Court Report: Victims and Sentencing

Court Report: Victims and Sentencing

This court report concerns an ABH case that was dealt with at Manchester Crown Court on the 12th of December 2018. The focus will be on sentencing and the role of victims in the criminal justice system. Specifically, sentence reductions for guilty pleas, the purposes of sentencing and the use of victim personal statements (VPS) in court. Research reveals that in 2009/10, only 43% of victims recalled being offered a VPS, even though they are entitled to them (Roberts and Manikis, 2011). This issue will be analysed further within the report, alongside issues with deterrence sentencing.

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The defendant was a 19-year-old white male, who has been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH), contrary to Section 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The victim was a 33-year-old female. ABH is a triable either way offence, meaning it can be heard at either the magistrates’ court or the Crown Court. The defendant pleaded guilty at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, but his case was committed to Manchester Crown Court for sentencing. The prosecution stated that in November 2017, the defendant and the victim attended the same music event, but they did not attend together. The victim attended with her friend and her 16-year old niece, and so she was not drinking any alcohol because she was responsible for her niece. However, the defendant had been drinking excessive amounts of spirits which caused his disorderly behaviour that evening – and he admitted this was not uncommon behaviour for him after drinking spirits. The victim noticed the defendant’s disorderly and aggressive behaviour to the point that she warned her friend and niece, telling them to keep away from him. The defendant ended up being stood in front of the victim with his back to her. When the defendant noticed the victim, in the victim’s words “he spun around with a clenched fist and punched me with all the force he had”, he punched the victim three times in total. The victim suffered with a broken eye socket and the defendant managed to flee the scene regardless of people trying to detain him. It was by chance that the defendant and the victim were both at Manchester Royal Infirmary at the same time waiting to receive medical attention. The victim’s family noticed him and called the police, the defendant was arrested after receiving medical attention for the hand he punched the victim with. The defendant pleaded guilty at the earliest chance and received an automatic 1/3rd reduction on his sentence. He was sentenced to 21 months, half of which he will serve in custody and the other half in the community on licence. If he breaches his licence, he will serve the rest of his sentence in prison. A victim personal statement was read out in court on behalf of the victim.

There is an ongoing debate about the role that victims should have in the criminal justice system, whereby traditionally victims in common law jurisdictions have not been able to participate in criminal trials. However, in recent years there has been a major shift in the attitudes towards victims’ roles in the criminal justice system and a breakdown in the public/private divide in criminal discourse (Doak, 2005). Now, in almost all common law countries, victims have the opportunity to take part in the sentencing process, and this participation is usually in the form of victim personal statements (VPS). Victim personal statements were introduced by the Home Office in 1996 as an experiment, and they were made nationwide in October 2001 (Roberts and Manikis, 2011). The Victim’s Charter (replaced by the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in 2006) meant that victims should expect to be given the chance to explain how the crime has affected them and have their interests taken into account (Home Office, 1996, cited in Edwards, 2001). The Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses in England and Wales requested that a research review was to be done for the purpose of summarising the use of victim personal statements. Julia V. Roberts and Marie Manikis of the University of Oxford conducted the review. Within the review, it was stated that the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses for England and Wales had conducted interviews, and the responding victims stated that they valued victim personal statements because they have them the chance to explain how a crime had affected them (Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, 2011). This would suggest that even 10 years later, victim personal statements are sufficiently serving their intended purpose.

In the case of the victim, she was able to explain how the crime had affected her to the courts. The statement was read out on her behalf, stating the following; previously, she would attend music events monthly but has only been to one since the attack (the attack was a year ago), she has lost a significant amount of weight because of stress and anxiety, she has a visible scar that still causes her pain, she was fostering a 10 year old child but the attack stopped her from being able to do this and she was also made redundant from her job of 12 years (she believed this was an indirect result of the attack). This gave her the chance to make it clear to the judge and likely also to the defendant how much this attack has affected her life and wellbeing. To maintain the right to a fair trial (Article 6) (Human Rights Act, 1998), the court will only consider a VPS if the defendant pleads guilty or if the defendant is found guilty by the courts (Ministry of Justice, 2015). This prevents the risk of the jury being biased towards the victim before a verdict has been reached.

There is some ambiguity in terms of the purposes of victim impact statements. When they were first introduced in 1996, the information police received from victims about their fears of re-victimisation and the extent of their loss, damage or injury was intended to be used at various stages of the criminal justice process, for the purpose of informing the decisions of criminal justice agencies (Edwards, 2001). At this time, it was unclear as to whether it was supposed to be used to inform sentencing decisions too (Roberts and Manikis, 2011). Regardless of this, the VPS scheme was made nationwide in 2001, and today, they are used to inform sentencing decisions – but the victim is not allowed to impose their opinions on the defendant’s sentence (Ministry of Justice, 2015). The victim’s personal statement in this case did not impose any suggestions as to what sentence she believed the defendant deserved. Something that could be regarded as an issue with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime is that, it does not impose any obligations on sentencers to take the VPS into consideration (Edwards, 2009) – even though this is what the Victim’s Charter proclaimed prior to it being replaced the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in 2006. This could be a result of the fact that the provisions on victim personal statements from the Victim’s Charter were not integrated into the new Code (Roberts and Manikis, 2011). Subsequent issues from this are that many victims are not offered the opportunity to make a VPS, even though they are entitled to this.

Over the 3-year period (2007-2010) the Witness and Victim Experience Survey (WAVES) interviewed victims about their experiences with victim personal statements, only 42% recalled being offered a VPS. In 2009/10, this number had only gone up by 1% (43%). Further, 45% ‘explicitly responded’ that they had not been offered a VPS (Roberts and Manikis, 2011). The percentage of victims being offered a VPS has only decreased over the years, in 2016/17 approximately every 1 in 6 victims (17% of all incidents) were given the opportunity to make a VPS (Crime Survey for England and Wales, 2017). This is a major issue, as victims are being deprived of their right to be offered a VPS and for it to be considered in court. Looking at these statistics, it could be argued that the victim was lucky to even be offered a VPS, let alone for it to be read out in court and to be considered by the judge. However, looking again at the review conducted by Roberts and Manikis, their data showed that 41% of victims of crimes of violence felt as though their VPS had been fully taken into account. This percentage was highest compared to victims of criminal damage, theft and burglary. Additionally, between the years of 2013/14 – 2015/16, 23% of victims of violence were offered a VPS, falling to 22% in 2016/17. Also in 2016/17, 50% of victims of violence made a VPS (Crime Survey for England and Wales, 2017). So, the reason why the victim was offered a VPS could be related to the type of offence she was a victim of (violence). Whereby in previous years, just under half of all victims of violence felt their VPS was fully taken into account and then later on, albeit having a lower offer rate (22-23%) – half of victims of violence did make a VPS. It is reasonable to say that the victim’s VPS was fully taken into consideration in this case, and this had an impact on the sentence imposed on the victim. When giving justifying his sentencing decision, the judge referred back to the victim’s VPS on numerous occasions, stating how severe the repercussions of the defendant’s ‘disgraceful, unprovoked attack’ were, putting emphasis on the fact that the victim “thought he was going to kill her”. The judge specified that he would be “failing public duty” if he did not impose an immediate custodial sentence, whereby he believed far too many intoxicated attacks are not sufficiently sentenced, suggesting that he imposed a deterrence sentence. The purposes of sentencing and the issues with deterrence sentences and sentence reductions will now be discussed.

The purposes of sentencing are set out in section 142 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, they are as follows; punishment of offenders, reduction of crime (including its reduction by deterrence), the reform and rehabilitation of offenders, protection of the public and the making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by their offences (Criminal Justice Act 2003).

The sentencing guidelines for ABH show that it is a triable either way offence, with a range of a fine – 3 years’ custody, with a maximum of 5 years’ custody (Sentencing Council, 2011). The prosecution believed the defendant should be charged with a category two offence, ranging between a low-level community order to 51 weeks’ custody. However, the judge felt that a category one offence charge was more appropriate, ranging between 1 – 3 years’ custody. This demonstrates the fact that sentencing guidelines are discretionary, and ultimately, the courts decide what sentence is imposed and that judges can depart from sentencing guidelines if they have good reason. Prior to the proclamation of the Coroners and Justice Act 2010, courts in England and Wales simply had to ‘have regard to’ the Council’s guidelines, but now the language has changed to ‘must follow’ (Roberts, 2011).

Plea-bargaining can be described as a process in which an offender agrees to plead guilty in order to receive a lesser sentence (Newburn, 2017). Whilst is it not as well-established as it is in the American criminal justice system, plea bargaining is now a significant part of criminal procedure in the United Kingdom (Garoupa and Stephen, 2008). In this case, the defendant received a 1/3rd reduction from his total sentence, being sentenced to 21 months in total (half to be served in custody, half to be served in the community on licence). Although he did not receive the reduction as a result of negotiations between the prosecution and defence (plea bargaining). This process has now been formalised in s.144 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, whereby when a defendant has pleaded guilty, the court must take into account the stage in the proceedings that the defendant did so. It is important to question the ethics behind this process, especially in this case. This is because it is undeniable that the defendant committed this crime. The victim has clear physical injuries (photographs of her injuries have been shown to the judge, alongside the medial report from Manchester Royal Infirmary) and the attack was witnessed by a crowd full of people at the music event. It would have been nonsensical for the defendant not plead not guilty, so the reduction on his sentence only really benefited him. This is a known criticism of sentence discounts whereby “the discount constitutes a benefit, a departure from the sentence he deserved” (Grossman, 2018: 775). As previously mentioned, although it was not a result of negations between prosecution and defence, the defendant still received a discount for this undeniable offence. The defendant was benefited by the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provisions, receiving a lesser sentence to what he deserved.

A common argument in favour of plea bargaining is that “it reduces costs” (Garoupa and Stephen, 2008) and makes the process simpler. However, due to the fact that a jury was not required to reach a guilty or not guilty verdict, which is what can sometimes cause the court process carry on for a while – how justified was the sentence reduction in this case? In terms of the cost benefit, it could be argued that this should not be the focus of the court process, it should be to punish the offender and to ensure justice is served to the victim. Thus, the aims of sentencing are not being fully achieved here. The judge mentioned that he would be “failing public duty” by not imposing an immediate custodial sentence, and that far too many intoxicated attacks are not sentenced sufficiently. This does indeed suggest that the judge decided to pass a sentence with the aim of general deterrence, which aims to prevent the offender and other potential offenders from acting in the same way (Pereboom, 2018).

