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Criminology and Victimology

Introduction

The criminal justice system has several inefficiencies, most of which can be placed under a variety of lenses to consider. One of these explanations concerns the ideal that many law enforcers, criminal justice prosecutors as well as several other people have offered with regard to crimes committed over several past years. The paper shall look at the opinions of the police officials in relation to female perpetrated violence as well as male experiences of sexual violence and racial minority victims.

Ideal Victim Stereotypes and Responses in the Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system tends to side with female perpetrators of male violence, as seen in a series of cases around the world; one of the cases recently considered in the USA sheds some light on the given problem. The case involved a female stripper who had been accused of raping a best man at a bachelor’s party; it must be added that in the given case, the evidence against the woman criminal was absolutely indubitable (Hunt, 2009).

The most outstanding matter in this case was that the defendant kept dismissing the matter as a joke, while the judge seemed inclined to believing as well that the crime committed was merely a prank. The prosecutor called the matter ‘accidental rape’ after the judge passed a sentence in favour of the defendant. Such statements revealed the victim stereotypes based on the social prejudice. It is worth noticing that the woman accused is not considered as a criminal by most of the jury, and it can be clearly seen that the judgement must have been influenced by the social prejudice concerning male-and-female relationships. In fact, a number of analysts asserted that if the offended party in this case had been a woman, then the matter would have been automatically labelled as a sexual assault. However because the victim was a man, the fact of crime itself became debatable. In fact, it is highly unlikely that a reasonable or sane man would put himself through an embarrassing ordeal in court if the crime had not occurred. In the end, the plaintiff missed a chance to regain his self-confidence (Hunt, 2009) and, to top it all, lost the case.

A study carried out by the US Department of Justice revealed a disturbing study about victim stereotypes. In the given research, it was asserted that there were several situations, in which African American men often became victims of physical violence and that racial profiling often perpetuated this injustice. According to the evidence obtained from the victims, racial profiling (which identifies victims and then seeks crimes that can then be attested and the individual that was accused of committing the given crime) has contributed tremendously to creating negative stereotypes placed upon young black victims (US Justice Department, 2008).

The media also plays a crucial role inreinforcing racial stereotypes that portray images of young black men whose negative characteristics touch upon only their scholarly accounts. Besides the aforementioned obvious case of racial profiling, overemphasis on racial stereotypes makes the media propagating racial profiling until people are not able to distinguish certain manifestations of racial discrimination in the most obvious criminal cases, like the one considered above. Consequently, it can be claimed that blacks and other racial minorities are often viewed through the prism of all sorts of racial biases and prejudices. The racial minority groups are often looked at as being different, which makes it very difficult for the racial minorities to continue with their daily lives without being suspected by law enforcement representatives. Subsequently, the criminal justice system has been unfair to this group because most of the time, racial minorities are often misjudged even without being understood or listened to.

In his book On Becoming a Victim, Paul Rock (2002) asserts that there are several issues yet to be addressed in criminology; it is quite peculiar that a number of them fall under victimology. Here, the author believed that one essential component of improving the criminal just ice system is to look for new ways of understanding the “victim”. Another idea of what makes a victim means that criminology can be able to deal with matters concerning crime control. In addition, Rock (2002) claims that all crimes need to be treated as acts in which offenders, as well as the offended parties, possess typical pattern of behaviour, which can be a sufficient aid in solving crimes. Consequently, it would be more helpful to refrain from the overarching stereotype propagated by most politicians. It is a notorious fact that the latter claim offenders to be abnormal, while claiming that victims represent the conventional traits of character, which brings these two groups into conflict. In fact, a number of prominent specialists claim that the existing criminal justice system would be very effective if it refrained from introducing moral aspects every time there was a victim that had been harmed. An approach that would not take the victim’s ideas into account would create more effective policies that would avoid backing crime perpetrators or that would prevent future crimes, most politicians claim.

The arguments concerning the victim’s behaviour is intertwined with moulding of an ideal victim. According to Rock, sometimes criminals are not alien to the society or removed from conventional systems. Consequently, law enforcement officers, judges, prosecutors would be in a better position to deal with male perpetrated crime if they under stood the fact that women can commit the crimes that are often committed by men and that women need to face the law in the same manner as their male counterparts (Rock, 2002).

