victim”. • The other is the Greek word “logos” which means a system of knowledge, the direction of something abstract, the direction of teaching, science, and a discipline.
The term “Victim” has its roots in the early religious notions of suffering, sacrifice and death.
This concept of “victim” was well known in the ancient civilizations, especially in Babylonia, Palestine, Greece, and Rome. In each of these civilizations the law mandated that the victim should be recognized as a person who deserved to be made whole again by the offender. The term victim is lacking descriptive precision. It implies more than the mere existence of an injured party, in that innocence or blamelessness is suggested as well as a moral claim to a compassionate response from others. Until recently, victims were not studied.
They tended to be seen as passive recipients of the criminal’s greed or anger, “in the wrong place at the wrong time. ” The study of victims, known as Victimology, has resulted in theoretical and research studies, and an awareness of the victim has grown in the public consciousness. There is now recognition that victims have traditionally not been treated particularly well by the criminal justice system. Victims suffer not only during the crime, but that there are also sometimes physical and psychological complications.
As per Collins English Dictionary, “victim means a person or thing that suffers harm, death, etc. from another or from some adverse act, circumstance, etc. ” It is defined in the Black’s Law Dictionary as: “the person who is the object of a crime or tort, as the victim of a robbery is the person robbed”. According to New Webster’s Dictionary, victim means: “a person destroyed, sacrificed, or injured by another, or by some condition or agency; one who is cheated or duped; a living being sacrificed to some deity, or in the performance of a religious rite. When the victimization is caused by violations of human rights law, international humanitarian law, or refugee law, the definition provided in paragraph 8 of the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law is also relevant: “[V]ictims are persons who individually or collectively suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that constitute gross violations of international human rights law, or serious violations of international humanitarian law. Where appropriate, and in accordance with domestic law, the term “victim” also includes the immediate family or dependants of the direct victim and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization. The term victim is defined in Oxford English Dictionary as: “Victim is a person who is put to death or subjected to misfortune by another; one who suffers severely in body or property through cruel or oppressive treatment; one who is destined to suffer under some oppressive or destructive agency; one who perishes or suffers in health etc. from some enterprise or pursuit voluntarily undertaken. ” The topic “victim” is much older – Schafer (1975) even constructs a “Golden Age of the Victim” which he located in ancient Mesopotamia, from where the influential Code of Hammurabi came to use. This Golden Age is seen as era when the victim alone determined what happened to the offender. Usually ancient norms mentioning the victim are quoted without closer analyses of their context. American Heritage Dictionary defines “victim” as (a) someone who is put to death or subjected to torture or suffering by another; (b) execution or casting out a person to satisfy a deity or hierarchy; (c) victims of war; d) person who is tricked, swindled or taken advantage of; and (e) a person who suffers injury, loss, or death as a result of a voluntary undertaking. Legal definition of the term victim can be traced to the United Nations General Assembly Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victim and Abuse of Power, 1985. Article 1 and 2 of the Declaration defines “victims of crime” as, persons who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative within Member States, including those laws prescribing criminal abuse of power.
A person may be considered a “victim” regardless of whether the perpetrator is identified, apprehended, prosecuted, or convicted and regardless of the familial relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. Furthermore, the term “victim” also includes the immediate family or dependants of the direct victim and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization. It can therefore be concluded that in strict legal terminology, “victims” are persons who suffer a loss or injury by an act or omission of another and include all those persons who are, in the ordinary course of natural events, dependant on such person, at the time when the act in question was so committed or omitted. The connotations of term ‘victim’ vary in different legal, social, psychological or criminological contexts.