“Deterrence by its very nature is concerned with the future…which is…unknowable” (Cockburn, 2012: 4). Thus, a potential argument against deterrence is that defendants should be dealt with appropriately in the present and their sentence should fit the crime they have committed – not the crime they might commit. In discussion of deterrence, the Home Office stated:

“Much crime is committed on impulse, given the opportunity presented by an open window or unlocked door…It is unrealistic to construct sentencing arrangements on the assumption that most offenders will weigh up the possibilities in advance”

(Home Office, 1990, para. 2.8, cited in Newburn, 2017).

However, one of the aims of sentencing is to reduce crime (Criminal Justice Act 2003) and so deterrence sentences can be appropriate, because they aim to act as an example to others and can potentially prevent future offending, which will reduce crime. Yet again, statistics show that prison has a poor record for preventing reoffending (48% of adults are reconvicted) (Ministry of Justice, 2018, cited in Prison Reform Trust, 2018). Reoffending rates are high for offenders sentenced to 12 months custody or less (63% reoffended within a year) (Prison Reform Trust, 2018). The defendant was sentenced to 10.5 months in prison and 10.5 in the community on licence. So, potentially, this sentence may not deter him from acting in the same way in the future – but this is unknowable. Regardless, the judge deemed it appropriate to pass this sentence, because this offender needed to learn that his behaviour was “completely inexcusable”.

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To conclude, this case highlights some of the ethical and moral issues surrounding sentence reductions for early guilty pleas. In this case, it would have been extremely unlikely that the defendant would not have been found guilty, given that there were eye witnesses and the there is evidence of the victim’s injuries (photographs of the injuries and a medical report). So, as stated by Grossman (2018), sentence reductions can often present as a benefit to the offender, whereby they are given a departure from the sentence they deserved. This goes against the purposes of sentencing, whereby the offender has not been sufficiently punished and it risks failing retribution for the victim. Furthermore, there is a major issue within the criminal justice system, which is that victims are being deprived of their rights as a victim. Nearly half of the time, victims are not offered a VPS, and so the victim in this case was fortunate to be able to be offered a VPS, to make one and have it read out on her behalf and for the judge to take it into consideration, when deciding on a sentence. This is an area that needs reform in order to ensure victims are being offered what they are entitled to as victims of crime. Although statistics show that short custodial sentences (12 months or less) are not massively efficient in terms of preventing reoffending, the judge claimed he would be failing public duty if he did not give an immediate custodial sentence. The judge seemed to be more concerened with imposing a sentence with a focus on general deterrence, stating that far too many intoxicated attacks are not sufficiently sentenced. Yet, this again poses issues, whereby some believe that deterrence sentences are too focussed on the future which is unpredictable. This view suggests that the courts should be focussed on appropriately sentencing those who have already offended, not those who may offend in future. In terms of the sentence, the judge did follow the sentencing guidelines. The prosecution suggested that the defendant should be charged with a category 2 offence, but the judge disagreed. He sentenced the defendant with a category 1 offence of 21 months (after the automatic 1/3rd reduction). The case remains that there are some clear issues within the criminal justice system, especially with the rights of victims and also with the ethics behind sentence reductions for early guilty pleas, which need to be addressed to ensure equality and justice is maintained within the criminal justice system.

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Edwards, I., 2001. Victim Participation in Sentencing: The Problems of Incoherence. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice , 40(1), pp. 39-54.

Edwards, I., 2009. The Evidential Quality of Victim Personal Statements and Family Impact Statements. The International Journal of Evidence & Proof, 13(4), pp. 293-320.

Garoupa, N. & Stephen, F., 2008. Why Plea-Bargaining Fails to Achieve Results in So Many Criminal Justice Systems: A Framework for Assessment. Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law, 15(3), pp. 323-358.

Grossman, S., 2018. Making the Evil less Necessary and the Necessary less Evil: Towards a More Honest and Robust System of Plea Bargaining. Nevada Law Journal, 18(3), pp. 769-810., 1998. Human Rights Act 1998 (c.42). [Online] Available at:[Accessed January 5 2019]., 2003. Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c.142). [Online] Available at:[Accessed 5 January 2019]., 2003. Criminal Justice Act 2003 (c.144). [Online] Available at:[Accessed 5 January 2019].

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Newburn, T., 2017. Criminology. 3rd ed. London, England; New York, New York: Routledge.

Newlove, H. M., 2017. Victim Personal Statements 2016/17 Analysis of the offer and take-up of Victim Personal Statements using the Crime Survey for England and Wales, April 2013 to March 2017, s.l.: Victim’s Commissioner .

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Roberts, J., 2011. Sentencing Guidelines and Judicial Discretion: Evolution of the Duty of Courts to Comply in England and Wales. British Journal of Criminology, 51(6), pp. 997-1013.

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Table of Legislation

Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Criminal Justice Act 2003

Human Rights Act 1998

Coroners and Justice Act 2010

Female Victims in the Criminal Justice System

Victims, Violence and the criminal justice system

Women fall victim to many forms of violence depicted in the Criminal Justice System. Domestic Violence (DV), Workplace Violence (WPV) and Sexual Violence (SV) are three key areas in which women are let down by the Criminal Justice System continuously.

A factor in any analysis of violence against women is gender. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours and expectations that are given to men (and boys) women (and girls). Because of the socially structured norms and values placed on men and women, the two genders experience life differently.

Violence against women is a salient and pervasive issue; it can affect women at any stage of their lives, and takes many forms, including physical, physiological, sexual and/or economic abuse (McMillian, 2007).  Men’s violence against women takes many forms, including, but not restricted to, domestic abuse, rape, sexual violence, child abuse, sex work/prostitution and trafficking and so called ‘honour’ crimes (Lombard and McMillan, 2013).

Domestic Violence (DV) against women is a social issue that occurs in nearly every corner of the world, ‘There is virtually no place where it is not a significant problem, and women of no race, class, or age are exempt from its reach’ (Joni Seager).

Workplace Violence (WPV) has existed throughout history. It is also one of the most difficult crimes to prove and thus prosecute. There are one million people in the workplace who are the victims of some form of violent crime, which includes physical attacks, threats, harassment, or property crimes (Kenny Joseph, A.)

Sexual Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights. Most of this violence is committed in intimate relationships. Global estimates published by WHO indicate that 1 in 3 (35%) women who have been in relationships have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

Violence against women is not the result of random, individual acts of misconduct, but rather is deeply rooted in structural relationships of inequality between women and men…Violence constitutes a continuum across the lifespan of women, from birth to old age and it cuts across both the public and private spheres (United Nations, 2006).

There are still in many instances, no complete definition to what ‘workplace violence’ is, and is continuously debated by academics, researchers, employees and governments. WPV is a serious threat, with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation describing that violence against nurses is at epidemic levels.

The Bureau of Labour statistics notes that in 2014, 15,980 private industry workers experienced a traumatic or non-fatal violence, 67% being female. The health care industry experiences almost as many violent injuries as any other industry combined. Wilkins agrees stating that ‘Social workers, nurses, care staff and others are often expected to work in tense, fraught situations in which emotions can run high’.

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The National Nurses United (2016) noted a 110% increase in the rate of violent incidents against health care workers in private hospitals between 2005 and 2014. The increase in this industries workplace violence shows us that WPV is normalised and accepted as ‘part of the job’ by elected officials, employees, management, educators and staff. It is not acceptable and should not be deemed so. 

The National Institute for occupational safety and health (2017) notes that ‘Violence in the workplace is a major disruption to providing quality care and has a negative impact on the therapeutic setting and is a prime example of why nurses leave the profession’.  There is a vicious cycle in which nurses leave the profession indefinitely, as a response to the WPV they have experienced, this can lead to financial impacts to the victim, such as loss of wages which can progress to further implications on mental and physical health.

According to Whitman (2017) and the joint commission only 20% of disruptive and violent behaviours that occur are reported. Therefore, data and analysis collected does not and cannot reflect the true danger of WPV.  The focus of hospitals and staff is primarily on patient satisfaction, another factor contributing to why nurses deter from reporting workplace violence.

Management structure within the workplace is a major factor which contributes the underreporting of workplace violence.  For example, patients cannot be held responsible for inappropriate conduct due to their wellbeing. This has an impact on psychiatric nurses as they hesitant to label their patients as violent or aggressive, and instead believe it is the manifestation of the patient’s disease making them act in this manner (Brous, 2018). Other nurses believe it is just part of the job.

Nurses roles are highly demanding and so may find reporting an incident too time consuming or complex.

In a case study carried out by Chapman, Perry, Styles and Combs (2009) they noted three factors in which were a consequence of WPV. The participants in this study came to terms with WPV as part of the job, and other consequences were named as feeling incompetent as well as physical and mental attributes. Some respondents went on to discuss the physical impacts they experienced such as bruising, back injury, pain and in some extreme cases fractured ribs.

Others began to question their competence in completing the job due to relationships with patients becoming strained.

Of the respondents in this study 92 were female, with 35 consenting to interviews, with the large majority being again, female. 

Lifetime prevalence rates tend to offer us the most reliable indicator of the extent of the problem and these suggest that one in four women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime (Dominy and Radford 1996; Henderson 1997; McGibbon, Cooper and Kelly 1999) and between one in five and one in seven women will be raped or sexually assaulted (UNICEF, 1997).

Furthermore, we already know that women are more likely to be at risk from men they already know, and often men they either currently have, or have previously had an intimate relationship with. Amnesty International (2004) tell us that ‘At least one out of three women has usually been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime…usually the abuser is a member of her own family or someone known to her’.

Domestic abuse has been legitimised and accepted in certain cultures for centuries. As far back as 2500 BC women were burnt at the stake for committing adultery and were expected to portray this ‘childlike’ quality of obeying their husbands. Men had complete authority over the women’s behaviour and actions, as divorce was not granted until 1968, this was the way of life for many women.

Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical, psychological, economic and sexual. Although domestic violence is a worldwide phenomenon, it can have various definitions and explanations according to the culture in which it occurs. Domestic violence, also referred to as ‘wife abuse’, ‘martial abuse’, ‘family violence’, and intimate partner abuse’ are all other terms used when referring to violence which takes part in the home.

Domestic violence is well known towards the women in India. Domestic violence is understood as women are placed in an inferior position to men, reinforced by the gender norms and values in society. A study conducted by Choudhary, Kaithwas and Rana (2014) tell us that domestic violence against women continues to prevail in Indian society, with women unaware of the laws and organisations available to help in dealing with DV.