In the book Perspectives on Victimology, Mawby and Wilkate (1994) claim that several books and works on criminology have recognised the importance of considering the victim’s position in unravelling crime. These authors also believe that different communities have their own ways of understanding crime victims and interpreting their ideas concerning crime and criminals. Consequently, there is a certain behavioural pattern, which an average victim follows when attacked, and those who fall outside this description are often marginalised by the criminal justice system. It must be also noticed that several groups need to admit the existence of relationship between crime and victimisation, which criminal policies must reflect as well (Mawby & Wilkate, 1994).

The assertions on the typical behaviour of a victim have been supported by a series of studies conducted on gender roles in crime. Stewart and Maddren (2008), aiming to find out who police officers blame for cases of family violence, chose fifty one male officers and forty six females to conduct an experiment. The study was carried out in Queensland Australia. All the officers were dealing with one of the eight case studies in which they varied two major parameters, i.e. alcohol consumption and genders of the victims and perpetrators. The research has shown that police officers tended to blame male victims more often than they blamed the female ones. Apart from that, most officers also tended to blame drunk offenders more than sober ones. There was a link established between the possibilities of charging a wrongdoer to the actual blame placed on the victim. Consequently, the research revealed that law enforcement officers are influenced by gender stereotypes, as their decisions on family violence are largely determined by such factor as the gender of the offender and the victim.

Stewart and Maddren (2007) have shown that female perpetrators of male violence are often considered less potentially dangerous criminals than their male counterparts, which impairs the justice process considerably. Besides, the study in question has also shown that law enforcement officers can easily fall prey to the stereotypes related to the community that the victim or the criminal belongs to. This study is actually related to the issues of family violence, but the findings can be applied in other types of crimes as well, which makes the study results very useful in placing crime within its context.

In their article Myths and Stereotypes of Actors Involved in Domestic Violence, Harrison and Willis (1998) assert that there are several stereotypes concerning gender and race, particularly important in understanding the experiences of male victims of sexual violence. There are three major factors mentioned in the study that can influence perceptions of culpability to domestic violence; these include:

  • Marital status;
  • Victim resistance;
  • Perceiver’s gender.

The study commenced by acknowledging that perceptions of domestic violence are nothing new in criminology, as a number of writings is devoted to the issue. Nonetheless, the authors were quick to point out that something was missing when it came to the inclusion of men and women of colour. In this regard, the study sought to look into the role of stereotypical notions on perpetrators and victims of colour. The authors asserted that people of colour are often subject to biased responses in the legal system. Racial minorities also have difficulty in understanding the victimisation that the people of their race are apt to, failing to conceive that the behaviour of a victim can play an important role in determining whether the people who have suffered from harassment seek justice.

Larcombe (2002) asserts that there are several factors impeding administration of justice, especially in cases of sexual violence. Larcombe claims that law enforcement officials mostly tend to believe in false complainants and label victims of sexual violence without due investigation. However, Larcombe also states that it is more difficult for victims to come forward with their allegations, which makes them keep the details of the abuses they have undergone in secret. Consequently, the issue of false complainants is actually far-fetched. Larcombe actually states that false complainants are a myth distorting the effectiveness of the criminal justice system (2002).

The latter article brings in a very important aspect in this paper as it addresses one of the major explanations that law enforcers or other criminal justice stakeholders resort to when dismissing persons who may not fit into the ideal victim mould. It is often common to find that male victims of sexual violence are labelled as false complainants and dismissed yet an expert has asserted that the latter notion is a myth. Laws need to altered to disfavour this kind of reasoning (Larcombe, 2002).