The penal codes of the erstwhile USSR describe the victim as follows. Those who have as a direct result of a crime suffered moral physical or material damage; 1. Those who have suffered physical, moral, or material damage throw and attempted offence; 2. Those whose material damage caused by the crime was made good after the crime, either by the criminal himself or with the help of Militia or of an individual action; 3. Close relation of person who died as a result of a crime. From the legal stand point, Fattah (1966) observed- The Victim may be specific such as physical or moral person (Corporation, State, and Association) or non specific-and an abstraction. Quinney (1972)- The victim is a conception of reality as well as an object of events. All parties involved in sequence of actions construct the reality of the situation. And in the larger social contacts, we all engage in common sense construction of the crime, the criminal, and the victims”. Separovic (1975) stated- “We consider a victim as anything, physical or moral person who suffers either as a result of ruthless design or accidentally. Accordingly we have victim of crime or offence and victims of accidents. ” Castro(1979)- “A Victim is a variable of crime or is an accident producing factor for others and for him. ” In wider perspective defined by Roy Lambron (1983-84)- ___________ a person who has suffered physical or mental injury or harm, mental loss or damage or other social disadvantage as result of conduct. In violation of national penal laws, or 1. deemed a crime under international laws; or 2. constructing a violation of internationally recognized human rights, norms, protecting life, liberty and personal security; or which otherwise amounts to “an abuse of power” by persons, who, by reason of their position of power by authority derived from political, economic or social power, whether they are public officials, agents or employees of the state or corporate entities, are beyond the reach of the loss which; 3. lthough not proscribed by national or international law, causes physical, psychological or economic harm as severe as that caused by abuses of power constituting a violation of internationally recognized human rights norms and creates needs in victims as serious as those caused by violations of such norms” The term “crime victim” generally refers to any person, group, or entity who has suffered injury or loss due to illegal activity. The harm can be physical, psychological, or economic. The legal definition of “victim” typically includes the following: * A person who has suffered direct, or threatened, physical, emotional or pecuniary harm as a result of the commission of a crime; or in the case of a victim being an institutional entity, any of the same harms by an individual or authorized representative of another entity. Group harms are normally covered under civil and constitutional law, with “hate crime” being an emerging criminal law development, although criminal law tends to treat all cases as individualized.
Besides “primary crime victims”, there are also “secondary crime victims” who experience the harm second hand, such as intimate partners or significant others of rape victims or children of a battered woman. It may also make sense to talk about “tertiary crime victims” who experience the harm vicariously, such as through media accounts or from watching television. Many victims feel that defining themselves as a “victim” has negative connotations, and choose instead to define themselves as a “survivor. ” This is a very personal choice that can only be made by the person victimized. The term “survivor” has multiple meanings; e. g. survivor of a crime, “survivor benefits. It remains to be seen whether this terminology for victims of crime will endure. Victimization is an asymmetrical interpersonal relationship that is abusive, painful, destructive, parasitical, and unfair. While a crime is in progress, offenders temporarily force their victims to play roles (almost as if following a script) that mimic the dynamics between the predator and prey, winner and loser, victor and vanquished, and even master and slave. Many types of victimization have been outlawed over the centuries – specific oppressive and exploitative acts, like raping, robbing, and swindling. But not all types of hurtful relationships and deceitful practices are forbidden by law.
It is permissible to overcharge a customer for an item that can be purchased for less elsewhere; or underpay a worker who could receive higher wages for the same tasks at another place for employment; or impose exorbitant interest rates and hidden fees on borrowers who take mortgages and use credit cards; and to deny food and shelter to the hungry and homeless who cannot pay the required amount. In India, the original Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 did not define the term ‘victim’ in definitional clause under Section 2. The Apex Courts interpreted the term ‘victim’ in various instances. The CrPC (Amendment) Act, 2008 defined the term ‘victim’.
Victim means a person who has suffered any loss or injury caused by reason of the act or omission for which the accused person has been charged and the expression ‘victim’ also includes his or her guardian or legal heir. Von Henting made the first ever study of the role of victim in crime and found some general characteristics among them which may be summarized as follows; The poor and ignorant immigrants and those who are requisitive or greedy are the victims of offences involving frauds. Quite often the victims of larcency (theft) are intoxicated or sleeping persons. The depressed or apathetic person is a victim because he is “deprived of warning posts” and is indifferent harm or injury “in prospect”.
Wanton or Sensual persons may become victims due to situations precipitated by themselves. A lonesome and heartbroken person may become especially vulnerable because of the loss of critical faculties in him. Among “general classes of victims”, Von Hentig includes the young, females, the old, the mentally defective and deranged, the intoxicated immigrants, members of minority groups and the “dull normal”. Benjamin Mendelson has constructed a typology predicated on the basis of the victim’s contribution to criminality. He refers to: a) completely innocent victims, such as children and people who are the victims of crime when they not conscious.
In reference to the epic Mahabharatha, the children of the Pandavas were murdered by Ashwathama during the Kurukshetra war while they were sleeping. People who are murdered or raped while they are in a drunken state or in an insane condition or while asleep typify these; b) victims with minor guilt and victims of ignorance, for example pregnant women who go to quacks for miscarriage, and pay for it with their lives; c) voluntary victims, such as ones who commit suicide; d) victims who are more guilty than the offenders, such as persons who provoke others to commit crime; and e) the most guilty type of victims who commit offences against others and get killed by others in self-defense ( e. g. , rapist who gets killed by his victim who acts in self defense).
