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Shared Responsibility for Victims

Traditionally, it is believed that victims of any crime are innocent people who have been unjustly wronged or afflicted by a perpetrator; however, many criminologists and lawyers believe that they may also bear responsibility for their misfortunes. In other words, they could have avoided the crime but did not do it for some reason (Karmen, 2009). Besides, they can even provoke it. The degree of responsibility may vary depending on the circumstances. This eventually gives rise to a great number of questions, for example, how to determine the extent of the victims participation in the act of crime or how to evaluate the behavior of the suspect. To discuss these questions, we should first describe various types of victims.

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On the whole, we can single out several categories: for instance, people, who are completely innocent of the crime. They did not do anything to incite aggression or violence against them. This category includes those individuals who were killed in a shooting accident or terrorist attack (Karmen, 2009, p 117). Another example is the victims of homicidal maniacs because in the vast majority of cases these people are randomly chosen and they are not connected with the criminal in any way.

However, there may be other cases. Scholars usually speak about such a concept as victim proneness (Kennedy & Sacco, 1998, p 133). This category comprises those individuals who constantly and deliberately run a great risk of being victimized, especially if they regularly interact with criminal-oriented individuals. For instance, women, who are engaged in prostitution, are more likely to fall victim to rapists. But we should take into account that such notion as proneness is extremely vague as many people simply have to live in dangerous locations or communicate with deviant individuals and they cannot do anything about it. This is one of the reasons why it is so hard to estimate the degree of the victims responsibility.

There is another level in this hierarchy, in particular, when a victim deliberately provokes or precipitates another person. An individual can use abusive language or make insulting comments about his or her interlocutor. This is normally called precipitation of the crime (Karmen, 2009, p 108). It may occur when the victim outrages another person or humiliates him or her. Moreover, the victim can even leave no choice to another person but to commit a crime. In this regard, we need to mention self-defense against rape or burglary. Finally, the victim can deliberately fabricate a crime to receive insurance or any other type of compensation (Kennedy & Sacco, 1998). From a legal standpoint, there is no offense or crime under such circumstances. Again, we have to emphasize the idea that fabrication of the crime is hardly possible to prove. Such a scenario is very widespread because police frequently lack substantial evidence. So, one has to be very careful when passing judgment about the victims behavior.

It should be borne in mind that this classification is rather convenient because occasionally criminologists and victimologists find it very difficult to draw a distinct line between innocent behavior and precipitation or provocation. We may compare innocent victims with those who have provoked violence. The thing is that sometimes even the most innocent remark can give rise to aggression especially if the perpetrator is an unbalanced person. The victim may not even expect that his words, gestures, or actions can trigger such a reaction. This is one of the reasons why lawyers and judicial officials cannot always objectively assess the details of the crime and behavior or people who were involved in it.

This discussion indicates that the responsibility of the victim often cannot be appropriately determined because there are marginal cases that give room for various interpretations. They may range from the victims complete innocence to the fabrication of the crime. This is why victimologists and policemen must inquire into every detail of the case to make the right verdict about the status of the victim.

Reference List

Karmen, A (2009). Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology. New York: Cengage Learning.

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Kennedy. L.W. & Sacco, V.F (1998). Crime Victims in Context. New York: Roxbury Publishing Company.

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