The Concept & Cost of Victimization in Criminal Justice

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  • 0:01 What Is a Victim?
  • 1:26 The Cost of Victimization
  • 3:40 Victimology
  • 4:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

This lesson introduces you to what it means to become a victim and the concept of victimization. You will also learn about the physical, financial, and emotional costs that a victim often faces once they have been victimized. Finally, you will learn what is being done for victims through a subfield of criminology known as victimology.

What Is a Victim?

It's Monday morning, and Nancy grabs her coffee and briefcase, then heads for the door. The moment it opens, she sees what will soon turn this mediocre morning into something much worse. The window on her car has been broken, and she has been robbed. She quickly realizes that her stereo system has been torn from her dashboard, leaving only an empty space that it used to occupy. Nancy can feel her stomach turn as an overwhelming wave of emotion pours from her; she has been victimized.

Now, you might be wondering what it means when a person has been victimized. It's clear that the root word of victimized or victimization is 'victim,' so let's define that first. A victim is any person who is harmed, injured, or killed as a result of crime. This means that victimization or victimizing someone else is an act of making someone a victim. Essentially, a person harms, injures, or kills someone else as a result of a crime they commit. Of course, the crime itself can be an act of harming, injuring, or killing someone, but it can also be a consequence of a crime. For example, a person can be involved in a car accident when a person is fleeing a bank robbery. Crime is a heavy burden to society, governments, and especially the victim. In this lesson, we will explore the idea of victimization a bit more and what is being done to help victims.

The Cost of Victimization

Victimization can also be understood through its costs. Costs can be seen in how a person reacts to becoming a victim, as well as the financial and physical damages caused by the person committing the crime. When a person becomes a victim to a crime, he or she will experience varying degrees of physical, financial, and psychological trauma. Typically, those victims of non-violent crime (such as what happened to Nancy) experience lower levels of trauma than their violent crime counterparts, but that is not always the case because victimization is a very personal phenomena.

The cost of victimization has three dimensions: physical injuries, financial losses, and emotional stress. These primary costs that the victims suffer will vary depending on the severity of the crime and the individual victim, but are always the consequences of the crime. Physical injuries might be things such as bruises, cuts, or broken bones, but the stress of the crime might also cause sleeplessness, fatigue, and appetite changes. While Nancy did not suffer any injuries, she has been losing sleep, and her appetite has decreased because she no longer feels safe where she lives. Financial costs are the monetary losses sustained as a result of becoming a victim (e.g., property losses, productivity losses, and medical bills). For Nancy, she has the costs associated with repairing the damage to her car and replacing the stereo. Emotional costs are those less easily quantifiable because it includes how the process of becoming a victim has forever changed the victim's emotional status. For Nancy, she has emotional costs associated with her feelings of being violated when her car was burglarized.

After a person is identified as a victim, there are a large variety of supports and interventions put into place to help the victim move beyond the incident. However, if that aid is not fully provided to the victim, he or she may experience secondary costs. The victim may feel they are victimized for a second time because precious resources and support were not provided to them.

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