Another victimologist, Abdul Fattah of Canada, has outlined a rather complicated scheme which has five major categories of victims: a) the non – participating, b) the latent, c) the provocative, d) the participating, and e) the defiant. When in 1973 for the first time the victimologists of the world assembled in Jerusalem to bring together what was known in the scientific world about the victim, the editors of the proceedings of that symposium called “Victimology” a relatively new development within the study of crime and deviance (Drapkin & Viano, 1974). The notion of Victimology was a central issue. The struggle for self definition dominated. The symposium looked at society’s reaction, at prevention and treatment of victims of crime including restitution and compensation.
The position of the victim in the criminal justice system was a main topic, no wonder in a symposium that was largely molded by criminologists and criminal lawyers. Two further volumes of the proceedings deal with special victimizations, characterized by the crimes: homicide, mass violence, genocide, sex offences and rape, white collar crime, traffic offences and related victimization. This all intended the deliberations to be held within a certain discipline, within criminology. Indeed the 1973 symposium was successful in starting a discourse in the international community of scholars. Trudging behind the progress of victimology, modern societies show signs of approximate transformation.
From ones that consciously or by ignorance, fostered victimization by mistreatment, maltreatment and even re-abuse of former victims, modern societies move towards declaring the well caring for victims and their attempt to reduce and prevent various types of victimization (Balloni & Bisi, 2004; Kirchhoff, 2004; Waller, 2005). Central to the change process of societies is a change process of perceptions of various agents within those societies. Albeit the declaration of victims’ prone policy and the inclusion of procedures within the criminal justice system that attempt to keep victims’ legal rights, the implementation still meets victims’ needs only partially (Sebba, 2000; Svensson, 2007).
Therefore, the perceptions of society’s agents are still in a need for transformation, as current victimology suggests. Formerly, the term ‘victim’ was as likely to be associated with general misfortune as it was with crime. This point is reinforced by the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, whose definition starts by referring to ‘a person killed or tortured by another’, but then continues: ‘a person subjected to cruelty, oppression, or other harsh, or unfair treatment, or suffering death, injury, ruin, etc. , as a result of an event, circumstance or oppressive or adverse impersonal agency’. One in four citizens is victim of common crime each year.
In the last century, trends in crime were measured by the number of persons convicted in criminal courts. Then trends were measured using the number of crimes recorded by the police. Today, trends in crime are measured by the general population to estimate the level of victimization. Victimization is a frequent occurrence, involving loss, injury and trauma. It shows that police and particularly court data underestimated the extent of crime. Transnational crime has now been recognised as a pressing global problem. With diminishing barriers of language, communication, information, technology transfer and mobility, and with the ever-increasing globalisation of the economy, crime has taken on a growing transnational character.
This applies, for example, to organised, financial, immigration, computer and sex-related criminality. Transnational crime presents intricate problems of victimization for all vulnerable people, but it has had a disproportionately adverse impact on women. This has been recognised, in the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, where one of the three protocols deals with the prevention, suppression and punishment of trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The draft preamble to this protocol notes that women and children are particularly vulnerable to and targeted by transnational criminal organisations engaged in trafficking in persons.
Accordingly, the draft protocol pays considerable attention to the protection of the victims of this form of crime. Crime affects the individual victims and their families. Many crimes also cause significant financial loss to the victims. The impact of crime on the victims and their families ranges from serious physical and psychological injuries to mild disturbances. The Canadian Centre of Justice Statistics states that about one third of violent crimes resulted in victims having their day-to-day activities disrupted for a period of one day (31%), while in 27% of incidents, the disruption lasted for two to three days (Aucoin & Beauchamp, 2007).
In 18% of cases, victims could not attend to their routine for more than two weeks. A majority of incidents caused emotional impact (78%). Irrespective of the type of victimization, one-fifth of the victims felt upset and expressed confusion and or frustration due to their victimization. Overall, victims felt less safe than non-victims. For example, only a smaller proportion of violent crime victims (37%) reported feeling very safe walking alone after dark than non-victims (46%). Just less than one-fifth (18%) of women who had been victims of violence reported feeling very safe walking alone after dark when compared to their male counterparts.
The impact of crime is perhaps best thought of as a product of the perceived seriousness or intensity of these effects plus their duration from the victim’s own standpoint. Defined in this way, the term refers to an inescapably subjective assessment and evaluation by the victim of the overall consequences of the offence. This includes its meaning and significance for the victim, and whether or not it has resulted in a change of self-perception by which the victim comes to perceive himself or herself as a victim. Thus, the ‘impact’ of a crime has a crucial bearing on the way the victim interprets and responds to it during the second phase of the victimization process, as distinct from whatever tangible or intangible ‘effects’ may be associated with the primary phase.
