VICTIMS IN SOCIETY
PURPOSES, COURSE GOALS, APPROACH
This course introduces you to theories, evidence, and policies relevant to crime victims in society. More specifically, you will learn about three general topic areas in this course: describing crime victims in society; describing the consequences of victimization; and understanding the relationship between victims and the criminal justice system, its problems, and the ways it can be improved. Here are the kinds of questions we will be addressing in each of these three areas.
General information about victims in society. We will rely upon social science evidence to learn about many features of victimization, and about the contexts surrounding victimization. By the end of the semester you want to know:
How much victimization is there in our society?
Impacts of victimizationWe will rely upon social science information, and personal evidence, to learn more about the emotional, psychological, economic, and physical consequences of victimization. By the end of the semester you want to know:
What are the different types of harms associated with being a victim
of a crime, or with being a family member or a close friend of a
crime victim? What are the psychological, economic, social, and
Victims and the Criminal Justice System We will rely on social science and personal evidence to learn more about how the criminal justice system (CJS) "treats" victims. This is a particularly interesting time to examine these issues, since a major national report on improving victims' rights in the criminal justice system has just been released. We will address questions like the following:
In what ways does the CJS re-victimize victims?
My approach to this material includes the following elements:
You are assigned readings on a weekly basis. You are expected to keep
up with those readings. As you read the material, you are expected to
consult questions listed on the website to be sure you can answer
A Note on Personal Orientation
I want to be "up front" about my approach to this course. In addressing this material, I make the following assumptions.
The term "victim" has an extremely broad and varied meaning in our society. In addition, there are many different types of victims in our society. This course focuses on the victims of serious crimes.
Crime victims are those who have been the target of a serious "Part I" crime. There are eight Part I crimes as defined by the FBI: rape, robbery, assault, homicide, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson. All but homicide leave a living victim behind; many crimes also create "indirect victims" homicide leaves "survivors" behind - those whose lives are altered by the loss.
I will expand this definition, and move outside of it, in just a couple of cases to consider "new" types of crime, such as stalking. But for the most part we are going to stay within this box.
A "crime victim" is created as long as there is awareness of a crime attempt. The success of the crime is not necessary to create a victim, nor is the reporting of the crime necessary to create a victim.
I am aware that this leaves a lot of crime victims and "victims" out of this course: toxic victims, victims of racial intimidation, victims of sexual harassment, and so on. Some of these matters are covered in other courses (e.g., Race and the Criminal Justice System). But in my view this exclusion is necessary so that we can bring into sharper focus certain types of crime victims and victimization. Finally, the crime victims we discuss here are the victims with which the criminal justice system must deal in large numbers.
We will rely upon many different types of "data" and evidence to help us understand victimization, its consequences, and links between victims and the criminal justice system.
Much of these data will be quantitative in nature, and will come from a variety of social science sources. I assume you are willing to master some basic information about these data sources, and the results that we learn from these sources.
We also will use more qualitative data sources, such as personal accounts and histories, to help us understand what happens to victims and why.
Each of us in class has probably either been a victim of a serious crime, perhaps repeatedly, or knows people who have, or both. In short, each of us have been affected by the phenomenon we examine in this class. We all have a personal perspective on the topic. In recognition of this, I have provided some resources that may be of interest to victims or acquaintances/friends/family members of victims. I hope you find helpful some of the materials, programs, and concepts covered in this class.