The various forms of physical violence are: female foeticide and female infanticide, incest, martial rape, slapping, punching, and in extreme cases murder. Gender based violence was recognised as a human rights violation in 1993 at The World Human Rights Conference in Vienna.  The United Nations declaration then defined violence against women as ‘any act of gender- based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or physiological harm or suffering to a woman, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring public or in private life’.

The case study stated above found that, 20% of the respondents are being hurt physically by their in-laws/family members, and 34% of the respondents were being hurt mentally by in laws/family members. Another 32% of respondents were facing physical violence from their husbands, and 44% facing mental abuse from their husbands.

A recent review by Naeemah Abrahams and colleagues found that worldwide, 72% of women have been victim to non-partner sexual violence.

Anita Raj and Lotus McDougal’s focus on sexual violence in India found that a statistic of 8.5% of rape within marriage was recorded.

There are a variety of levels of explanations which have been proposed to explain domestic violence offending (Gilchrist and Kebbell, 2004). Socio cultural explanations of DA argue that patriarchal society or aggressive societies are seen to allow, and even support, male use of violence to control women (Penze,1989).

Feminist ideologies argue that the reason behind domestic violence is the gender-based inequality across society. The evidence supporting a feminist analysis tends to be predicted on the observed gender disparity in those seeking help in responses to DA (Archer, 2006). 

Teenage relationships and experiences of partner violence receive little attention but are more common occurrences than expected. Those involved in abusive and violent relationships in their teens are among the many who suffer from anxiety and unhappiness in their lives (Barter et al, 2004; Utting 1997).

The term partner violence is applicable to this research as it covers a wide variety of relationships from long term partnerships and intimate relationships compared to that of a one-night stand.

The violence experienced in these instances ranged from physical, emotional, sexual and verbal. The findings in the study carried out by Barter and McCarry were like those found in the works of Arriaga and Foshee (2004), Foshee (1996), Gamache (1991), and Jackson, Cram and Seymour (2000) in which they found that girls suffer more severe forms of violence than boys.

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In the research carried out by McCarry and Barter, they found that the impact against girls was much higher than against boys, with over 75% of female respondents agreeing that the violence they suffered had a negative impact (e.g. feeling scared, frightened, upset, angry etc) in comparison to 14% of males.  It also became clear in some interviews that the women felt a sense of protection and love from the violence they had experienced, again another form of coercive control, which was common in many aspects of young girls’ relationships. Some described being given ‘rules’ and ‘curfews’ by their partner and restricting their socialisation with friends and family.

New Zealand also has the highest rate of domestic violence in the world, and 80% of incidents of family or intimate partner violence goes unreported.

Earlier this year, New Zealand legislators passed a new bill granting victims of domestic violence 10 days of extra leave from work, separate from holiday and sick pay. the bill was passed at the parliament in Wellington with a vote of 63-57. This was described as a ‘huge win’ and is a huge step in the right direction for crimes like domestic violence being taken seriously. New Zealand is the second country to pass a bill helping victims of domestic violence, with the Philippines passing the bill in 2004. Although the UK, states that Domestic Violence is a criminal offence, there is no support in place for victims of domestic violence yet. However, Prime Minister Theresa May, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Justice Secretary David Gauke are seeking measures to be included in a drafted Domestic Abuse bill (, 2018).

The new bill proposes a tougher shield in protecting victims further in cases like domestic abuse. This can include using electronic tagging to monitor the perpetrator, attending help programmes, and/or compulsory alcohol testing/monitoring. A breach of any of the above, would be again a criminal offence and could lead to incarceration.

Whilst all this comes under the category domestic violence; some factors and impacts correspond to what constitutes as sexual violence too. Domestic and sexual violence are similar in the way that one rarely happens without the other occurring.  This is common in cases such as marital rape.

Intimate partner violence in marriage affects one in three married women in India, this includes physical and sexual abuse.  The impacts the women face through this violence is possibility to test positive for HIV, as well as other mental factors such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.

In the last 30 years, the demand for commercial sex has soared Western countries. Sex is now a multi-billion-dollar industry, thriving alongside efforts by governments and police forces to regulate and obliterate it (Bernstein, 2011). It is likely that sex workers will experience violence. This can appear in many forms, this includes harassment, robbery, physical assault, rape and murder.

Sex workers can experience these forms of violence in both public and private spheres, and from a range a variety of perpetrators, this includes clients, pimps, other sex workers, police, partners or members of the local communities (Benson 1998 cited in Sanders 2004; Campbell, Coleman and Torkington 1996 cited in Sanders 2004; Hubbard 1998; May, Harocopos and Hough 2000).

Between early 1990’s and 2000s, at least 60 sex workers were known to have been murdered in the UK, most working on the street (Penfold et al., 2004, p.366) and it is estimated that street sex workers are 12 times likely to die from violence at work than any other woman (Sanders and Campbell 2007, p.2).

Some feminists would see the selling and buying of sex as causing harm and sex work itself as a form of violence against women (Dworkin, 1981; Jeffery’s 2008). Within this theory, it allows the argument that the sex industry is an ideal environment built upon men’s rights to purchase and use women’s bodies. Women who work in the sex industry are considered a high risk to experience serious forms of violence (Busch et al 2002; Jeal and Salisbury 2004b; Penfold et al 2004; Sanders 2008a).

Although women who work on an ‘indoor’ basis are portrayed as consensual and non-violent (McElroy 1998; Weizter 2000) it makes them more susceptible to other crimes, such as stalking due to the close bonds they form with their clients. 

In a 2001 study of three British cities, 81% of sex street workers had experienced some form of violence (Church et al, 2001). Another study conducted in 2004 found that rape and physical violence with the use of weapons such as guns, machetes and chainsaw had been experienced by 73% (Jeal and Salisbury 2004a).

There is little data on sex workers’ experiences of violence and general emotional wellbeing (Jackson, Bennett and Sowinski, 2007). However, evidence collected from various studies tells us that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTDSD), anxiety, insomnia and depression among many other factors (Farley and Barkan, 1998).

The impacts of such violence can lead to a list of mental, physical and health problems. Some of which include sexually transmitted diseases, a high likelihood of infertility and in many cases the women have suffered broken bones, bruising and scarring. 80% of women involved in sex work are more likely to suffer from depression (Bagley, 1999) with other links to lack of confidence, incompetence and low self-esteem. Some of these symptoms are like those who are survivors of domestic and workplace violence.

Some young women had difficulty identifying their experiences as abusive and conceptualised it as ‘normal behaviour’ in their relationships.

Previous work by Cawson (2000) notes that sexual violence has recognised the role that both physical force and sexual coercion or pressure play in young women’s sexual victimisation.  When being interviewed in this study, 70% of girls responded yes to an act of sexual violence having a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

A gendered analysis of violence view’s men violence against women as a manifestation of male power that is replicated and endorsed through individual experiences and wider structural inequalities (Dobash and Dobash 1979; Radford and Kelly 1996; Rowland and Klein 1990).

Whilst society continues to conform to the gendered structured norms and values enforced on its members, women will continue to be victims of workplace, sexual, and domestic violence. Throughout the research surrounding violence against women, a repeating issue is the gender imbalance enforced on men (and boys) and women (and girls).

Violence against women is a broad topic, and each individual act of violence has little conclusions as to what each act consists of. What we can understand from the research we do have is that male power and privilege outweighs what the women receive.

Secondary victimisation, or the fear of secondary victimisation needs to be erased from police methods. Although, not intentional in most cases, the fear of having to relive a traumatic incident is a reason as to why many cases go unreported.

Recognising the importance that the effects and impacts have which underlies in the inequality against the female gender is important to move forward and lessen the male power held over society.

Sexual violence, workplace violence and domestic violence are three key areas of crime which women are affected by in particular ways, linking into their position in what is still a patriarchal society.


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Concepts of Crime, Deviance and Victims

Table of Content

Elements of Defiant and Abnormal behavior

Major theoretical factors and forces that cause crime

Impact of crime on person and property

The Ramification of violent crimes, the career criminals and organized crimes

Concept of victimless crimes

Ancient history believes that supernatural controlled people and events, when people acted outside the normal, they were then defiant and placed to the mercy of spirits. Ancient society referred to physical evidence for defiance from the norms. Defiant behavior is defined as a manner of conducting oneself differently from the norm (Egemen, 2018). It is also referred to as aberrant behavior or abnormal behavior.  Deviance happens when the social norms are broken or violated.  There are no set agreements on the issue of deviance, but there are few elements that help with categorizing the phenomenon.

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One element refers that to deviant been relative not absolute. This acknowledges that every individual is deviant in some extent. These are usually as a result of different cultural groups having different norms. An example is the act of alcohol consumption been deviant in the Muslim community but not in the Hindu society. Another example is women driving in the Arab countries are considered defiant while in other regions women have the freedom to own a driving and drive motor vehicles. History plays a major role in the variance of relative nature of deviance within given cultures.

The second element is norm violation. There exist a wide range of norms such as; health, legal, religious and cultural. These norms govern the bodies under which a certain practice is to be undertaken, for example there are legal norms for lawyers practicing law and nurses in the hospitals like the confidentiality of information to their clients.  Sometimes there is conflict between different norms and in such situations, it becomes very hard to decide on the deviance behavior. The other element is the view of defiance as a stigma structure. This is based upon the behavior of individual during certain events or time.  This for example the case of a terrorist becoming a political martyr, deviance is seen as shifting and volatile to the wide range of norms.   There are various criteria to identify abnormal behavior, which are; Unusualness, Social deviance, Emotional distress, Faulty perceptions or interpretations of reality, Maladaptive behavior, and Dangerousness.  Abnormal behavior is expressed by a blurred view of existing legal order and norms (Uski & Lampinen, 2014). 

Out of experiments done on students, various vices were considered to be factors that resulted to abnormal behavior. Some of the habits that lead to the abnormal behavior by youth are alcohol consumption, either for fun or to deal with stress. Alcohol tend to impair judgement and this then giving youth. Smoking is another vice peer that is mostly impacted by peer pressure. Suicide attempts and bullying, Social Media (Egemen H., 2018)

Computer games; in 2012 a journal review showed women been featured as objects and encouraging violence against them hence the hostility to rape women victims. Gamers playing of violent games give gamers the understanding of real-life violence (Victoria & Eric, 2012). 

To prevent this deviant behavior, there ought to be continuous monitoring of the behavior, which should include assessment of the risk from this behavior. Sensitization programs to also should be used in order to help people be keen and take action against vices that doesn’t seem to be acceptable.  Some of these vices are like the consumption of alcohol and smoking among the adolescents. The family also plays a very important role when it comes to the basic values of a child, as they learn what is right and wrong to the norms of the society. Therefore, home education is very important to achieving a society with zero or relatively to no deviance behavior.