Unfortunately, most researchers have tended to conflate these two terms and to treat them as interchangeable, which has added to the methodological problems mentioned above, though it might help to account for the seemingly confused nature of many of the findings. The UN Declaration on Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power draws attention to the fact that crime is not just a violation of a criminal code but also causes harm to victims, including economic loss, emotional suffering and physical or mental injury. The UN Handbook divides the impact of crime on victims into: • The physical and financial impact of victimization • Psychological injury and social cost • Secondary victimization from the criminal justice system and society.
The first theory to explain victimization was developed by Wolfgang in his study of murders in Philadelphia. Victim precipitation theory argues that there are victims who actually initiated the confrontation that led to their injuries and deaths. Although this was the result of the study of only one type of crime, the idea was first raised that victims also might play a role in the criminal activity. Victimization is a highly complex process encompassing a number of possible elements. The first element (often referred to as ‘primary victimization’) comprises whatever interaction may have taken place between offender and ‘victim’ during the commission of the offence, plus any after effects arising from this interaction or from the offence itself.
The second element encompasses ‘the victim’s’ reaction to the offence, including any change in self-perception that may result from it, plus any formal response that s/he may choose to make to it. The third element consists of any further interactions that may take place between ‘the victim’ and others, including the various criminal justice agencies with whom s/he may come into contact as a result of this response. Where this interaction has a further negative impact on the victim, it is often referred to as ‘secondary victimization’. The balance between the much-needed protection of the rights of the accused — including the presumption of innocence, equality of arms and access to good quality defense services — and the rights of victims must be given special attention in order to ensure a fair trial.
It is also necessary to prevent secondary victimization, which “occurs not as a direct result of the criminal act but through the response of institutions and individuals to the victims”. Survivors of terrorist acts and family members suffer losses and become more vulnerable as a consequence of the criminal act. Therefore, the State’s institutional framework, including its criminal justice system and its administrative organs tasked with assisting victims, must protect those victims from unnecessary additional burdens. Generally, judicial authorities need to recognize that the person or persons in question have suffered harm as a direct consequence of the criminal conduct for which the accused is charged so that they can appear as victims in criminal proceedings, including trial.
This recognition by criminal justice and law enforcement officials that victimization has taken place is the first step. While it can be expected that officials leading investigations or prosecutions may interrogate surviving victims of terrorist acts, this should not prejudice their status as victims or lead to secondary victimization. If an investigation is necessary to determine whether victims really suffered harm as a result of criminal acts, victims should be questioned in a careful manner. Furthermore, the question of the status of the victim should not be directly or solely dependent on the determination of guilt of the accused. Primary victimization
The ‘primary victimization’ phase of the process, it may be helpful to begin by distinguishing between the ‘effects’ or consequences that are known to result from crimes of different kinds and their ‘impact’ on victims themselves. Certain crimes entail physical effects, which are likely to involve some degree of pain and suffering, and may also entail loss of dexterity, some degree of incapacity and/or possible temporary or permanent disfigurement. Many crimes also have financial effects, which may be either direct. Very often crime can result in additional costs that might be incurred, for example, in seeking medical treatment or legal advice, or loss of income as a result of attending to the crime and its aftermath, or possible loss of future earning potential.
Certain crimes can also have psychological and emotional effects upon victims including depression, anxiety and fear, all of which can adversely affect their quality of life. Secondary victimization Secondary victimization refers to the victimization that occurs not as a direct result of the criminal act but through the response of institutions and individuals to the victim. Institutionalized secondary victimization is most apparent within the criminal justice system. At times it may amount to a complete denial of human rights to victims from particular cultural groups, classes or a particular gender, through a refusal to recognize their experience as criminal victimization. It may result from intrusive or inappropriate conduct by police or other criminal justice personnel.
More subtly, the whole process of criminal investigation and trial may cause secondary victimization, from investigation, through decisions on whether or not to prosecute, the trial itself and the sentencing of the offender, to his or her eventual release. Secondary victimization through the process of criminal justice may occur because of difficulties in balancing the rights of the victim against the rights of the accused or the offender. More normally, however, it occurs because those responsible for ordering criminal justice processes and procedures do so without taking into account the perspective of the victim. Re – victimization Crime is not distributed randomly.