Sainz (2005) wrote an article on sexual assaults for males and how they deal with them. The latter author’s assertions largely dwelt on a program catered for such victims. Although this program was created specifically for psychological purposes, there are a number of revelations that can still be applied to the field of criminology. According to the victims narrating their experiences, it was found that sexual violence among men is heavily marginalised in society. Consequently, most of them tended to refrain from reporting the matter to law authorities because this could potentially make them exposed and it could affect their self confidence very deeply. Also, the victims asserted that it made them very angry to be placed in such a vulnerable position and that they often looked for methods of coping with these feelings. Lastly, the research pointed out that male victims of sexual violence were treated as being less masculine by society. While the latter assertions were in relation to society at large and their perceptions, one cannot ignore the fact that law enforcement officers and other criminal justice stakeholders are also actors in society and that their views and opinions are heavily influenced by the perceptions of others outside the criminal justice system. Consequently, policy makers need to understand these facts and look for effective ways of dealing with such matters especially in relation to sexual assaults and male victims.

Also, it should also be noted that victims of violence among ethnic minorities are highly affected by radio, television and print media because of the relation of certain stories. For instance, a number of asylum seekers have been highlighted in several media platforms in very negative ways. Usually, the media covers the stories that are then racialised by the people watching it. For instance, after the September eleventh attacks, there were a lot of terrorism fears that spread throughout the world and most crimes carried out by these individuals were often stereotyped. Consequently, the public was not sympathetic to victims of violence who had emanated from these marginalised communities. The latter matters started showing a number of flaws within the criminal just ice system. In other words, Warner (2004) indicated that judges needed to go past the public interpretation of a crime and that there was a need to change the sentencing process for such victims. This study was particularly important in understanding the social aspects of crime. It is an evident fact that most communities tend to mistrust the people who do not fact as an average victim should, especially when the plaintiff belongs to a marginalised race/ group that has previously been associated with negative actions such as terrorism.

VAWSU (2006) affirm that victims of sexual violence have several needs and experiences. Also, they add that the following issues must be addressed when assisting these victims:

  • Explanations on procedures and laws;
  • Charging;
  • Investigation;
  • Compensation;
  • Medial care;
  • Access to services;
  • Other information on their cases.

It was affirmed that the provision of all the latter services and entitlements was heavily dependent on the nature of the victim and whether the said individual was a typical case, or not. It was found that the latter issues were not administered fairly in all situations and that instances such as female perpetrated violence were not treated with as much diligence as other matters (Farris et al., 2008).

Conclusion

The paper has looked at three particular issues, i.e. female permeated violence, male victims of sexual violence as well as experiences of racial minority victims. It has been found that stakeholders within the criminal justice system are affected by biases and concepts held by the wider society. Also, most of these stereotypes are perpetuated by the belief in an ideal victim where male offenders and female victims represent this. However, researches have shown that such a mould is indeed inaccurate and is now standing in the way of justice administration. There are several circumstances that do not fall within these stereotypes and policy makers need to reflect these findings in their underlying methods.

References

Farris, C., et al. (2008). Misperceptions of sexual intent. Clinical Review of Psychology, 28(3), 46.

Harrison, Lisa & Willis, Cyntia (1998). Myths and stereotypes of actors involved in domestic violence. Journal of Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 4(2), 129-138.

Hunt, E. (2009). Female stripper found not guilty of raping man at buck’s party. Retrieved August 17, 2009 from http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25886721-661,00.html

Larcombe, W. (2002). Cautionary tales and telling anxieties: False complainants. Journal of Australian Feminist Law,16(9), 5.

Mawby, Richard & Wilkate, Sandra (1994). Perspectives of victimology. London: Sage Publishers.

Rock, P. (2002). On becoming a victim. London, UK: Routledge.

Stewart, Anna & Madren, Kelly (2008). Police officers’ judgements of blame in family violence – impacts of gender and alcohol. Journal of Sex Roles, 37(12), 56.

Sainz, R. (2005). Feminist thinking in male sexual assault programs. Journal of Psychotherapy in Australia, 11(2), 49.

US Justice Department (2008). Black men misunderstood. Retrieved August 17, 2009 from http://www.proudfleshjournal.com/vol1.2/teixiera.pdf

Violence Against Women Special Unit (VAWSU) (2006). Improving services and criminal justice response to victims of sexual assault. Community Services Department Report. Ashfield, AU: PANDORA.

Walkate, S. (1989).Victimology: The victim and the criminal justice process. London, UK: Unwin Hymen.

Warner, K. (2004). Gang rape in Sydney: Crime, the media, politics, race and sentencing. Journal of Violence against Women,11(5), 613.