U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Why Do They Stay?: Why Don't They Run Away? (From Caring for Crime Victims, P 221-237, 1999, Jan J.M. van Dijk, Ron G.H. van Kaam, et al., eds. -- See NCJ-180797)

NCJ Number
Gerd F. Kirchhoff
Date Published
17 pages
This paper examines the dynamics of victim-offender interactions, particularly those in which victims apparently fail to act reasonably in ensuring their own safety; implications are then drawn for the application of victim-responsibility criteria for dispensing victim compensation.
In general, victim compensation is denied if the victim contributes to his/her victimization. Victim responsibility is a concept that should be handled with extreme caution. An examination of the psychological dynamics operative in a victim-offender interaction that involves an imbalance of power shows that it is typical for victims to comply with the demands of the abuser. This can be observed in both hostage taking incidents (the Stockholm syndrome) and in abusive marriages and intimate relationships. Victims do not behave during victimizations as the layperson expects. They are not wily, resourceful heroes who develop clever strategies for escaping their captors; rather, they are obedient to their abusers; they do not try to escape, but stay with their captors; they do not resist, but rather comply with the offender. This paper explains such victim behavior by applying several theories, mainly socio-psychological theories. These include psychoanalytic theory, crisis theory, and the theory of the just world. Damages inflicted on victims by an undue application of the concept of victim responsibility are part of a world that does not recognize the situation of the victim properly. Victimologists have the duty to inform policymakers and decision makers about the dynamics of victim-offender interactions. 35 references and 25 notes