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Flashcards in Forensic Psyc Victims Deck (31)
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Who are the victims of crime?
 Victims:

People who 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“ The UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power


Who are the victims of crime?

• According to the British Crime Survey, high
victimisation rates are found among:
 Urban areas (18% compared to rural 12%)
 Property offences: young professionals
 Personal victimisation: Age (16-24); single;
low household income; unemployed; full time
student; active evening life; high alcohol


Victims’ Fear of Crime

• Groups at highest risk of becoming crime
victims are not necessarily those who
experience the greatest fear of crime
 Elderly and women report highest fear
 Young males report least fear
• Although people most fear violent
victimisation from strangers, many crimes
are committed by non-strangers


Victims’ Fear of Crime in Australia

• National Survey of
Community Satisfaction
with Policing (2001/2):
 80% of Australians surveyed
felt safe or very safe at
home by themselves
during the night
 Only 40% felt safe or very
safe outside during the
• Australian Criminology
Research - most feared
public activity: catching
the train


Victims’ Fear of Crime

• How do people manage their fear of crime?
 Increase security measures at home
 In public try to avoid “unpredictable strangers”
 Go out in groups
 Monitor environment/ stay alert
• These strategies can increase a sense of
control that they won’t be victimised
• However constant attention to signs of danger
can increase fear and perceptions of risk


Reporting Crime

• Crime statistics often reflect reported crimes,
but many crimes go unreported
• Estimates that only 3/5 crimes in US reported
by victims
• Factors that influence reporting:
– Nature of offence (*perception that reporting will
benefit victim, seriousness)
– Characteristics of victim are less important
– Bystanders/support networks who encourage


Historical View of Victims

• Early Middle Ages: Victims or their survivors
played a central role in trial proceedings and
• This ‘Golden age’ of the victim ended with
monarchs who declared that vengeance was
theirs alone
• Crimes are often thought of as hostile acts
against the state, rather than the events that
hurt a specific person
• Until recently, victims have had few rights in
the criminal justice system


Historical View of Victims
• 1960s-1970s:

Criticisms that the government
offered the victims little to no support, even
though ostensibly the criminal justice system
was established to serve them
• 1970s: Concept of “Blaming the victim”
recognised and popularised


Why do We Blame the Victim? The Fundamental Attribution Error:

tendency for observers, when analysing
another’s behaviour, to underestimate the
impact of the situation and to overestimate
the impact of personal disposition


Why do We Blame the Victim? Just-World Hypothesis:

The need to believe
the world is fair and that people get what
they deserve
– Bad people are punished
– Good people rewarded


Blaming the victim shapes our responses
to victims:

The norms of our society demand that
we help others that deserve our help.
But if people are responsible for their
own suffering, we do not feel obligated
to help them


Victims’ View of Criminal Justice

Victims are often dissatisfied with the criminal
justice system
• Survey of 249 victims across 6 cities in US
(Medis, 1984)
– 77% said the courts were too slow and wasted time
– 86% felt that offenders weren’t punished enough
– Only 30% felt that the courts care about the
victims’ needs


Secondary Victimisation

Uncertainty as to their role in the criminal
justice process
 A general lack of knowledge about the
criminal justice system, courtroom
procedures, and legal issues
 Trial delays that result in frequent travel,
missed work, and wasted time
 Fear of the defendant or of retaliation from
defendant’s associates
 Trauma of testifying and cross-examination
 Media – especially in homicide cases


Response to Victims’ Concerns

• Several developments reflect the growing
stature and influence of the victims rights
–UN declaration of basic principles of justice
for victims of crime and abuse of power
–The emergence of the interdisciplinary field
of victimology, which concentrates on the
process and consequences of victimisation
experiences and how victims recover


• Increasingly, legislators, prosecutors, and
court systems are trying to respond to the
concerns of crime victims by:

1. Compensation of the crime victims
2. Participation by victims in criminal proceedings
3. Legislative changes protecting victims’ rights
4. Reconciling victims and offenders


1. Compensation of the Crime Victims

• Restitution: Judge orders defendant to
compensate victim for losses
• Pros:
– Victim reimbursed
– Helps offenders appreciate how their crimes have
hurt others
• Cons:
– Often there is no defendant because crime isn’t
solved or defendant is acquitted
– Also, defendant is often financially unable to
reimburse the victim

• Government often has victim compensation
funds to pay for lost wages and medical
• These funds usually do not cover property
losses and have fairly low caps on how much
compensation will be provided


2. Participation by Victims in Crime Proceedings

• Many states in AUS provide that victims have
a right to be notified of and attend court
proceedings and a right to make their views
known, either to the prosecutor or directly to
the judge
• Victims are concerned that important
decisions are made without their input


