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Article

Rick A. Matthews

States have been committing crimes and victimizing people since the advent of the state itself. Yet it has only been since the 1990s that criminologists have turned their attention to describing, theorizing, and analyzing state crimes. While the study of state crime has made significant progress since then, the same is not true for the victimology of state crime. Currently, the victimology of state crime does not represent a cohesive subfield within criminology or victimology. Nevertheless, drawing upon essential works from criminology, victimology, other disciplines like human rights law, as well as established subfields like critical criminology, critical victimology, and the state crime literature, the victimology of state crime offers essential insights into the nature of mass victimization by states. Although much work remains, the victimology of state crime literature has created a solid foundation for lines of future scholarship and inquiry.

Article

In the last 50 years, a wide body of research on domestic and family violence (DFV) has emerged, much of which focuses on the victim-survivor experience with the criminal justice system. DFV is an area of rapid law reform, most notably in Western nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, as legislative bodies attempt to align policies with emerging knowledge and best-practice principles. Policy and law reform, however, have seen a tension between limiting and enhancing victim autonomy in the criminal justice system process. For the most part, policies have focused on the former, reflecting the understanding that DFV is a crime against the state, thus rendering a victim’s ability to choose how they wish to seek protection a secondary priority. For some women, a mandatory criminal justice system intervention may be a useful tool in seeking protection and addresses past limitations of legal responses to DFV, wherein the violence committed by men against women was largely ignored. However, for many other women, engagement in the criminal or civil justice systems may both enhance risks to safety as well as further engrain disadvantage. While DFV policies have been well intended and reflective of the growing shift toward recognizing DFV as a significant public health issue, the same policies have largely ignored the voices of marginalized women and the ways in which “choice” may manifest differently for different women. There are often unintended consequences of DFV reforms relating to justice responses, which disproportionately affect some victims. Thus, a more nuanced approach in police and court responses to DFV is important to minimize adverse effects on victim-survivor voice and help-seeking.

Article

The juxtaposition of two major recent legal developments—the emergence of victims’ rights, and the increasing prevalence of plea bargains in the criminal process—raises profound dilemmas. Ever since the end of the 18th century, criminal proceedings have been conducted by states against defendants, based on the traditional view that crime is an offense against the state. Hence, victims’ participation has been curtailed under different legal systems. In adversarial (Anglo-American) systems, based on common law, the parties dominate the proceeding, and the onus is on the prosecution to prove its case; while in inquisitorial systems (continental), the judge dominates the proceedings, thus reducing the responsibilities of the parties. Although most states display mixed adversarial and inquisitorial characteristics, three systems exemplify different approaches to victims’ rights in plea agreements. The federal US system—the adversarial legal system in which the victim movement began its first steps; the French system—a civil law system, where victims are allocated a formal, albeit limited role; and the Israeli system—a juryless common-law-based system, where professional judges make both legal and evidentiary decisions. In the Anglo-American systems, victims were marginalized, and this lack of standing resulted in one of the more important legal developments of the 20th century—the struggle for victims’ rights. The victims’ movement is a grassroots movement, a social phenomenon that has led to significant legal changes. Consequently, a new perception has seemingly been incorporated into adversarial criminal law systems, whereby victims’ interests should be taken into account. The federal U.S. law enshrined victims’ rights in 2004, and in Israel the major legislation of victims’ rights took place in 2001. In the French system, since the early 20th century, victims have been formally recognized as partie civile—the civil side to the criminal process. The victims have a standing and they can claim compensation. The question of victims’ role in plea agreements is of particular importance, since in recent years, plea agreements have become the rule rather than the exception in Anglo-American criminal proceedings. In 2004, the French law also created a mechanism akin to plea agreements. In the federal U.S. system, victims can express their opinion regarding a plea agreement, and they can apply for a writ of mandamus, should any of their rights be disregarded by the prosecution. Under the Israeli system, victims of severe sexual and violent offenses may speak to the prosecutor and express their views, albeit not in court. In the French system, the victims’ role in plea agreements is limited to claiming compensation. Despite these developments, victims’ rights in plea agreements may still be partial or ineffective. For example, under both U.S. and Israeli law, the victims’ objection to such an agreement may have a very limited effect on the criminal process. Moreover, the prosecution has been granted immunity from any civil lawsuit following infringement upon victims’ rights. Under the French system, the victims’ involvement is limited to an appeal regarding the compensation she has been awarded.

Article

The positioning of Southeast Asia (comprising Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar or Burma, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) as an anti-trafficking hub belies the global relevance of regional patterns. The configurations of anti-trafficking vary across countries; however, the specific trends and patterns hold relevance to the region as a whole. For instance, the research on anti-trafficking in Thailand examines the co-constitutive interactions between the illegibility of human trafficking and the growth of the anti-trafficking industry, particularly in relation to market-based interventions. Critical research on Vietnam offers an instructive analysis of the fusion between humanitarianism and punishment that characterizes “rehabilitation” efforts in anti-trafficking. Research on Singapore and Indonesia considers the function of co-constitutive interactions between the hyper-visibility of sex trafficking and the relative invisibility of labor trafficking. In Indonesia—as a country of origin, transit, and destination—the fractured contours of anti-trafficking responses have produced unexpected or unpredictable interactions, marked by competing understandings of what trafficking is and the accountability of differing governmental bodies. Recent research on the Philippines illustrates the use of gendered surveillance in barring the departure of Filipino nationals as a means of “preventing” human trafficking. These patterns demonstrate the uneasy fusions and alliances among humanitarianism, market economies, law enforcement, and border control that mark responses to human trafficking in Southeast Asia.