There various factors that can lead to crime in the society.  Parental relations are one of the factors that lead to crime. “Cycle of violence” is an idea adopted in the 1980s that states, where people grow up is most like to impact their behavior. For example, Individuals who grow up in an antisocial abusive behavior in their home are more likely to carry on with that trend and mistreat their children. This pattern will tend to be carried on to the generations to come in the lineage of that family. Sexually abused children often lead to the victims becoming sexual criminals in their adult life. The neglected and abused children are likely to be crime offenders in their adult life. The cycle of crime keeps repeating, this is clear from having most inmates having history of abuse.

Education is another factor contributing to crime. Merton’s sociological theories on a survey of inmates showed very high level of illiteracy among the inmates. These criminals committed various crime, most common been shoplifting, trafficking, robbery and automobile theft. Poor education background indicated history of employment in low wage jobs and even periods of unemployment. These led to people making choices between low income and profitable crime hence a major factor to crime contribution.

Peer pressure and influence strongly contribute to the decision to commit crime. An example is children who cannot afford adequate clothing, been trapped in the need to match their fellows, this hence led to petty crime such a shoplifting or drug trafficking in order to finance their needs. There is evidence in research of youth joining criminal gangs as of the status and respect the gangs get. Criminal activities in the gangs give individuals respect and credibility hence a major force to crime.

Another major force that can lead to crime is Easy access to firearms. The back market provides an ease access to hand guns in the USA, from statistics crimes committed with firearms in 1998 330,000 of 400,000 used handguns. Firearms use in USA was among the eighth leading crime cause in the twenty first century.

Abuse of Drugs and alcohol is a leading force in criminal activities. These are as a result and urge to satisfy a drug habit or addiction. Abuse of drugs and alcohol often lead to violence, often where the victim and the perpetuator have no relationship. Alcohol and drugs reduce inhibitions hence giving the abuser courage to commit crimes. A high rate of 30% to 50% is estimated by criminologist to be as a result of violence from the use abuse of alcohol and drugs.

Another force of crime is heredity and brain activity. From studies in 1980s having case subjects as twins and adopted children indicated that identical twins are likely to have similar behavior as compared to fraternal ones who have different genes.  The case of adopted children indicated that adopted children have more similarities to those of their biological parents then to those of the adoptive parents.  Robert Hare a psychologist in 1986 identified a connection between anti-social behavior and brain activities, this are such as having individuals been greater risk takers.

Hormone discharges in the body also play a role in how the body functions. Some of the hormones are; Testosterone is a sex hormone, Cortisol a hormone that affects how quickly food is digested. Cortisol is produced by adrenal glands and high levels lead to greater energy in times of danger or stress.  Studies on animals indicated high relation between high levels of testosterone to aggression, also a study in of inmates USA on this hormone showed high levels to those of free adults.

Crime has had very great impact to people and the property. Crime in the USA has fallen as per the FBI statistics stating that there was a decline of 48% in between the year 1993 and 2016. The first six months of the year 2017 showed a decline by 0.8% of the figures by law enforcement agencies on violent crimes in comparison to the figures of the previous year 2016. The violent crimes include; rape, robbery, murder and aggravated assault (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2017). There exists a large variation on crime rates to the geographic location. Data from the FBI showed differences from city to ty and state to state. In states of Nevada, Tennessee and New Mexico there were more than 600 crimes per 100,000.  

Property crime in the United States has dropped over a long term. Data from the FBI shows that crime rate fell 48% between year 1993 and 2016. From the comparison of data on property crimes in the United States, there was a decline of crimes by 2.9% for the first 6 month of 2017 to the first 6 months of 2016. With exception of arson, property crimes include; motor vehicle theft, burglary and larceny-theft (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2017).  The figures of 2017 showed a decline of 3.5% of arson compared to figures of 2016 for the first 6 months of the year. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2017).

Most studies relate unemployment, poverty and crime. Regions that have high crime rates have high rates of unemployment and poverty has high crime rates. The only problem is that the studies do not indicate whether it is the unemployed individuals that commit the crimes. Individuals at lower end of social economic status are more likely to participate in crime. This shows a clear relationship between crime, poverty and unemployment, having many individuals in high crime rate areas unemployed and poverty stricken. 

Substance abusers directly increase the risk of criminal violence, such substance as alcohol has shown increased aggression when abused.  Heavy alcohol drinkers have a high preference to commit alcohol related violent crimes. Regions where there is high consumption of alcohol are also associated with high crime rates. There are other substances that are abused that lead to increased aggression and are linked to crime. These substances are a variety and dependent on the regions where they are commonly trafficked, and are such as cocaine, meth and heroine.

A property proximity to any crime is a deal breaker to the owners. For example, when people are choosing a house, they get away from the crime prone areas. (Devon, 2016). A high loss in the property value comes after news of a crime spreads locally, which develop an aversion to the area (Devon, 2016). When it comes to property there are Check disclosure laws. This entails provision of evidence the crime occurred in the propertyin some states. While others simply state that the truth of the crime must be made known to the buyer. From these laws most, buyers decide on whether to choose the property based on the crime rate of that region.

Studies show various effects that crime can have on a victim. One is the loss of trust and shock to the society of the individual who is victimized, this is particularly for small society or group’s where the offense was carried out. Second is the guilt of having to be the victim of the crime, victim feeling that they could have stopped the crime from happening. Guilt may be brought also by loss in the crime, be it financial or scars caused where violence was involved. Psychological effects are also common in persons affected by crime, such as fear, anger and depression. Social effect is also a personal impact involving the changing of lifestyle of the victim to avoid situation in which the crime occurred, such as may lead to moving to a new house and even not visiting the street of crime.  (Matthew & Joanna , 2007)

The issue of organized crime is among the top agenda problems facing governments, this is as a result of increased international reach of the activities by the organized criminals facilitated by technological development that globalize activities to be legit.  Organized crime is a significant problem in countries like Russia. Usually the starting point is the identification of activities with economic nature that organized criminals are associated with such as human trafficking and exchange of illegal goods. Organized criminals are also involved in predatory activities such as robbery, fraud and theft. (Richard, 2000)

Existing literature has focused on identification of impact that crime and violence have on economic factor accumulation, yet there is little on the impact that crime and violence have on how economic factors are located. Wisdom suggests that high or increase in crime rates make communities have a decrease. Researchers translate the decline to need of people to move, less local involvement, satisfaction with the neighbor and lower value of the houses. Empirical research has conformity to only some of the wisdom, the house price neighborhood satisfaction and desire to move. Different crimes have an influence on housing market as crime rates play role in transition of neighbor hoods (Taylor, 1995).

Crime has a negative impact on socioeconomic costs; analyses find that individuals tend to avoid areas and activities perceived to victimize them to crime. Tourism is also negatively affected in crime prone area, so does it discourage investment and stifle growth economically.  Another ramification of crime is the direct costs incurred on all goods and services used to prevent violence and offer treatment to victims. This cost in experienced in the heath sector, justice and prison, private security and police sector. Crime has a high non-monetary cost too, on such issue as mortality and morbidity which are also classified as economic loss (Taylor, 1995).

There are various effects that the gangs have on the societies. The most affected are the businesses that operate in the regions that are crime prone. The businesses have to incur high end security as their premises can end up been vandalized any time even during the day. The other effect is the closure of businesses very early to avoid been caught up in the dusk by the criminals, this means that the working hours in the premises are limited for security purposes. Some businesses have to pay some fee taxed to them for operation in the regions that the gangs also control, this making the running of business in this area to be extremely high.  (Alex, 2004)

These are behaviors that are against the criminal law but have no harm to the consenting parties. This concept was argued that behaviors are not criminal till they inflict harm (Ross & Karen, 2010) the concept of victimless crime started in the 1960s and played a major role in debates both legal and social.  The essence was from an appeal of the archaic laws against homosexuals which is a victimless crime. It was later promoted by Edwin M Schur in his sociologist works back in 1965; Crimes without victims: Deviant Behavior and Public Policy (Edwin, 1966). The notion of “victimless crime” to homosexual behavior is essentially a restatement of the argument against the laws that prescribed death penalty; been that no other human’s right is infringed and punishing the culprits is an overstep of the mandate of the state.

Various aspects of the crime are denoted form the definition: One is that there is consensual between the participants; two is that none of the participants is willing to act as a complaining witness and last is there is no direct harm to the participants. An example is example, an offense committed by consenting adult homosexuals. In this case there is no complaining witness to protest the conduct even thou it might violate the criminal code and American criminal law do recognize this distinction. There are various types of victimless crimes. These crimes do not directly or specifically harm another individual. They are; Prostitution, Drug use, Trespassing, Traffic citations, Public drunkenness, Suicide and gambling.


Alex, M. (2004). The Ramification of violent crimes, the career criminals and organized crimes. Strategic Publishers, 44-50.

Devon, T. (2016, January 29). US NEWS. Retrieved November 30, 2018, from HowHomicide Affect Home Values:

Edwin, S. (1966). Social Forces. In D. G., CRIMES WITHOUT VICTIMS: DEVIANT BEHAVIOR AND PUBLIC POLICY. New Jersey: University of new California Press.

Egemen, H. (2018). Deviant Behavior in school setting. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 130-138.

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Ross, C., & Karen, M. (2010). Victimless crime. Chicago: Sage Knowledge.

Taylor, R. (1995). The Impact of Crime on Communities. Sage Publications, 25-45.

Uski, S., & Lampinen, A. (2014). Social norms and self-presentation on social network sites: Profile work in action. New Media & Society, 447-464.

Victoria, S., & Eric, M. (2012). Violence against Women in Video Games: A Prequel or Sequel to Rape Myth Acceptance? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 3016-3031.

Weatherburn, D. (2001, February 5). What is Crime? Crime and Justice Bulletin, pp. 1-12.


Eric Garner vs. Victims and the Criminal Process


Media organizations play a huge and crucial role in the ways in ways certain events are represented to the society. However, this also gives these outlets the opportunity to use their own racial, class and gender biases to represent information to fit their agendas. They have the power to portray the victims and the victimizer in ways that may not be accurate but will most likely be widely received due to their large platforms.  For the purpose of this essay, I will use 3 different media articles to demonstrate the ways that these biases played in a role in the representation of Eric Garner’s unfortunate death, that came at the hands of New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo.

