Chair: Ida Helene Asmussen

Conceptual and empirical approaches to victimology

Building: A
Room: 13


Author: Johansen Louise Victoria, University of Copenhagen

Ida Helene Asmussen, University of Copenhagen Lin Adrian, University of Copenhagen Lars Holmberg, University of Copenhagen
Title: Categorizing Victims of Violence in Denmark. Institutional Understandings and Victims’ Experiences
This paper presents findings from an ongoing, three-year qualitative project about victims of violence in Denmark. It asks how criminal justice institutions as well as victims themselves understand and use ideas of victimhood. At a political level, legislation aimed at improving victims’ situation is based on an idealized notion of innocent victims, where crimes of violence are addressed as ‘single events’ performed by unknown offenders. However, Danish police and courts may experience that these idealized notions do not match the actual violence cases they meet. Legal practitioners participating in our study mostly dealt with domestic violence, pub brawls and so on, that often involve people who know each other and live in so-called risky environments. These cases often display what police and judges alike would call ‘muddled’ affairs where a 100 % allocation of guilt to the perpetrator seems difficult to make. The paper analyses the different categories of victimhood as well as the legal actions they may set in motion. Victims themselves also tend to distinguish between being a ‘real’ victim, typically having suffered severe physical damage, and not really labeling themselves as victims in minor cases. We discuss how these different notions of victims may draw upon issues of gender, social environments, and risky behavior, issues that to a certain extent imply the individual culpability of victims themselves.
Keywords: Victims of violence, Danish criminal justice, categorization, victimhood
Author: Honkatukia Päivi , University of Tampere

Heini Kainulainen, University of Turku Susanna Lundell, University of Turku Natalia Ollus, Heuni - The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control
Title: The Potential of the Concept of Vulnerability in Understanding Victimisation
The concept of vulnerability is commonly used to refer to characteristics that increase individuals' risk of being victimised to violence and abuse. In policy discourse, vulnerability has become a common "catch-all term" serving diverse political and economic interests. As such, vulnerability discourse has been claimed to have led only to symbolic changes instead of real improvements of victims' positions and access to justice. Moreover, talking about vulnerability is a means to individualise social problems and hide their structural aspects. The discourse on vulnerability can also contribute to a hardening of criminal policies, often targeted at already socially marginalized groups. Despite this critique, we believe that the concept can serve as a tool in analysing victimisation. This presentation examines the concept's capacity as well as its political and practical relevancy. Instead of treating vulnerability merely as a risk category, we outline a conceptual framework that can help identify various dimensions of vulnerability. Through examples from our studies on partner violence, human trafficking and workplace bullying, we examine the interplay between structural, cultural and individual factors related to vulnerability. By analysing intersecting differences related to structural inequalities, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding on the dynamics of violence and its consequences for individual agency and help seeking.
Keywords: Vulnerability, victimization, access to justice, violence, fractured agency
Author: Heber Anita, University of Stockholm

Title: Analysing Victimology: What Can Current Victimological Theories Explain?
Victimization can be explained and understood with the help of several theories. Some victimological theories are based on criminology/sociology, while others stem from disciplines outside criminology (e.g. gender studies). These victimological theories, together with the empirical studies associated with the theories, can roughly be divided into two research fields; a traditional/positivist victimology, and a critical/radical victimology. This presentation will outline some of the most popular victimological theories in both fields, based on an empirical study of victimological text books and articles published in victimological journals. The explanatory value of the theories will be outlined; what can they explain/not explain, and how can they help us understand crime victims and their victimization?
Keywords: Victimological theories, positivist victimology, radical victimology, victimization
Author: Antonsdottir Hildur Fjóla , University of Lund

Title: Empowered or Protected? the Discursive Framing of the Victim in Danish and Norwegian Preparatory Works and Its Implications for Their Status and Rights
In the mid-2000s, legislative amendments were enacted to strengthen the rights of certain groups of victims in Danish and Norwegian criminal procedural law. However, while in Norway victims were afforded participatory rights, in Denmark that was largely not the case. In this paper, I aim to identify which discursive strategies were mobilised, in the preparatory works, which led to such different outcomes. More specifically I ask: What are the dominant images of the victim (of sexual violence) in the preparatory works and how do these relate to the problems and solutions presented in regards to the question whether or not to strengthen their status and rights? The findings suggest that the discursive construction of the victim as a citizen is tied to the employment of an empowerment discourse resulting in increased participatory rights that are also seen to ensure the on-going rule of law. However, discursively constructing the victim based on victimhood is related to the employment of a protection discourse whereby the victim is protected from the possible consequences of being afforded rights, which is then also seen to preserve the rule of law.
Keywords: Sexual violence, victimhood, citizenship, protection, empowerment, rule of law
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