Victimisation (or victimization) is the process of being victimised or becoming a victim. Research that studies the process, rates, incidence, and prevalence of victimisation falls under the body of victimology.
- 1 Peer victimisation
- 2 Secondary victimisation
- 3 Revictimisation
- 4 Offenders choosing pre-traumatized victims
- 5 Self-victimisation
- 6 Self-image of victimisation (victim mentality)
- 7 Rates of victimisation in United States
- 8 In employment law
- 9 Response of institutions
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
Secondary victimisation (also known as post crime victimisation or double victimisation) relates to further victimisation following on from the original victimisation. For example, victim blaming, inappropriate post-assault behaviour or language by medical personnel or other organisations with which the victim has contact may further add to the victim's suffering. Victims may also experience secondary victimisation by justice system personnel upon entering the criminal justice system. Victims will lose time, suffer reductions in income, often be ignored by bailiffs and other courthouse staff and will remain uninformed about updates in the case such as hearing postponements, to the extent that their frustration and confusion will turn to apathy and a declining willingness to further participate in system proceedings.
Rape is especially stigmatising in cultures with strong customs and taboos regarding sex and sexuality. For example, a rape victim (especially one who was previously a virgin) may be viewed by society as being "damaged." Victims in these cultures may suffer isolation, be disowned by friends and family, be prohibited from marrying, or be divorced if already married.
The re-traumatisation of the sexual assault, abuse, or rape victim through the responses of individuals and institutions is an example of secondary victimisation. Secondary victimisation is especially common in cases of drug-facilitated, acquaintance, and statutory rape.
The term revictimisation refers to a pattern wherein the victim of abuse and/or crime has a statistically higher tendency to be victimised again, either shortly thereafter or much later in adulthood in the case of abuse as a child. This latter pattern is particularly notable in cases of sexual abuse. While an exact percentage is almost impossible to obtain, samples from many studies suggest the rate of revictimisation for people with histories of sexual abuse is very high. The vulnerability to victimisation experienced as an adult is also not limited to sexual assault, and may include physical abuse as well.
Reasons as to why revictimisation occurs vary by event type, and some mechanisms are unknown. Revictimisation in the short term is often the result of risk factors that were already present, which were not changed or mitigated after the first victimisation; sometimes the victim cannot control these factors. Examples of these risk factors include living or working in dangerous areas, chaotic familial relations, having an aggressive temperament, drug or alcohol usage and unemployment.
Revictimisation of adults who were previously sexually abused as children is more complex. Multiple theories exist as to how this functions. Some scientists propose a maladaptive form of learning; the initial abuse teaches inappropriate beliefs and behaviours that persist into adulthood. The victim believes that abusive behaviour is "normal" and comes to expect it from others in the context of relationships, and thus may unconsciously seek out abusive partners or cling to abusive relationships. Another theory draws on the principle of learned helplessness. As children, they are put in situations that they have little to no hope of escaping, especially when the abuse comes from a caregiver. One theory goes that this state of being unable to fight back or flee the danger leaves the last primitive option: freeze, an off-shoot of death-feigning.
Offenders choosing pre-traumatized victims
In adulthood, the freeze response can remain, and some professionals have noted that victimisers sometimes seem to pick up subtle clues of this when choosing a victim. This behaviour can make the victim an easier target, as they sometimes make less effort to fight back or vocalise. Afterwards, they often make excuses and minimise what happened to them, sometimes never reporting the assault to the authorities.
Self-image of victimisation (victim mentality)
Victims of abuse and manipulation often get trapped into a self-image of victimisation. The psychological profile of victimisation includes a pervasive sense of helplessness, passivity, loss of control, pessimism, negative thinking, strong feelings of guilt, shame, self-blame and depression. This way of thinking can lead to hopelessness and despair.
Rates of victimisation in United States
Levels of criminal activity are measured through three major data sources: the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), self-report surveys of criminal offenders, and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). However, the UCR and self-report surveys generally report details regarding the offender and the criminal offense; information on the victim is only included so far as his/her relationship to the offender, and perhaps a superficial overview of his/her injuries. The NCVS is a tool used to measure the existence of actual, rather than only those reported, crimes — the victimisation rate — by asking individuals about incidents in which they may have been victimised. The National Crime Victimization Survey is the United States' primary source of information on crime victimisation.
Each year, data is obtained from a nationally represented sample of 77,200 households comprising nearly 134,000 persons on the frequency, characteristics and consequences of criminal victimisation in the United States. This survey enables the (government) to estimate the likelihood of victimisation by Rape (more valid estimates were calculated after the surveys redesign in 1992 that better tapped instances of sexual assault, particularly of Date rape), robbery, assault, theft, household burglary, and motor vehicle theft for the population as a whole as well as for segments of the population such as women, the elderly, members of various racial groups, city dwellers, or other groups. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the NCVS reveals that, from 1994 to 2005, violent crime rates have declined, reaching the lowest levels ever recorded. Property crimes continue to decline.
In 2010, the National Institute of Justice reported that American adolescents were the age group most likely to be victims of violent crime, while American men were more likely than American women to be victims of violent crime, and blacks were more likely than Americans of other races to be victims of violent crime.
In employment law
Victimisation is a concept in employment law. It refers to situations where people are targeted with abuse, suffer detriment to their employment conditions or are dismissed as a result of bringing a claim for another form of discrimination. If an employee is "victimised" for complaining about another part of work, then a separate and independent claim for such treatment would arise. If an employee has brought a discrimination claim, acted as a witness in someone else's claim or raised issues relating to potential discrimination, any action taken against them because of this will be unlawful.
Response of institutions
Often, when an individual has been targeted by one or more individuals in an institutional setting (military, school, workplace) the operators of that institution will get rid of the victim rather than address the problem directly, or pursue the aggressors. This may be done due to the perceived difficulty of taking action against the aggressors, or most often to solve the problem by removing the focus (the victim) from the institution.
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- "post-crime victimization or secondary victimization". Comprehensive Criminal Justice Terminology. Prentice Hall.
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- National Crime Victimization Survey Official web site
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- Westervelt, Saundra Davis Shifting The Blame: How Victimization Became a Criminal Defense (1998)
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- Schiller, Ulene Addressing re-victimization of the sexually abused child: Training programme for state prosecutors working with sexually abused children during forensic procedures (2009)
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- "Fear of Crime and Perceived Risk." Oxford Bibliographies Online: Criminology.
- NCVS Victimization Analysis Tool (NVAT) Bureau of Justice Statistics