A victim is a person who has received injuries whether physical or emotionally when a crime is committed. This will include people who are physical assaulted, kidnapped, sexual assaulted, involved in domestic violence, a child abuse, a person at a motor vehicle accident or incident where a crime occurs, or get injured emotionally by witnessing this incidents. They can also be injured by another crime committed for example homicide, robbery or robbery with violence.
A person who is victimized is also faced with psychologically problems he/she may lose clear line of thinking and becomes overwhelmed. In most cases the victim loses money or may be injured. The worst of all is the emotional pain that the victim undergoes. The victimized close relatives and friends can also suffer both psychologically and emotionally. It was also noted that, stress, fear, anxiety and a lot of tension is experienced by family members.
The rights of the victim is an old issue that dates back since time of independence, In words for senator Feinstein, he points out that at the time of constitution’s adoption, they was a few public prosecutors and crime victims were taken as parties and had to represent themselves. The founders of the nation did not have special protections given to the criminal victims. They did not foresee the modern ways where a public prosecutor acts independent of the crime victim. Nevertheless, as time passed changes in the criminal law occurred and victims had to be respected and given their rights. Accordingly, the public support also was awakened and victims’ rights protections become a public issue. This was witnessed in Maryland in 1994 when voters voted for state constitutional amendments that protects the right of the victim. The amendment passed by 92 percent of the total vote. This set the trend in many states as 33 states have various constitutional amendments that seek to protect victims. Currently all the 50 states at least have some kind of victims’ rights measures on the court level.
As per statistics given by the department of justice, over 5 million violent crimes occur in America per year. This number is so big and human rights activists and politicians have for over 20 years been campaigning for these victims rights in the way the criminal justices process are carried on. Some of the rights they seek are:
- Victims should have a right to receive a public notice of events related to his criminal prosecution; this can be bail hearing date, the trial date, the sentencing date or even a parole hearing date.
- Victims should have a right to be present and hear the court’s proceedings during their cases. They should also be heard during this process.
- The victims should have a right to be notified in case the criminal who victimized the victim is released on parole or he/she makes an escape from prison.
- Victims should be assured of their safety before a criminal is released on parole by the courts or when the criminal is released by courts.
- The victim should have a right to be protected against long delays caused in criminal prosecutions.
The aim of these rights was to ensure that the victims are given legitimate attention consideration.
This campaign and pressure lead to the passage of Victims of Crime Legislation, Bill 23, 1995; which states that, victims are entailed to the following rights: they should be shown respect, politeness and kindness. That, they should be updated on the court process about their cases. They should also be given information concerning services remedies. The victims should be informed the dates of important proceedings. That the victims should be informed when an offender is released pardoned or escapes. The victims should be interviewed by same gender officer in case the victim is sexual assaulted. The victim has a right to be compensated for injuries suffered. And that incase there was loss of property and it is recovered it should be returned without any delay. Lastly the victim should be able to be represented in the court by writing a victim impact statement.
Any where, these rights have to be enforced by the courts to make them work and protect the victim. Otherwise they will be just mere words on paper. In a study carried out by National Victim Center, it found out that many victims still were being denied their rights. This occurred even in those states seen as having a strong legal protection. For example the study found out that a big number of victims from “strong” and “weak” states did not receive a notification during different stages of court process. As for bail hearing (those not notified in strong states were 37 percent and in weak states were 57 percent); as for pretrial release of suspects (the number was 62 percent in strong states and 74 percent in weak states for those who were not notified); and for sentencing hearings (those who were not notified were 45 percent in strong states and 70 in weak states). In a another report which was related to this, it was found out that racial minorities were the most serious affected by being denied their victims’ rights protection.
According to observations, victims like to be involved in the justice process. Of particular interest is their always like to be notified of the process of their cases. Victims felt left out and were angry because they were not given information about the way their cases are progressing. It was also noted that, many victims do not want to interfere with the courts. As a victim is also important that the victim is not forces into accepting some justice program that has not chosen.
However the question that is asked is whether the victim’s rights campaign is that necessary and important? Many people have a feeling that crime has increased for the last thirty years. Various studies carried out show an average individual (even those who have not been victimized) live in a regular fear of being victimization. Sadly, the fear of this people is true. This is because total number of crimes in United States has increased by 300% since 1965 to the present day. While violent crime has escalated to more than 600%. This has lead to a very large financial burden to the nation. As it is approximated that $450 billion is spend on crime every year. And that, 1.8 million days are lost in terms of work days, which translates to more than $55 million lost in terms of wages.
It is also interesting to note that, as the laws to protect the Victim’s rights are passed, the crime increases. It was also noted that the percentage of those who repeated to commit a crime was high. A study carried out by University of Pennsylvania revealed that 67% of total crime committed in the nation was carried by a mere 10% of the criminal population. In other cases, the perpetrators hunted and victimized their victim for the second time. This is thought to be a result of the perpetrators not being given harsh penalties or as a result of more liberal laws which seems to give criminals a sense that the government is soft on them and their more rights than those of the victims. These facts are chilling and the problem is touching each community. The Department of Justice shows the America is the one with highest number of violent crimes than any other country. It is estimated that the homicide crime is five times that of Europe while the Juvenile crime rate is seven times more than that of Europe or Japan.
