Role of victim in crime

Question:- Describe the role of victim in crime. How does he contribute to the crime?


The criminal-victim relationship is called “victimology” and it is considered as an integral part of criminology. Recently scholarly attention and involvement have developed about the victim as a constituent of the criminal situation. For scholars of criminology and law, victim is not just a passive object but an active component of his or her own victimisation

In crimes, the role of victims is very important as many a times, he contributes to the crime.

According to Ellenberger, there is some degree of mutuality between the offender and victim and to know the offender, we must know his immediate partner which is victim. There is a psychological interaction between the offender and victim making them indistinguishable.

According to Shultz (Crime and Delinquency) the offender and victim are not always opposite as the agressor is not always guilty and victim is not always innocent. These terms are sometimes interchangeable. Sometimes, the personality of the victim as a cause of offence is more significant than that of offender.

According to Garofalo (Criminology), sometimes, victim provokes another to attack. For an egoistic person even if provocation is slight. it may be sufficient to result in homicide. The victim instigates the crime in four ways-Direct provocation, indirect provocation, omission to take preventive measures and emotional pathology.

Wolfgang has described “victim-precipitated” crimes where the victim is a direct, positive, precipitator of crime or where the victim strikes first or uses a weapon in a quarrel. The mutual quarrels and altercations by words are not so sufficient to be called as victim precipitated crime.

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Bender and Blau in their study of sex offences has noted some traits of personality of victims which are as follows:-

(i) Attractive, charming and seductive,

(ii) promiscuous,

(iii) impulsive and given to fluctuating words,

(iv) making easy adult contacts,

(v) wanting pity and demanding proof of affection,

(vi) encouragement by the parents to be sexy,

(vii) defying their parents.

There are many cases in which victim by his or her conduct being active and domineering emotionally blackmails the offender or sometimes aggressively acting invites even a weak and submissive offender to commit the crime.

According to Mendelsohn the victims of many assaults and homicides have aggressive and tyrannical personality and engage in acts with the offender which incite or excite him to assaultive response.

Wolfgang has found that in many of cases more 62% of victims had previous arrest record as against 54% of offenders having previous arrest record. The proportion of arrest record of victims is more than the offenders.

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Reporting a crime to the relevant authority is the first step in the victim’s journey of seeking to achieve justice through the criminal justice system. It is therefore important that the initial interaction with the victim is a positive experience for the victim: it not only sets the tone for the further criminal justice process but, in instances where the case does not go beyond the reporting and/or investigation stage, may represent the entire experience that the victim has with the system.

It is important that from the outset, i.e. at the reporting stage, that the criminal justice system acts in a victim-sensitive way. Among the elements that will define whether or not the victim can develop trust in the process are: the way questions are asked and how physical evidence is collected; the environment and atmosphere to which victims are exposed while reporting the crime; and whether comprehensive information on the process is provided. The need for a victim sensitive approach continues at the investigation and trial stage.

The traditional role of victims in a trial is often perceived to be that of a witness of the prosecution. It is common that victims are required to provide testimony about what has happened to them without being given a true choice as to whether they would like to do so, or the terms on which they would like to share this information. (Edwards, 2004; Wemmers, 2017). Victims in role of witness are obliged to provide information, and they may feel that they have no power. They may be asked questions by the judge, the public prosecutor, and/or the defense lawyer, which they feel they need to answer.

Some countries, including the United States and Canada, offer victims the opportunity to make their voices heard by allowing so-called victim impact statements (VIS). When this approach is taken, the victim can usually submit to the court a written statement in a prescribed format that will then be read out in trial. One purpose of such statements is to allow the person or persons most directly affected by the crime to address the court during the decision-making process with a view to personalizing the crime and elevating the status of the victim.

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From the victim’s point of view, VIS are often regarded as valuable in aiding their emotional recovery from their ordeal. It has also been suggested that through their statements, victims may confront an offender with the impact of the crime and thereby contribute to rehabilitation. VIS may also play a role in determining the sentence: the court, when determining the sentence¬†‘shall consider’¬†any statements provided by the victims describing the impact of the crime and the harm and damages suffered. However, the court has no obligation to follow the victim’s preference, a circumstance which may cause further frustration.

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