14. Victimology

14.1 Definitions: Victim or Survivor?

Dr. Jordana K. Norgaard and Dr. Benjamin Roebuck

People who experience victimisation self-identify in many ways, some as victims  many as survivors, while others use terms like thriver or overcomer (Ben-David, 2020; Roebuck et al., 2020a). For many people who experience victimization, none of these words accurately reflect their experiences, and they prefer not to use labels (Bouris, 2007; Roebuck et al., 2020a). Within much feminist scholarship and the broader violence against women movement, the term survivor is preferred since the word victim may be associated with weakness or passivity (Abdullah-Khan, 2008). However, men who have experienced sexual violence or partner violence are less likely to identify as survivors (Abdullah-Khan, 2008; Roebuck et al., 2020a).  Still, much of the historical or theoretical writing in victimology refers to victims. Victim is also a legal term recognized within the criminal justice system and is used in victim rights legislation, though there are diverse definitions in legislation, and someone can become a “victim” without proceeding through the criminal justice system (Wemmers, 2017). The duality of victim and survivor language is recognised by Canada’s federal Department of Justice, which annually observes “Victims and Survivors of Crime Week.” For our purposes, we will refer to people who have experienced crime as survivors, and use the term victim when referencing historical, theoretical, or legal contexts.


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Introduction to Criminology Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Jordana K. Norgaard and Dr. Benjamin Roebuck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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