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In order to comprehend the connection between the politics of media representation, and the process of labeling a victim and a victimizer, one must first examine the works of Stuart Hall and study the typologies of victimization. As a sociologist, Hall argued that what we’re told in media is actually just formulated interpretations rather than legitimate facts of what actually happened.  Hall also studied at the University of Birmingham and Open University and has influential work on the racial prejudices in media representation and how these particular images are produced and circulated (Allspach, 2018). In this case, the way in which Garner is represented to the public could potentially play a role in modifying policing tactics that are administrated by the New York police department in the future.

The process of labeling a victim and a victimizer is rooted in the definition of a victim. According to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), “in respect of an offence, means an individual who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss, as a result of the commission of an offence” (CCRA, s. 2, 2015). Despite this narrow legal definition and due to unequal power relations, victims are not always accurately identified. This is exemplified in the Eric Garner case as the three media sources I have researched all display a use of prejudice, leading vocabulary to depict Eric Garner and Daniel Pantaleo in different lights – sometimes as a victim and other times as a victimizer.

The first newspaper article, written Sonia Moghe and Ralph Ellis from CNN, focuses on Daniel Pantaleo, the victimizer, and the impact the case has had on his life rather than the victim, Eric Garner, and what happened to him. The second newspaper article, written by Al Baker, J. David Goodman and Benjamin Mueller for the New York Times, repeatedly demonstrated a use of victim provocation where the victim is portrayed as the initial victimizer. Lastly, the third article that was reported by Josh Voorhees for Slate, was a refreshing counter-representation that portrays Eric Garner as the victim and points to Pantaleo as the role of the victimizer.

The Facts of the Case

On July 17th, 2014, a 43-year-old black man named Eric Garner was allegedly selling illegal cigarettes outside of a storefront in Staten Island, New York. When an unmarked police car recognized him, due to previous arrests, the two officers made their way to Mr. Garner. The officers would later be identified as Daniel Pantaleo and Justin Damico. As Mr. Garner began to resist arrest, the officers grew more aggressive. Eventually, Pantaleo, a white officer, wrapped his arms around Mr. Garner’s neck in order to restrain him and cuff him but in the process, due to his health issues, restricted his breathing. The entire encounter was recorded and shared onto social media. This infamous chokehold would be ruled as the cause of Mr. Garner’s death.

Racial Bias

 Before we discuss the ways in which Eric Garner and Daniel Pantaleo’s race played a role in the ways in which they represented in the media, we must first understand the meaning of race. According to Britannica, race is “the idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups on the basis of inherited physical and behavioral differences” (2017). To rephrase, race is more or a less a social construct that is used to justify the hierarchies that have been solidified into our societies since as early as memory serves. Though more recently, the use of media has been able to either shed a light on this injustice or help foster these labels. In this case, Eric’s race was used as a tool to label him as a victimizer while Pantaleo’s race helped him avoid being held responsible for his horrendous actions.

For example, the New York Times mentioned that the victim, Eric Garner “had been arrested twice already that year near the same spot, in March and May, charged both times with circumventing state tax law” (Al Baker, J. David Goodman, and Benjamin Mueller, 2015). By making it necessary to mention Mr. Garner’s criminal history, he is made to appear as a criminal and a victimizer. Through this, the media organization is reproducing common stereotypes of black men that we as a society have come to accept. Unfortunately, after learning about Eric’s criminal past, readers are perhaps less likely to feel sympathetic towards Mr. Garner and therefore the media representation is successful in diverting attention from the wrongful actions of the actual victimizer.

This is reiterated once again when the article described that, while he was being arrested, the victim “shouted at them to back off, according to two witnesses. He flailed his arms. He refused to be detained or frisked” (Baker et al, 2015). Due to use of language such as “shouted”, “flailed”, and “refused”, the victim is made to appear extremely dangerous and aggressive, which once again plays on the stereotype that black men are all “thugs”. However, as mentioned in the Slate article, “Garner was unarmed and does not strike any of the officers as they take him to the ground”.  This counter-representation helps to fight against that stereotype. Additionally, by declining to be arrested, the article displays Mr. Garner as victimizer that isn’t following the police officer’s instruction, when in reality, he was simply exercising his right to question what probably cause, other than his previous arrest and his race, the officers had to arrest him.

 The media’s aim is to ensure we become compliant to their views that they demonstrate in their institutions, and through this, they can enforce policy changes which are neither neutral or objective and are grounded in bias. However, in this case, they emphasize Eric Garner’s criminal history in order to manipulate readers into believing black people are a threat – which then justifies Daniel Pantaleo’s excessive use of force and ensures that no policy changes will be taken into action to prevent this nightmare from happening again.

Class Bias

Britannic defines class as a “group of people within a society who possess the same socioeconomic status.” (2018). Therefore, class bias is discrimination merely based on a person’s social class. In order to discuss class bias, we must determine what class Eric Garner and Daniel Pantaleo belong to. 

Being part of law enforcement, the unequal power relations between the Pantaleo and Mr. Garner plays a role in the ways in which they are represented in the media. Within the first few paragraphs of the article, CNN wrote that Garner died “after police attempted to arrest the 43-year-old father of six for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally in Staten Island” (Sonia Moghe and Ralph Ellis, 2018).  Right away, the reader assumes that the victim is part of a lower class and, despite the use of the adverb “allegedly”, is therefore involved in some form of illegal conduct. By outlining this at the beginning of the article, the media source has already created a negative image of the victim for the reader to consider while reading the rest of the article. The wording used in this article insinuates that it was his illegal activity that victimized him when in actuality he was killed was due to misconduct by the police officers – his class made him a victim. At the same time, the article sheds a sympathetic light on the true victimizer by mentioning that the NYPD stated they “share the family’s frustration” (Moghe & Ellis, 2018). By including this statement, the victimizer is represented as a victim that is sharing the consequences with another victim. However, the “frustration” that the NYPD has faced is some bad publicity whereas the consequence for the lower-class family of six was losing their sole provider to the hands of the institution that’s claiming to be the victim.

In this article, the victimizer is represented as the victim since they are illustrated to have been so affected by this tragedy yet have failed to take any responsibility or accountability for Eric Garner’s death. This is shown in the same article where it states that “the NYPD said it will go ahead with disciplinary proceedings against Pantaleo as early as September 1” (Moghe & Ellis, 2018). The use of the adjective “early” may mislead readers into believing the victimizer is taking initiative and is eager to take responsibility for their actions when in reality Mr. Garner’s homicide took place over 4 years ago – so action is long overdue. This article demonstrates the ways in which the justice system is grounded in institutional biases that protect the upper-class/law enforcement.

Contrastingly, this imbalance is rightfully highlighted in the Slate article where it adds how the “default setting for our criminal justice system—both explicitly and implicitly—is to believe that an on-duty officer who takes another citizen’s life was justified in doing so.” (Voorhees, 2014). In this instance, we see how institutions and legal definitions can fail to label and recognize a victim. If the state thinks that there was a crime, then they will step in and use the victim as a part of the investigation process (Allspach, 2018). This becomes an issue because, if they don’t believe there was a crime – then they don’t believe there was a victim.

Additionally, a New York Times articles stated that “The spot where officers approached Mr. Garner on July 17 had already that year been the site of at least 98 arrests, 100 criminal court summonses, 646 calls to 911 and nine complaints to 311.”  By describing the scene as a crime-infested environment (using statistics that may or may not be accurate) the victimizer represented as justified when using excessive force onto the victim due to the fact that he is portrayed as just another poor black man in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Through the use of these statistics, the NYPD can enforce changes in the under-policing or over-policing in these neighborhoods in the future.

Gender Bias

Gender bias refers to the ways in which someone’s gender can have either a positive or negative effect on the way they are treated. Within our society, there are dominant ideologies attached to being male and being female. For instance, men are frequently denoted as tough, dominant and unemotional while women are conventionally recognized to be more delicate, sensitive and weak.

In Slate’s article, it outlines how Eric Garner, “can be heard on the recording uttering what would turn out to be his final words: “I can’t breathe.” (Voorhees, 2014). As Mr. Garner is represented as more vulnerable and defenseless, we see a counter-representation of these ideologies which justly may entice more hatred and anger towards the victim while gaining sympathy for the victim.

At times, all of the prejudices that Mr. Garner faces may intersect to make him more prone to victimization. For example, the New York Time wrote that “he was a “condition,” a nettlesome sign of disorder well known in the 120th Precinct” (Baker et al, 2015). The victimizer is portrayed as a hero that is ridding the city of poor black men that infect the city with crime, even though he was actually the victim of police brutality. By labeling him a “condition” this can be perceived as a form of dehumanizing. From what we learn from Frantz Fanon, this dehumanization can further be used “to excuse violence, segregation, exclusion, [and] impoverishment” (Fanon, 1963).

Similarly, Eric Garner’svictim potential,”a combination of biology, socialization, and chance”, (Hans Von Hentig, 1974) added to his victimization as he was not treated with the same respect and protocol that people of other races, genders or classes would have received. For example, the New York Times mentions that” Ms. Allen [a witness] said in an interview that when medical workers arrived, they casually asked Mr. Garner to wake up, appearing to believe he was “faking it,”. If Mr. Garner were an upper-class white woman, he would have received treatment immediately, however, due to the victimizers’ own prejudices against lower-class black man, he was not taken seriously.

Taking all of this into consideration, I found it interesting that just three articles could give such different representations of the same event. It is evident that the media organization plays a huge role in labeling and representing victims and victimizers in whichever way they deem necessary, which only further restated the importance of fact-checking what we read.  Personally, I view Mr. Garner as a victim with minor guilt (Mendelson, 1900-1998) as, if the facts being presented to us are accurate, he was indeed in commission on a crime. Even though officer Pantaleo used a take-down maneuver that has been banned in the New York City police department and ended up killing an unarmed man, a jury indicted him of all criminal charges. This caused outrage among those who consider themselves a part of the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ movements and left them, and myself, posing one question – how many more unarmed black men have to die before policy changes are made to our justice system?


Allspach A. (2018), Victims and Victimology (2018), slide, 4.

Allspach A. (2018), Measuring Victimization and the Politics of Representation, slide, 13.

Allspach A. (2018), Victims and Victimology (2018), slide, 17.

Allspach A. (2018), Victims and Victimology (2018), slide, 19.

