The personal characteristics of the victim and the offender, as well as the circumstances surrounding the crime, have strong influences on the degree to which society sympathizes with victims and gives them legitimate status as victims.
The 'ideal' victim is the one generating the most sympathy from society. In some cultures, the ideal victim would be the little old lady on her way home at midday after caring for her sick sister, hit on the head by a big man who grabs her purse and uses the money to buy drugs. In contrast, a victim far from society's ideal would be a young man in a bar hit by an acquaintance. This victim would probably receive less sympathy even if his injuries were more severe. Society's responses to different types of victims also show that victims must have power and visibility if they are to gain legitimacy as victims. Society has varying perceptions of offenders as well as of victims. Most real victims and real offenders are ordinary people, not the 'ideals.' However, the 'ideal' victims are the people who tend to fear crime. A greater role for victims in the criminal justice process would be an important way of giving victims and offenders closer contact and more realistic views of one another.
St Martin's Press
Meredith Howard, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010, United States
United States of America