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Social Dimensions of Crime and Justice Victims LUCIA ZEDNER INTRODUCTION Victims, once on the margins of criminological research, are now a central focus of academic research. Victim surveys, both national and local, and qualitative studies of the impact of crime and of victim needs have permanently altered the criminological agenda. Victims complicate the old triumvirate of crimes, criminals, and their control. And criminologists have been obliged to recognize that crime has consequences more painful than once acknowledged. Academic research on victims has been mirrored and encouraged by the growth of influential interest groups, cross-party political concern, and international recognition. As a result, the victim has moved from being a ‘forgotten actor’ to become a key player in the criminal justice process. The promotion of victims’ interests at both national and international level has prompted debate about victims’ rights and the setting of standards of service. For victims are now the subject of political as much as criminological attention. This chapter traces the genesis of ‘victimology’ and the development of victim surveys. It examines fear of crime, constraints on lifestyle, and the impact of crime on its victims. It surveys the harms suffered by victims; their consequent needs, together with the victim’s movement’s responses and the provision of services. It examines the place of the victim in the criminal justice process and attempts made specifically to In preparing this edition, I would like to thank Carolyn Hoyle, Mike Maguire, Declan Roche and Richard Young for their valuable comments. limit their ‘secondary victimization’ by that process. Finally, it explores the rise of ‘restorative justice’, its philosophical bases and its implications for the place of victims within criminal justice. Reorientation of criminal justice toward the victim connotes a shift in penological thinking that challenges the prevailing paradigm of retributive punishment. The chapter will conclude by examining the prospects for restorative justice and its limitations. CLASSICAL STUDIES IN VICTIMOLOGY Interest in victims has a long history. The term ‘victimology’ appears to have been coined first in 1949 by the American psychiatrist, Frederick Wertham, who called for ‘a science of victimology’ (Wertham, 1949). It is, however, Von Hentig, The Criminal and his victim (Hentig, 1948), which is now widely regarded as the seminal text in developing victim studies. Highly critical of the traditional offender-orientated nature of criminology, Von Hentig proposed a dynamic, interactionist approach that challenged conceptions of the victim as passive actor. This focused both on those characteristics of victims which precipitated their suffering and on the relationship between victim and offender. He argued ‘The law . . . makes a clear-cut distinction between the one who does and the one who suffers. Looking into the genesis of the situation, in a considerable number of cases, we meet a victim who consents tacitly, co-operates, conspires or provokes’ (Von Hentig, 1948 quoted in Fattah, 1989: 44) By classifying victims into typologies based on psychological and social variables he suggested that certain individuals were ‘victim-prone’. Others took up these notions of victim-precipitation and victim-proneness. Mendelsohn drew on explanations of accident causation in attempting to quantify the victim’s ‘guilty contribution to the crime’ (Mendelsohn 1956). His approach went beyond merely designating victim typologies to assign degrees of culpability. His classification is highly moralistic, with categories ranging from the ‘completely innocent’ to the ‘most guilty victim’. This form of ‘victim blaming’ later attracted considerable criticism, but Mendelsohn’s intent was less to exculpate the offender than to devise an explanatory model on which preventive programmes might be devised to reduce the extent and severity of victimization. Not until Wolfgang’s classic study Patterns in Criminal Homicide (1958) were Von Hentig’s ideas systematically empirically tested. Wolfgang defined victim- precipitated offences as those ‘in which the victim is a direct, positive precipitator in the crime’ (Wolfgang, 1958). Examining police records of 588 homicides in Philadelphia (from 1948 to 52), he calculated that 26 per cent of known homicides resulted from victim-initiated resort to violence. His conclusion that some crime was victim-precipitated inspired many subsequent studies replicating his approach (for example, by Amir, Hindelang, Gottfredson, and Garafalo). Whilst these studies were as concerned to develop victim typologies as to assess victim precipitation, it is this latter aim, with its emotive connotations of victim blaming, that continues to attract criminological attention. Perhaps the most controversial application of Wolfgang’s model of victim precipitation is Amir’s Patterns of Forcible Rape (1971). Amir analysed 646 forcible rapes recorded by the police in Philadelphia and concluded that 19 per cent were victim-precipitated. Amir’s study provoked considerable disquiet and has been criticized both on methodological and ideological grounds. His definition of precipitation is broad and vague, encompassing all those instances in which ‘the victim actually—or so it was interpreted by the offender—agreed to sexual relations but retracted . . . or did not resist strongly enough when the suggestion was made by the offender. The term also applies to cases in which the victim enters vulnerable situations charged sexually’ (Amir, 1971: 262). This shift, from recognizing victim– offender interaction as a precipitating factor to re-ascribing blame to the victim in rape cases, was heavily criticized by the newly emergent feminist movement. Since only a small proportion of rapes is reported (Temkin, 1987: 9), Amir’s reliance on police records necessarily presents a very partial picture. Moreover, reports in police files are problematic accounts: arguably they reveal as much about police attitudes to rape victims as they do about the etiology of the crime. The chief difficulty with Amir’s study (and others, which followed its model) is that it conflates analysis of the dynamics of crime with the attribution of responsibility to the victim. In so doing, it moves from examining the correlates of victimization to victim blaming. In short, it seems to suggest ‘that victims of assault have no one except themselves to blame if they deliberately walk in dark alleys after dark’ (Anttila, 1974: 7). Fattah has defended the idea of victim-precipitation, arguing that in a rigorously pursued, value-free social science there is no reason why it should entail victim blaming. Although it has been used carelessly in the past, he argues it is a sound explanatory tool (Fattah, 1991). Understood not as victim-precipitation but as the recognition that crime is a transaction in which both offender and victim play a role, this approach might lead to a fuller understanding of crime. Unfortunately, however, the tendency for victim-precipitation studies to lead to victim blaming has undermined its potential explanatory power and attracted only criticism (Morris, 1987: 173–4; Walklate, 1989: 4–5). The concentration of early victim studies on reassigning responsibility for crime offered few new, coherent theoretical insights (Rock, 1986: 72–3) and produced little by way of empirical findings other than that some victims bear some responsibility for some crimes (Miers, 1989: 15; though see Edgar and O’Donnell, 1998). As such, it is perhaps not surprising that, throughout the 1960s and much of the 1970s, mainstream criminology remained firmly wedded to offender- orientated studies. More recently, ‘radical’ and ‘critical’ victimologists challenged these strictures by engaging in analysis of the wider political, economic, and social context of victimization, in political analysis of the rights of victims, and in cross- cultural analysis of the development of victims’ movements (Mawby and Walklate, 1994; Walklate, 2000).
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