Al Baker, A., Goodman, J. D., & Mueller, B. (2015, June 13). Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garner’s Death. Retrieved from

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Social Class.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 23 Apr. 2018,

Takezawa, Y. I., Wade, P., & Smedley, A. (2017, October 04). Race. Retrieved from

Voorhees, J. (2014, December 04). Why NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo Wasn’t Indicted in the Chokehold Death of Eric Garner. Retrieved from


Gender-Based Assumptions of War Victims

International actors faced numerous Humanitarian crises throughout the 1990s, leading to a New War thesis, made particularly prominent by Mary Kaldor. Whilst wars have historically been concerned with violence against the most vulnerable, only recently have studies focused on massive civilian casualties, largely women and children (Kaldor 2013: 133). In mainstream thinking, war remains an exclusively male issue where men are ‘naturally’ those who perpetrate violence; meanwhile, women and children are seen only as victims. Empirical data, however, reported that men as potential fighters are most likely to be targeted in armed conflict, including sexual aggression (Carpenter 2006: 88). Wars create all sorts of victims and perpetrators, spanning gender and roles. Thus, is the role of women and children merely as victims too simplistic? Want

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This paper examines how common gender-based assumptions and unclear victim-related terms led observers to consider victimization as intrinsic and gender specific. As Cynthia Enloe (2004: 10) stated, ‘naturally’ is a dangerous notion that depicts women as life-giving versus men as life-taking (Coulter, Persson and Utas 2008: 7). However, men, women and children’s roles are much more diverse and complex. Analysis of the Syrian crisis illustrates this argument and provides evidence that men, women and children may be victims, perpetrators, or even both.
‘Women and Children First’.
The necessity to have a ‘victim’.
Thinking about armed conflict and human security, victims are often at the heart of leaders’ decision-making and civil society’s policies. The search for adequate victims’ and humanitarian programs raised the debate about which side or communities should be acknowledged as victims and revealed the many faces of victimhood (Huyse 2003: 54). Part of the dilemma comes from the political-biased connotations and the legal definition(s) of the term victim. To discuss the former argument, we choose to use the definition provided by the 1985 UN Declaration, which defined a victim as:
a person who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal laws operative within Member States (UN 1985).
Women and gender-based violence.
Gender-based violence, especially wartime rape, is as old as war itself. For a long time in history, the ‘inferior’ position of women or certain ethnic or racial minorities was considered as natural, following Browmiller’s thesis that ‘War provides men with the perfect psychological backdrop to give vent to their contempt for women’ and became inherent to territorial advance (Brownmiller 1975, 32). During the liberation of Europe in 1945, the Russian Army raped over two million German women (Beevor 2007).
However, women had to wait fifty years with the atrocities of Bosnian, Sierra Leone and Rwandan reports on rape camps to finally obtain the ear of the International community. The mediatization of armed groups using the enemy’s women to achieve ethnic cleansing, genocide and occupation goals upon the enemy raised awareness about the use of rape as a weapon (The Economist 2001, Farwell 2004). Pressures by feminist lobbies and academics led to an attempt by the UN to reinforce the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence, recognizing this ‘regrettable aspect of the war’ as a crime against humanity (Farwell 2004: 389, Erturk 2008: 1, DEDAW 1993).
Nonetheless, sexual violence is not the only form of conflict-related victimization of women. The over-classification of women as ‘bush wives’, camp followers, and sex slaves undoubtedly raised the world’s awareness on gender-based violence but also diverted policy makers to address and establish efficient policies for all the range of victims (Coulter, Persson and Utas 2008: 8). For example, concerns about the health needs of women in conflict-zones – especially pregnant mothers and their children are annually expressed. In 2009 the Red Cross reported the highest rates of maternal deaths happen in war-torn countries (Puechguirbal 2009). Besides physical sequels, women suffer also from long-term and indirect psychological, social, and economical related-forms of violence. For example, women injured by sexual violence endure physical sufferings but also psychological pressures such as shame when they are back in their communities or economic deprivations and sanctions. Those issues are particularly contentious in cases where women are culturally dependent and subjected to their husbands. (Puechguirbal 2009, Erturk 2008, Tickner 1997: 628).
Children as victims
The same reasoning occurs with children. UNICEF recently alleged the number of children affected by civil wars has more than doubled over the past years, exceeding more than 5.5 million (UNICEF 2014: 3). However, the numbers do not reflect the form of violence and oppression nor do they specify a time distinction. Children are mainly described as ‘direct victims’ – suffering from the direct effects of violence. Nevertheless, more attention should be given to the many other invisible victims, such as those children who lost one or more family members and suffer from the aftereffects of the violence they witnessed (Huyse 2003: 57, Worldvision 2014). Usually defenceless and vulnerable, children are killed, physically abused, kidnapped, recruited as soldiers, and/or displaced.
In Syria, more than 1.2 million children have fled their homes, most of them are under 12 (UNICEF 2014: 18). In refugee camps, children are particularly exposed to malnutrition and unsanitary conditions, leading to all kinds of disease. Separated from their family, and/or without support from parents who could barely afford to feed and protect them, children suffer socio-economic deprivation and usually have no access to basic necessities. They are prevented from going to schools and are either enrolled as child labour and/or forced into sexual slavery, – or in the case of young women, married off to older men – to supplement their family’s meagre income (Shivakumaran 2014).
In addition to physical abuses, children suffer from long-term psychological traumas from their experiences. In Syrian refugee camps, psychologists noticed unusual level of distress and visible signs social and physical dysfunction among displaced children (Atlas 2014, Winter 2014). Isolated and socially rejected, children who have been traumatized during the conflict develop sequels that can lead to new forms of violence –child soldiers, street gangs, juvenile delinquency or vendetta— (Boyden 2006: 4). In war-torn societies, the observations can generally be extended to second-generation victims; from children who suffered high levels of stress from the adults around them and children born in camps[1], to the grandchildren who carry memories from elder generations (Huyse 2004: 54, 57).
Victims of Man’s war
For a long time, there was a belief that men fight wars to protect vulnerable people, defend their family’s wealth, and the interests of the nation. This stereotypical role of the ‘active male protector’ naturally defined women and children as ‘passive-protected’ actors. Nevertheless, this common understanding about women and children’s victimization largely diverted the international debate from other under-acknowledged realities (Tickner 1997: 627, Enloe 2012: 7, Rygiel 2006: 150)
First, armed groups are not always protecting the weak; second, the assumption that victimization is gender specific overlooks the presence of female fighters among armies (Goldstein 2001: 59). Finally, keeping in mind the fate of children as victims, recent researches indicate empirical evidence about children’s contribution to armed violence, including child soldiering.
From victims to active participants
Violence committed by children or women has an important symbolic power on people’s minds, because it challenges traditional social constructions that women and children are the most vulnerable (Hunt and Rygiel 2006: 2).
Children as weapons
Child soldiers have been in use for a long time: regular armies before the Geneva agreements made use of children. As a result of changing societal values and greater awareness of the issue, child soldiering increasingly gained political salience over the last decades of civil wars intensification. Images of tens of thousands small boys with an AK-47 –considered as a ‘cheap’ and ‘disposable goods’ by African War-lords (Rosen 2005)– created terrifying damages worldwide (Erwin 2002, Hoge 2014). However, child soldiers are generally portrayed as direct or indirect victims, forced and pressured by adults to commit brutal atrocities.
Numerous testimonies by former child soldiers show the dilemma for those children who killed to defend themselves, either from their captor or an opposing armed faction (BBC 2005). The recent video released by the Islamic State (IS) shows the process of indoctrination and militarization: children carry guns as big as them, and are trained in radical ideology (Vinograd, Balkiz and Omar 2014). Many of those children are around 12-13 and do not actually have a choice, but some of them are already adults. This also leads to the debate around the capacity of youth to exercise a measure of personal autonomy in their decisions and actions (Maclure and Denov 2006: 120).
Since 2002, ‘child soldiers’ definition relies the UN straight 18 principle and outlaws all major forms of children involvement in hostilities under that age (OPAC 2007). However, this strict definition tends to obscure the weight of experience, social-context and environment in which youth are evolving (Boyden 2006, Maclure and Denov 2006) Latest psychological analyses demonstrate the necessity to differentiate childhood and adolescence: much of the analysis so far has infantilized the young people as receptors of environmental stimuli, or of adult pressures, often disregarding particular cognitive and behavioural dynamics (Boyden 2006: 1).
In some cases, children join for ideological reasons or for other advantages and opportunities war can bring – e.g. money, resources and power to name a few reasons. The prospect of getting a better life is worth war, leading young people to join the rebellion for the same reasons as adults (Hoeffler and Collier 2001, Boyden 2006: 4). Moreover, some scholars tend to explain instability in certain region as a consequence of demographic changes and increasing masses of youth. Post-conflict zones are primarily addressed taking into consideration the limited capacity of war-torn states to handle youthfulness (Maclure and Denov 2006, Boyden 2006: 10). For example, re-recruitment of child soldiers into war is particularly difficult to address (Hoge 2014). In response to evidence of child soldiering by the Kurdish rebel group, the International Criminal Court signed an agreement with the YGP establishing a ‘non-combatant’ category for children between 16 and 18. However and despite Demobilization, Demilitarization and rehabilitation (DDR) programs, dozens of children have tried to re-join local Kurdish military unites on their own (Geneval Call 2014).
Women and Men on the moral continuum.
From Antigone[2] to the Ozalp[3], women have actively participated in all aspects of war. Historical records show that women perform successfully in war –sometimes even more than their male colleagues. The quasi-exclusion of women as ‘combatants’, refers to the gender constructed discourse and dichotomy between women (peaceful) and men (warlike) which denied the active participation of women as individual perpetrators of violence (Hunt and Rygiel 2006). For example, in 2003, when were released the images of Lynndie England abusing Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib surfaced, the first comments were not related to the atrocities perpetrated on the Iraqi prisoners nor the executors —no one knew, knows, or remembers the names of the other U.S. guards (Brittain 2006: 84). The shock was particularly focused around the picture of the ‘little white woman’ holding a leash tethered to the prisoner’s neck (Struckman 2010, Brittain 2006: 84) Consequently, it has become necessary to critically analyse women’s role as ‘perpetrators and perpetuators’, regarding the estimated number of women engaged today in ‘unwomanly’ behaviour worldwide, including Western armies (Goldstein 2001, Cohen and al. 2013).
Fighting for freedom – The case of Kurdish Female fighters
The recent growing progress of IS has given particular attention to the fighters for freedom, which fight to prevent the expansion of the Islamic caliphate. In reporting on Kobani attacks by IS, media have begun focusing specifically on the increasing proportion of female fighters who joined the Kurdish movements under the banner of the Women’s Protection Unit (YPJ). Never before has such international concern been given to female combatants and the role they can play in a major combat zone. In the region of Kobani, one in three of the city defenders are female (Pratt 2014, Mezzofiore 2014).
From passive ‘protected’ to active ‘protector’, Kurdish female fighters represent a category of women that diverge from the one previously encoded in the society. Besides their abilities to shoot multiple types of weapons, they developed a full range of other skills based on physical and cognitive differences between men and women. For instance, they are mostly marksmen and snipers, as it requires ‘calm, patience and finesse,’ a typically female trait (Pratt 2014). Contrary to the images of vulnerable women, YPJ soldiers almost reveal signs of masculinity by accepting ‘death as a sacrifice that is part of the life choice they have made’ (Pratt 2014). And yet, motivations could be almost identified as feminist ones. IS treat women as objects, giving female fighters even more power against ISIS; some say that Islamic rebels are more terrified of being killed by women because if they do they cannot go to heaven (Mezzofiore 2014)
The Kurdish example raises many concerns among scholars since it contrasts the common perception of women’s role. The YPJ’s struggle proves that women can be perfectly capable and willing of performing violent acts to ‘defend the Kurdish people against all evil’ (Pratt 2014). Some suggest that this could lead to the empowerment of women in the region, since female fighters are being taken much more seriously today than in the past (Mezzofiore 2014, Gatehouse 2014).
Under fire – All victims?
The institution of war has never been good for women and children (Farwell 2004). To a larger extend, war has never been good for anybody. Even if women and children are among the worst victims, they are not the only ones. The held idea that women and children are most likely to be displaced is not always giving justice to the data. Regarding the statistics about Registered Syrian Refugees, Males represent 48.7% and Female 51.3% of exiles. Refugees also include elderly persons, wounded warriors, minorities, people with disabilities, etc (UNRHC 2014). By qualifying women and children only as victims or combatants, scholars conceal the large range of positions they can occupy during a conflict.
The mobilization of the society in the war effort has existed as long as war itself. During the First World War, the Munitionettes[4] and their children worked in factories to provide for men at war. They have been enrolled in offices, communications, intelligence, maintenance and many other under-acknowledged ways (Goldstein 2001: 78). Partly victimized, partly victimizing, women are often considered as those who sacrifice the most during war (Huyse 2003: 56) In Africa, women who must fight in armed groups have often been doubly victimized – forced to join the rebellion and raped by enemies and comrades. Consequently, it is impossible to draw a sharp line between the two categories, preventing the implementation of programs to address these women and girls’ actual lived experiences (Coulter and al. 2008 XXX).
For example in post-reconstruction policies, they have failed to include women and young girls in DDR programs. Part of it is due to policy-makers’ refusal to recognize woman as combatants (Coulter and al 2008: P). Thus, depending on the policies implemented, women can suffer from deeper discrimination mainly related to the structural roots prevailing in society before the conflict (Cohen and al 2013:5) Porter’s study about rape in Uganda found that rapists are more often husbands/boyfriends or men from the same community rather than enemies (Porter 2013, Utas 2005). Or they can expect better positions with regard to equality between women and men. For example women were generally granted the right to vote after World War Two.
Moreover, by emphasizing on the large proportion of women who have been abused, the debate on gender-based violence on men has been overlaid. Barring a few exceptions, the literature does not pay attention to the fact that men are also victims of poor treatment, thereby tortured more violently. Sexual violence is an issue commonly defined as affecting women and young females and yet, male rape, genital mutilation and other forms of emasculation have an important impact on men that should be documented (Cohen and al 2013: 7, Sivakumaran 2013). Aggressors often abuse male enemies or political prisoners intentionally dehumanize and humiliate them (Sivakumaran 2013, Carpenter 2006). Nevertheless, because of the psychological and social implications of male victimization, less attention is given to male adults and adolescents who have been oppressed and/or forced to commit crimes (rape, mass killings, kidnapping), leading to a bias in human security studies (Carpenter 2006).
From ‘Women and Children’ to ‘Women’ and ‘Children’
Gender-based common assumptions have largely shaped the way people perceive men, women and children’s roles in war. The persistent idea of a masculine monopoly on force promotes a simplistic view of war as the continuation of politics, where men are the main actors (Enloe 2004). By categorizing men as life-taking, women as live-giving and children as the next generation, it appears that scholars have misjudged the role of women and children, especially during wars. After the mediatisation of the Bosnia Civil War and the Genocide in Rwanda, policy-makers and NGOs mainly focused on those visible atrocities that reduce the role of women and children to mere victimhood. The proportion of women and children suffering from conflicts is substantial. However, the amalgamation of ‘Women and Children’ under a unique category because of their relative ‘vulnerability’, diverted attention away from existing structural realities. Following this myth, scholar’s researches have exacerbated the idea of ‘tough men’ dying to protect ‘tender women and children’ and failed to question if women and children are merely victims of war.

