Psychological Aspects of Victimology Psychological aspects of victimization can be very helpful to the investigator, prosecutor, and defense attorney. Not only will investigators review psychological information related to a deceased victim, but also they will collect information from and interact with live victims.
Psychological Aspects of Victimology There are two features of victimology that interfere with its function as a body of knowledge and as an investigative tool: Deification of the victim - the tendency to view the victim as lacking flaws. This can happen after a violent crime, when investigators are given reports that victims were saintly in every aspect of their lives. Blaming the victim - how some perceive any suggestion that a victim may have contributed to his or her own victimization.
Victim Response to Violent Crime Victim response to violent crime is variable from person to person, making it very difficult if not impossible to predict how a crime victim should or will behave. A victims response usually involves three stages of recovery: 1.Dealing with the initial impact of the attack –The intensity and length will vary according to the intensity of the assault, the level of physical injury, and the perceived threat to life. –The event will be filtered through the age, personality, and general mental health and life experiences of the victim.
Victim Response to Violent Crime 2.Attempting to reconstitute his or her former self –Victim attempt to deal with the effect of the crime on themselves and their lives. –Emotions will be varied and include: sadness, anger, self-pity, fear, and guilt. –The length of time and psychological depth of this stage varies depending on the person. 3.Reorganizing him – or herself to attend to lifes daily activities. –The emotional intensity is expected to lessen, and the victim is more energized to deal with lifes activities.
Victim Response to Violent Crime There have been several attempts to pathologize the normal reactions of victims. This following syndromes that have been used to describe these pathologies: Acute Stress Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Battered Woman Syndrome, Rape Trauma Syndrome, and Stalking Trauma Syndrome.
Victim Response to Violent Crime Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) A diagnosable mental disorder characterized by the emergency of at least three dissociative symptoms (emotional numbing, feeling dazed, derealization, depersonalization, dissociative amnesia) within one month after suffering a traumatic event and lasting at least two days. As part of the response to the event, the victim experiences intense fear, helplessness, or horror. The condition resolves within a month, or the diagnosis is changed to reflect the chronicity of symptoms.
Victim Response to Violent Crime Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) This is a response similar to the Acute Stress Disorder, but is more chronic. It is acute if less than three months, chronic if greater than three months, and delayed is the onset is six months or after the traumatic event. The diagnostic criteria include exposure to a traumatic event with a response including intense fear, helplessness or horror. The event is reexperienced in a persistent manner in various easy, including one or more of the following: dreams, flashbacks, and psychological and/or physical reactions on exposure to cues connected to the event.
Victim Response to Violent Crime Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS) A proposed mental disorder suggested to affect women who have been involved in long-term violent relationships; the victim learns no longer to try and affect the course of the abuse, as she believes it will not change the outcome.
Victim Response to Violent Crime Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) A syndrome claimed to be developed by victims of rape or attempted rape, which consists of a phase of acute disorganization followed by a phase of long- term reorganization. During both phases various lifestyle factors may be affected, including physical, psychological, social, and sexual. This syndrome has no criteria for accurate diagnosis other than a person having been subjected to the rape itself.
Victim Response to Violent Crime Stalking Trauma Syndrome (STS) Stalking refers to a repetitive act usually undertaken to cause distress to the victim, it may be perpetrated both in the real world and in cyberspace. Behaviors can range from unwanted communications with the victim to sexual assault, kidnapping, and homicide. Stalking Trauma Syndrome involves a cycle of crisis, recovery, and anticipation, as the harassment is ongoing.
Victim Recollection The ability for victims to recall correctly in a forensic context is affected by hypnosis, medication, alcohol, and street drugs. The investigator needs to be aware of the effects these processes and substances may have on the memory of a victim or witness.
Victim Recollection Hypnosis Hypnosis refers to the art of putting someone in an altered state of consciousness, wherein critical thinking tends to be relaxed and the subject is more suggestible than normal. Those undergoing hypnosis may be susceptible to suggestion made by the hypnotist and may make things up or believe their recalled memories to be accurate than they actually are.
Victim Recollection There are three general problems with using hypnosis in legal contexts: 1.The subject is more suggestible than he or she would be otherwise, subject to many influences, including verbal and nonverbal cues from the hypnotist and a possible desire to please the hypnotist; 2.The subject may unintentionally confabulate so that the memories presented are more complete and comprehensive; and 3.The subject may have an enhanced belief in the veracity of his or her hypnotically recalled memories, regardless of their actual truthfulness.
Victim Recollection Victim Toxicology Victim toxicology refers to the presence or absence of various substances in the system of a victim at a time that is related to the criminal event or the reporting of that event. The ability to recall accurately can be affected by prescribed medications, alcohol, cocaine, and other street drugs. The investigator must be aware of this in order to question victims as to medication or drug use.
Victim Recollection Memory consists of several steps: 1.A stimulus (something the victim heard, saw, or felt) must first be perceived by a person. 2.Once perceived, the stimulus can be mentally recorded. 3.Once recorded, at some future date a memory of the stimulus can be retrieved. Drugs can potentially affect all three processes, with difficulties in retrieving memories often related to the effects of chronic drug use. Drugs known to affect memory include alcohol, benzodiazepines, and marijuana.
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