Article

Global-level data suggests that the number of women and girls in prison is growing and at a faster rate than the male prison population is. In order to meaningfully address this shift in female deviance and criminalization, more attention should be given on the specific ways that women and girls are labeled “deviants” and subsequently criminalized. Women and girls have been criminalized, imprisoned, and harshly punished for “moral” offenses such as adultery or premarital sex or for violations of dress codes or even for being a member of the LGBTQ community. Women and girls have also been reportedly been imprisoned for running away from their homes (often from abusive situations), for being raped, and even for being forced into prostitution. Furthermore, victims of domestic violence or sex trafficking and sex workers have been administratively detained or simply detained for seeking asylum, having committed no crime. The feminist criminological perspective has widened an understanding of all forms of female deviance. This perspective stresses the importance of contextual analysis and of incorporating unique experiences of women and girls at the intersection of not only gender, race, class, and ethnicity but also nationality, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, and immigration or migration status, and against the backdrop of national as well as international conflict. Now the challenge is develop effective solutions both to address female victimization and to end the silencing of women and girls through criminalization on a global level. Effective implementation of a gender-mainstreaming strategy, adopted in United Nations policies such as “the Bangkok Rules,” is one of the proposed solutions.

Article

Victim participation in common law has evolved across history and jurisdictions. Historical developments within conceptions of crime, harms, and victims in common law as well as the different victims’ movements provide an understanding of the ways that victim participation has been shaped in more-recent common law criminal justice systems. Victim participation in the criminal legal process has also given rise to various debates, which suggests that providing active forms of engagement to victims remains controversial. The forms of victim participation are also diverse, and the literature has provided typologies of victim participation. Forms of participation also vary across jurisdictions and the different stages of the criminal justice process, including prosecutorial decisions, pretrial and trial proceedings, sentencing, parole, and clemency. Finally, research that focuses on victim participation in legal traditions beyond the common law would provide an additional and important contribution to the field.

Article

The development of social media, and Web 2.0 more broadly, has revolutionized all aspects of our social, cultural, and political lives. Notably, social media and online platforms have opened up space for resisting gender-based violence (GBV) in a way that, in some respects, was not possible “offline.” Some authors, drawing on Nancy Fraser, have conceptualized online spaces as a form of “counter-public”—a site in which collective and individual resistance to, and contestation of, dominant norms is enabled. Given the well-documented trajectories of victim-blaming and the perpetuation of various myths and misperceptions in relation to gender violence, social media spaces can function as a counter-public or countercultural forum in which victim-survivors can give voice to their experiences in their own words, and in doing so challenge persistent norms and stereotypes. Such practices have been documented across the Global North and South, with the potential of social media as a space of resistance and contestation most recently evidenced by the #MeToo global phenomenon, which was preceded by a string of digital activist efforts such as SlutWalk, Hollaback, #WhyIStayed, and #EndRapeCulture. Yet the use of digital platforms to resist gender violence brings with it a range of concerns and limitations. While some activists and victim-survivors are able to harness social media to share experiences and be heard, the ability to do so continues to be shaped by factors such as age, (dis)ability, sexuality, socioeconomic status, race, and geographical location. Online resistance has likewise faced critique for actively reproducing certain myths and stereotypes about gender violence, or for providing a limited or partial picture of what this violence “is.” This suggests that only certain victim-survivors and experiences are recognized and validated as such online. In addition, online disclosure and the “naming and shaming” of perpetrators raises serious concerns regarding due process and “vigilantism.” Moreover, social media spaces can themselves be sites of gender violence, with the routine harassment and abuse of (particularly) women online increasingly well documented. Together, such perspectives illustrate the complex, nuanced, and deeply political role of social media as a site of resistance to gender violence.

Article

Frances Bernat

In the context of crime, victimization, and immigration in the United States, research shows that people are afraid of immigrants because they think immigrants are a threat to their safety and engage in many violent and property crimes. However, quantitative research has consistently shown that being foreign born is negatively associated with crime overall and is not significantly associated with committing either violent or property crime. If an undocumented immigrant is arrested for a criminal offense, it tends to be for a misdemeanor. Researchers suggest that undocumented immigrants may be less likely to engage in serious criminal offending behavior because they seek to earn money and not to draw attention to themselves. Additionally, immigrants who have access to social services are less likely to engage in crime than those who live in communities where such access is not available. Some emerging research has shown that communities with concentrated immigrant populations have less crime because these communities become revitalized. In regard to victimization, foreign-born victims of crime may not report their victimization because of fears that they will experience negative consequences if they contact the police or seek to avoid legal mechanisms to resolve disputes. Recently, concern about immigration and victimization has turned to refugees who are at risk of harm from traffickers, who warehouse them, threaten them, and abuse them physically with impunity. More research is needed on the relationship among immigration, offending, and victimization. The United States and other nations that focus on border security may be misplacing their efforts during global crises that result in forced migrations. Poverty and war, among other social conditions that would encourage a person to leave their homeland in search of a better life, should be addressed by governments when enforcing immigration laws and policy.