[1] The huge number of child refugees is not only driven by the recent Syrian conflict but also by the growing number of Syrian, Afghan and Somali children that were born in refugee camps. (UNHCR 2014)
[2] Antigone… (Anouillh
[3] With a lack of ammunition and in a hopeless situation, Ozalp killed herself not to fall into the hands of the rapists (Mezzofiore 2014)
[4] Women working in munitions factories during WWI.

Media Criminalization of Black Victims of Police Brutality


From personal experience of observation, mainstream media coverage most often portrays people of color —specifically those of African descent—as criminal offenders, suspects of crime, or as having flawed character when identified as victims of crime. Their White counterparts, on the other hand, are commonly perceived as innocent bystanders, targeted victims, or mentally-ill offenders. The misrepresentation of Blacks stir feelings of fear and anxiety, while that of Whites attracts sympathy and genuine concern. Portrayals of these peoples can be deliberate and sometimes subtle, but due to the presence racial bias in the climate of today’s society, subtlety is just as powerful as that which is deliberate. Black males in particular have historically been seen and labeled as aggressive and deviant. These depictions are in some ways explicitly and other ways implicitly used as an alternative for societal mediated racism. Unlike earlier Black icons and figures, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers, who were ridiculed while alive and then purged in death to be represented as valuably relevant to American history, Black males today are portrayed as thugs and criminals to outwardly justify their deaths while also dehumanizing them. Mainstream media criminalizes of Black male victims of gun violence and police brutality through misrepresentation.

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This essay will further expand on this idea of criminalization in several ways. First, it will discuss the labels that have been sociohistorically used to describe Black males in the United States. Next, it is important to relate the past icons of racial dehumanization to modern criminalization of “blackness” following Obama’s presidency. The semantics and imagery of media coverage can use things like behavior, physical appearance, and background as means to endorse criminalization. These also address both explicit cases of racism in addition to covert incidents like microaggressions. Furthermore, the essay analyzes two popular cases of Black males that received mass media coverage and how they were initially portrayed by media sources. Finally, the essay discusses the effects of media misrepresentation on the Black community and the rest of society, as well as the social and political responses to the criminalization of thee victims.


The public image of the Black male emerged prominently in the early twentieth century, as a sense of panic amongst society was fortified by the depictions of Black men as dangerous. In 1915 a film titled Birth of a Nation was premiered. The film portrays Black men as wild beasts or savages targeting White women. The Ku Klux Klan address their viciousness, being depicted as the valiant protagonists here to save the day. The message created by this film is a means of criminalizing Blackness. The criminalization of Blackness (Davis, 1998; Alexander, 2010; Muhammad, 2010) is the window of opportunity for White supremacy to use Black bodies as their excuse for all problems, real or fictional, personal or public. The presence of severe sentencing parameters within the prison system and the growth of the War on Drugs in the early twentieth century institutionally reinforced the concept Black criminality as violent and uncontrollable (Mauer, 2002). Initiatives such as these statistically expanded the American prison system by 700% (Pew States, 2007). During this time campaigns for “tough on crime” policy appeared as the slogan for politicians. For example, George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential race used a campaign tactic, well known as the “Willie Horton” advertisement. The ad shows the mug shot of the Black prisoner while a narrator speaks of his violent crimes as well as the opposing candidate, Michael Dukakis, and his opposition to the death penalty. While this explicitly illustrates a single Black man, the subliminal and bigger message is Willie Horton’s image became representative of all Blackness. Fictional savage became the real life thug through the process of criminalization. Images of the Black male as an aggressor stem from the social construction of race and carry us to the era of mass incarceration. “African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites” (NAACP, n.d.). This inequality reveals the overrepresentation of Black men in U.S. prisons. The conversation has progressed toward criminal activity and community welfare. Refusal to acknowledge the sociohistorical link between Blackness and the lifestyle of a criminal disregards the substantial role that race plays in the portrayal and treatment of Black males .

Another example of Black males being depicted as brutal figures is the shot of NBA player LeBron James holding model Gisele Bündchen on the cover of Vogue magazine. James appears to be letting out a roar with a fear-provoking expression while he holds her in one arm. This picture has been frequently compared to the WWI propaganda titled, “Destroy this Mad Brute”, which depicts a wild ape holding a White woman (Shea, 2008). Images like these draw on historical racial stereotypes that support marginalization and criminalization of Black males. While analyzing the use overt racist language and depictions in American history, it is apparent that there has been a change in the climate of social intolerance to flagrant racism. This does not suggest that racist or discriminative behavior has ceased but instead dormant and reactivated through disguised “language, gestures, signs, and symbols to indicate difference” (Smiley & Fakunle, 2016). “Ghetto,” and “sketchy,” and “bad” are terms commonly used to refer to or speak of Black people without blatantly coming off as culturally intolerant. Deliberately styling one’s self in the fashion of Black stereotypes is an example of a physical gesture and image of racially prejudiced objectification.

With the exponential growth in the use of social media in the last decade, there has been an increase in the number events documented and shared on social networking sites (Yar, 2012; Smiley, 2015). Several of these events involve the killings of Black males by law enforcement. While some videos display the unsettling last seconds of victims in the midst of chaos, others show the gruesome seconds following the incident. These deaths and others have sparked moral panic and anger across communities seeking justice and accountability of law enforcement’s excessive force when dealing with Black people. News coverage of two victims in particular circulated images and details that promoted criminalization of their bodies in means to justify the brutality against them.