2. Participation by Victims in Crime
• Victim impact evidence:

Evidence offered
at sentencing to show the impact on the
victim of the crime for which the defendant
has been convicted


2. Participation by Victims in Crime

• Senator Brooks Douglass wrote a law that
gave him and his sister the right to watch the
state execute Steven Hatch, the man who
attacked him and his sister and murdered
their parents


3. Legislative Changes Protecting
Victims’ Rights

• Many states have passed special laws to
protect victims’ rights. For example:
– To be notified of proceedings
– Not to be excluded from the trial and other proceedings
– To be heard at crucial stages such as the release of an offender, plea bargaining, and sentencing
– To be notified of offender’s release from custody
– To be freed from unreasonable delay in the proceedings
– To receive restitution from the convicted offender
• 70-90% of voters have supported such
amendments (Westbrook, 1998)


4. Reconciling Victims and Offenders

• E.g., Restorative Justice
• Resolution conferences, although
controversial, can cause the offender to
realise the victim’s pain and the victim to
understand why the offender committed the

• Provides benefits in the areas of:
–Competency development
–Community safety

NSW: Victim – Offender Conferencing
 Organised by the Restorative Justice Unit
 The programme is post-sentence
 Only takes place if the offender accepts
responsibility for the offence and both the
victim and the offender have agreed to
take part.
 All the participants discuss the crime and
the impact that this has had on their lives.
They then come to an agreement about
what could be done to make things better


Psychological Effects of Victimisation
• Stockholm Syndrome:

Paradoxical phenomenon where
hostages exhibit empathy and
positive regard for their captors,
sometimes to the point of
defending them
• Named following a bank robbery in
Stockholm, where bank employees
were held hostage for six days in
1973. During that time the victims
became emotionally attached to
their captors, and even defended
them after they were freed.


Psychological Effects of Victimisation ASD & PTSD

Victims can be at risk of developing Acute
Stress Disorder (ASD; before 1 month) and
later Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
• Usually the trauma must be of sufficient
severity to have threatened the victim, or
someone close to the victim, with mortal
danger or serious bodily harm


Psychological Effects of Victimisation
How common is PTSD in Australia?

 Estimated 12-month prevalence of PTSD in
Australia is 1.3%, representing around 200000
cases per year
 Lifetime prevalence rate is likely to be about double
this figure.


Psychological Effects of Victimisation
Crime and PTSD

• 26% of women whose trauma was crime
related developed PTSD
• Only 9% of noncriminal trauma victims
developed PTSD symptoms
• Women who were injured by a trauma were
more likely to get PTSD than those who were
• The belief that the victim’s life is in danger
and that he or she has no control over the
trauma increases risk for PTSD


Why do only some develop PTSD?

• Although many people experiencing severe
trauma may develop ASD, most do not
develop PTSD
• Those who experience trauma, but not
PTSD receive high levels of social support
immediately following the event


Why do only some develop PTSD?
• Cognitive Biases (Foa et al., 1999)

 PTSD sufferers often perceive the world
as a dangerous place
 They blame themselves for the event
 They often come to view themselves as
helpless to deal with stressors
• If these misconceptions can be eliminated,
PTSD may be prevented


Psychological Help for Victims

• Foa et al. (1995) have developed a 4-session
prevention course to attack these
– Education about common psychological reactions
so victims know their responses are normal
– Training in skills such as relaxation so they are
prepared to cope with stress
– Emotionally reliving the trauma through imaginal
exposure methods to allow victims to diffuse fears
of the trauma
– Cognitive restructuring to help the women replace
negative beliefs about their competence and
adequacy with more realistic appraisals

4-session prevention course evaluated:
– 10 women who had recently been raped or
assaulted completed the course and were
compared with 10 other similar women who did not
complete course
– At 2-month and 5.5-month post-assault
assessments, victims who completed the course
had fewer PTSD symptoms
– Two months after the trauma, 70% of untreated
women and only 10% of treated women had PTSD


Victims Vs. Survivors

• Many prefer the term “survivors” over
• Traditionally psychology and related
disciplines have emphasised destructive
consequences of negative events
• More recently, researchers have started
balancing this one-sided perspective, with
growing interest in coping and resilience


Traditional Research on Holocaust

• “Muselmanism”
• Identification with
the aggressor
• “Survivor
• “Concentration
camp syndrome”
• Survivor guilt
• Post Traumatic
Stress Disorder


Recent Research on Holocaust

• Achievement Motivation
– Many successful survivors
– No different from controls
• Erikson’s psychosocial stages
– Survivors successfully completed
all stages except trust vs.
• Coping strategies
– Prevalence of self-control,
rational problem-solving, and
persistence as strategies for