Looking at possibility of being a victim in1996, a survey carried out by Gallup poll, showed that women feared most being victims than men. The number was 57% of women as compared to men who were at 43%. The research also found out that non white people were the one more concerned about becoming victims than the whites. The numbers were 74.8% against 46.6%. It was also noted that few people had confidence in the justice system. It is also apparent that victims are most likely not to report a crime if the perpetrator is someone they know personal. Those victims who are violently attacked are highly likely to report the crime to police if the perpetrator is a stranger. The group which is likely not to report a crime is that of young children aged between 12 and 19.
For the purpose of this paper, we will examine a research carried out by The Bouverie centre, Victoria’s Family Institute using a method of confrontative interview. The confrontational interview carried out in response to critics from the feminist about family therapy in the area of sexual abuse. The interview is designed to address issue of control and power in a situation of victim- perpetrator relationship. In this interview the survivor is allowed to face the person who abused her and face the impact of the abuse to her life. In the interview the perpetrator sits and listens as the victim narrates her feeling.
The confrontative interview is where by the victim meets her/his perpetrators, on sexual abused victims the survivors offered different answers. The research was based on four young women, who had been repeatedly sexually abused by men. In was observed that all of the four women were disturbed and even had suicidal thoughts and suffered from severe depression. The women all developed risk behaviors as two shoplifted and the other got involved in pretty crimes. One woman started abusing drugs. Each of the women reported having recurring nightmares, and a lot of fear and mistrust. It was also noted that one victim wet her bed. The research further revealed that each of the victims experienced a sense of inferior, self loathing, shame and felt responsible for the abuse.
From the study it was noted that the difficult part was that of the victim accepting the abuse and knowing that she was a victim and was not to blame. According to Karren, a participant she notes that, she could not turn back because she had experienced feeling responsible. Another participant, Cate said that it was a very enormous task when it came to breaking the news to her mother. Another participant, Army described the experience as feeling stronger, he felt like she has conquered something.
It was noted that all four women felt more clear when it came to the matter of responsibility upon the contfrontative interview. When the perpetrators where seen physical and when they admitted being quilt had a lot of impact on the victims. It was much important when took the responsibility. According to Cate and Karren they were less troubled and got more focused and stable in their thoughts.
The interview also provided a confrontation between the victim and the perpetrator, which lead to a powerful impact on the side of the victims; they experienced a sense of externalizing the pain they suffered. And the experience of knowing who was responsible for their suffering. As the women narrated their anger and emotional turmoil they have undergone, the confrontation offered a dignified opportunity to repair their feelings. They felt that they had triumphed and reclaimed their self identity
The outcome of this study was very encouraging, it leads to reduction of nightmares, self doubt, gave the victims more stability and improved their self esteem and a sense of well being. As all four women agreed the interview was used to reduce the trauma they felt. Nevertheless, the interview had its shortcoming and did not provide an immediate solution to those victimized. Each of the four women at the centre had to continue with therapy and in the months that followed they made statements to the police and the police have laid criminal charges against the perpetrators. Although, this was not the main aim of the study, the women opened up during the interview. For example Amy after realizing that she was a saviors and an innocent person who was sexually assaulted commented that, the fact that sexual abuse is wrong when done to you, and that it is a criminal offence done to you and you are just a victim is so much. And it is more important if your family is there to support you. From this study it is important for the victims to come out and be heard.
Although the Victim’s rights issue is a very controversial debate, as many laws about the “rights of accused” and “rights of offender,” result in the victim feeling that he/she is not secure. It is paramount that the victims should be given their rights and the necessary protection they require. However these rights must be enforced by the courts to be meaningfully. However, as studies show that more rights do not reduce crime, it should be noted that, more rights result in respect and fair treatment of the victims. It is also clear that those who have been victimized require proper therapy and assistance to be able to live a normal life and be able to regain their lost dignity. In the words of Bill Clinton president of America, the government will continue to amend the crime Victim’s Rights by giving violent crime victims access to information and other rights, but the same time protect the rights of defendants.
Anita, B., and John, P. (1997): Improving Community Response to Crime Victims: An Eight-Step Model for Developing Protocol. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
Congressional Record, (April 25, 2000): (106th Cong., 2nd Sess.), at S2822 (discussing academic research on yearly American criminal prosecutions).
Resick, P. (1987): Psychological effects of victimization: Implications for the criminal justice system. Crime & Delinquency, 33(4), 468-478.
Roach, K. (1999): Due process and victims rights, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, New Directions from the Field: Victims’ Rights, and Services for the 21st Century at 10 (1998); see Committee Report at 13-15.
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