Some of the repeat victimization is due to the victim living or being associated with the offender. Wife battering tends to happen more than once to the same victim who continues to live with the same man. This is also true of sexual incidents. Some of the repeat victimization in property offences is due to the location of the victim or their residence. Those who live close to a concentration of potential offenders in residences that are unprotected are particularly at risk of repeat victimization. Repeat victimization is disillusioning to victims who report their experience to the police and the criminal justice system because they were not protected. Being victimized a second time increases the psychological trauma of the event.
Self victimization In this category person himself commits such act which result in his own victimization we can say up to certain extent that it can be included in repeat victimization only as it result from wrong persons company, wrong habit, etc. Diverse views exist on the focus and place of the discipline of Victimology. While some believe that Victimology should function as an independent area of enquiry, others view it as a subfield of Criminology. A second issue concerns the breadth of victim related issues to be covered in the field of Victimology. Some scholars advocate that Victimology should limit itself to the study of victim-offender interaction.
Others argue that the needs of crime victims, functioning of the organizations and institutions which respond to these needs, and the emerging roles and responsibility for crime victims within the CJS are important areas of inquiry for Victimology. A third issue is the breadth of the definition of the term ‘victim’. One approach is to limit the concept to victims of traditional crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, burglary etc. However, it has also been proposed to include a broader definition of the concept by covering groups such as prisoners, immigrants, subjects of medical experimentation, and persons charged with crime but not proved guilty.
Victimology is an interdisciplinary field that benefits from the contributions of sociologists, psychologists, social workers, political scientists, doctors, nurses, criminal justice officials, lawyers, spiritual leaders, and other professionals, volunteers, advocates, and activists. But academically and organizationally, victimology is best conceived as an area of specialization within criminology, on par with other fields of intensive study, such as delinquency, drug abuse, and penology. Criminology is the older parent discipline and victimology is the recent offshoot. Criminology can be defined as encompassing the scientific study of illegal activities, offenders, their victims, criminal law and the justice system, and societal relations to the crime problem.
Victimology is best viewed as an area of specialization within criminology. The subject Victimology is capable of encompassing a large variety of topics and hence its frontiers are undiscernibly vast. In a broader sense, everybody is a victim of something or the other. At the same time, all humans are offenders, perhaps even of grave crimes. The Indian Penal Code defines crime an act as including omissions also. Crimes committed would as well be on account of illegal omissions. At the same time, all humans are victims as well. For example, everyone in India is victim of atmospheric pollution. We, the humans polluted air, water and our surroundings.
This world is created not only for the habitation of human beings. There are multimillion other living creatures that too are morally entitled to live in this world. By the activities through which we polluted the environment, we have divided the inhabitants of this world into two classes – the offenders and the victims. Offenders are the humans and victims are rest of the living creatures. It was the Indian spiritual genius which highlighted ethical right of the non-human creatures as well to live in this world. Gautama Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavir (founders of Buddhism and Jainism), spearheaded this philosophy many years before the arrival of Jesus Christ.
Many centuries thereafter, Mahatma Gandhi became the apostle of that philosophy, which he propagated without any compromise. Our society is the prime victim of corruption in public life. The beneficiaries of corruption are both the givers and the receivers, but the sufferers are the vast multitude of the people who have neither participated in those corrupt dealings nor even acquiesced in them. We do not normally deal with the victims of persecutions or victims of superstitions and victims of prejudices, not even victims of threatened crimes though they too are destined to languish in miseries. In the present criminal jurisprudence the focus is on the offenders.
Earlier it was exclusively on the perpetrators of the crimes. Once the trial is over and judgment is pronounced, the administration of criminal justice was treated as closed. But victims of the offences committed remained uncared and unattended. Still propounders of our criminal law system described the system as administration of criminal justice. It is unfortunate that this half baked criminal justice remained the accepted notion of that jurisprudence for centuries while the other half, i. e. , the victims of crimes continued to suffer from all the physical and mental as well as financial impairments inflicted on them by the offenders. ——————————————– 1 ]. Andrew Karmen, Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology, Seventh Edition, (Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010), p. 1. [ 2 ]. Andrew Karmen, Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology, Seventh Edition, (Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010), p. 2. [ 3 ]. Sec. 2 (wa), The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 [ 4 ]. Vasu Nair Rajan, Victimology in India – Perspectives Beyond Frontiers (S. B. Nangia: Ashish Publishing House, 1995), p. 9. [ 5 ]. UNODC, Handbook on Justice for Victims (1999), p. 9. [ 6 ]. Andrew Karmen, Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology, Seventh Edition, (Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010), p. 6. [ 7 ]. supra 12;p. 27.
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