Eric Garner was as forty-three year old Black male killed by physical restraint involving an illegal choke hold by New York Police Department officers on July 17, 2014 in Staten Island, New York. Garner’s representation in the media mostly featured descriptions regarding his body type and the crime he was committing when addressed by police. The points of him being a taller and larger individual along a number of preexistent health conditions, were among the first details of information articulated in the media:

The 350-pound man, about to be arrested on charges of illegally selling cigarettes, was arguing with the police. (Goldstein & Schweber, 2014)- New York Times

A 400-POUND asthmatic Staten Island dad died Thursday after a cop put him in a chokehold and other officers appeared to slam his head against the sidewalk, video of the incident shows. (Murray et. al, 2014)-Huffington Post

The use of Garner’s physical features regarding his behavior at the time of his death provokes the implications of criminality. Accounts emphasizing his past and lifestyle were used to further incriminate Garner as justification for the brutality conducted against him. Despite Garner’s known tendency to sell loose cigarettes ( illegal but not a felony according to New York law), the media used his prior actions as reason for the severity of police intervention without consideration for the severity of the offense:

The encounter between Mr. Garner and plainclothes officers, from the 120th Precinct, began after the officers accused Mr. Garner of illegally selling cigarettes, an accusation he was familiar with. He had been arrested more than 30 times, often accused of selling loose cigarettes bought outside the state, a common hustle designed to avoid state and city tobacco taxes. In March and again in May, he was arrested on charges of illegally selling cigarettes on the sidewalk. (Goldstein & Schweber, 2014)- New York Times

The pending cases, which have now been dismissed and sealed, included selling untaxed cigarettes, driving without a license, and possession of marijuana, said a law enforcement official. (Fox, 2014)- AM New York

Garner, who was black, died in July after being put in a chokehold by Pantaleo. Police had stopped the father of six on suspicion of selling untaxed “loose” cigarettes. Garner had been arrested previously for selling untaxed cigarettes, marijuana possession and false impersonation.. (Laughland et. al, 2014)- The Guardian

Tamir Rice was a twelve year old boy killed by two Cleveland Police Department officers on November 22, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. Media coverage of Rice’s death regarded inquiries of lifestyle and behavior. Nevertheless, the premise of microaggressions also held Rice’s mother accountable for playing a role in his death. The most disturbing detail of this case is the age of the victim and the debate that flooded the news was who was responsible. At first the city of Cleveland described Rice’s death as if he had it coming:

The city of Cleveland’s response to a lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice says the 12-year-old boy is to blame for his own death by police…The family’s suit filed in December said Tamir ‘suffered terror and fear’ at the hands of Loehmann [police officer] before his shooting death — claims the city says Tamir and his family are at fault for. It states Tamir’s death was “directly and proximately caused by their own acts. (Hensley, 2015)-New York Daily News

In papers filed in federal court Friday, the city said Tamir was responsible for his own death and said the injuries, losses and damages were “directly and proximately caused by the failure of [Tamir] to exercise due care to avoid injury.” (Muskal & Raab, 2015)- LA Times

These statements implicate that Rice failed to obey the officers’ commands, supporting claims that Rice exhibited deviant behavior and therefore must have been guilty of delinquency. This tactic of criminalization represents the victim in a light inaccurate of the character known by those close to him. The dehumanization of Black youth promotes a level of accountability that strips the vulnerability of childhood. This case in particular places responsibility on the victim rather than the offender.

As mainstream media representation of Black bodies has remained amenable to anti-Black structures use of body composition, negative, prior criminal sentences or offenses, and allegations of criminal behavior—it is important to recognize that aside from the audiences media platforms target, individual journalists do not need to be willfully prejudice. This essay is not to fault personal beliefs, but rather to identify how Whiteness and other forms of privilege allow media professionals and platforms to cover these incidents the way they do, without taking a step back to consider how their choice of words, images, and narratives are circulated. Stories contribute to the perception of a victim and can alter the perspective of how the victims is perceived.

Race is always a sensitive topic when talking about police-community relations, but it is an issue that has to be addressed through civil dialogue and action. Moral panic amongst the Black community and the concern for the safety Black males has reached the epitome of racial tension with law enforcement. They have to walk on egg shells and take extra precautions in order to not be susceptible to police brutality. Parents are protective of their sons, teachers are educating their students, wives are worrying for their husbands, sisters are nagging their brothers. The media does not publicize these stories as there is a collective effort to take measures within the community to prevent futures incidents from occurring. Criminalization through misrepresentation by the media conditions law enforcement to think it is acceptable to kill in the name of “self-defense,” or because they “feared for their life” in the encounter with a Black male. Where social and political activism is fighting against the use of this narrative to justify the killings of Black males, the media hinders efforts toward any progress.

The Black Lives Matter movement, along with its hashtag has become its own platform on social media. This unites people and organizations in solidarity against police brutality, excessive force by law enforcement, and racial profiling. Critics of the Black Lives Matter movement claim that equality refers to “all” lives and thus only saying “Black” lives is exclusive and racist. In actuality, these critics do not apprehend their own privilege nor are they aware of the historical and urgent need to focus on the reality that the Black community has faced and endured forms of brutality throughout America’s existence. It is important to recognize social movements and their usefulness in gaining equality.


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Analysis of Mental Health of Sexual Violence Victims in Conflict Areas

Since the beginning of mankind, conflict among various groups of individuals has resulted in numerous acts of violence. From a historical perspective, sexual violence has mostly been considered a “by-product” of conflict that mostly affects women and girls in war-afflicted areas. With the various atrocities that occurred in the 1990s, political agents, international actors and the entire world were forced to confront the issue of sexual violence in conflict areas and recognize the interaction between war methods and gender specific human rights violations. The magnitude of violence altered perceptions of sexual violence in armed conflicts- now seen as techniques of warfare. Violence against girls and women could no longer be considered isolated events but rather systematic attacks used to curtain certain groups. With the everchanging nature of international humanitarian law and advocacy for the prosecution of sex crimes affiliated with conflicts, rape has become a punishable offense under international law.

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This paper will utilize the definition of rape provided by the International Criminal Court; this definition includes “… the penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim or of the perpetrator with a sexual organ […] with any object or any other part of the body (International Criminal Court, 2011).  Aside from the semantics of prosecution of rape, one of the defining aspects of war rape is its contribution to social isolation, stigmatization and increased rates of mental disorders (Vinck et al., 2007). In recognizing the effects of war rape, governments and non-governmental agencies have established support systems to aid victims of rape. This paper will focus on the experiences of females regarding the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations for mental health interventions related to sexual violence. In this analysis, the question arises of whether standardized sexual violence interventions are effective in conflict-afflicted settings and whether there is a danger in the board generalization of lived experiences in conflict areas.
Psychological Effects
Similar to rapes occurring in peacetime, survivors of war rape tend to be at a higher risk of psychological problems; these problems stem from the traumatic experience of rape. While each rape case is different, victims tend to share similar symptoms or “experiences” of trauma. During the first few months after a rape, victims express feelings of acute distress such as fear, shame, disorientation and vulnerability (Cohen & Roth, 1987). While some psychological consequences of rape can subside after a certain period, if left untreated, other consequences can escalate to a devasting level where it can impair daily functioning of a survivor or become deadly. This paper will focus on the long term psychological consequences of rape such as anxiety disorders, depression, and nightmares/flashbacks (Cohen & Roth, 1987). Following a rape, a survivor may display symptoms of post- traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) such as re-experiencing the rape, avoiding things related to the rape, numbness and increased anxiety (Mason & Lodrick, 2013). Escalation to or the persistence of severe symptoms can be attributed to the experience of re-victimization, where other individuals may deny the occurrence of the rape or blame the survivor (Mason & Lodrick, 2013).
Societal Effects
In addition to the psychological effects that result from war, rape as a method of warfare can affect the relationship of a rape victim with their community. With a change in association between a victim and their extended relationships, war rape has the unique ability of structurally affecting a community without afflicting direct violence against the men (Swiss, 1993). Before delving into the impact of war rape on individuals and communities, it’s imperative to discuss the difference between war rape and rape during peace time as societal effects tend to be emphasized due to increased conflict and violence. In general, the cultural framework of rape is an expression of dominance and inequality towards women as it is based on societal gender power imbalances (MacKinnon, 1994). Establishment of gender inequality creates a sense of male entitlement over female’s bodies, thus perpetuating a cycle of objectification and violence against women. In this light, rape during peacetime stems from a socio-cultural dynamic of inequality and commodification of female sexuality. While war rape develops within the same general context, this dynamic is slightly different due to ethnic, religious and social conflicts that give rise to violence.
With victims of rape, especially war rape, the process of re-victimization renders victims at a risk of social isolation as well as rejection by their communities. For some women and girls who experience war rape, there is the feeling of having “lost their value” (Ward & Marsh, 2006). In Burundi, women remarked about how they “had been mocked, humiliated and rejected by women relatives, classmates, friends and neighbors” (Ward & Marsh, 2006). For married women, they may be abandoned by their husbands for fear of contracting HIV or due to perceived dishonor that is placed on the household. Because of local ethnic conflicts in war zones, rape can be a means of ethnic cleansing, which by definition, indicates a societal issue. In this context, rape is not simply an event of opportunity but rather a systematic choosing of women due to their ethnicity or religion to “contaminate the enemy’s blood and genes” (Farwell, 2004). For cultures where there is an emphasis on family honor and the sacredness of female sexuality, methodical raping is utilized to dishonor women, their families and the men these women represent. The forced reproduction of a perpetrator’s genes as a means of extermination is due to certain cultural practices where children are viewed as belonging to the father (MacKinnon,1994). In this sense, any child born of rape is of the “enemy’s” ethnicity, thus seen as outcasts in a community. During ethnic cleansing, mass rape of women is utilized to destroy entire ethnic groups by destroying the protectors of culture- women (Farwell, 2004). Not only are women’s lives affected by psychological injuries but their roles in society becomes damaged as they become worthy of rejection.
Recent conflict in Liberiabegan with border incursions from Sierra Leone in 1989 as well as territorial conflicts between armed groups (Cohen & Green, 2012). In 1990, violence reached its peak when armed groups crossed into Liberia from the Ivory Coast to overthrow the government ruled by Samuel Doe (Swiss,1998).  Due to increased ethnic tensions during the Doe regime, seven different armed groups were in constant conflict with one another. In 1997, Charles Taylor was elected President, thus ending more than 7 years of conflict and violence (Swiss, 1998). While sexual violence was already present in Liberia pre-civil conflict, rape and sexual violence became increasingly common during years of intense conflict (post-1990) (Lekskes et al., 2007). Analogous to its rise to the international stage, cases of rape became apparent with increased documentation of sexual abuse of minor children for prosecution in court. Before such a system, sexual violence was limited to and dealt with by communities. Often for the sake of limiting social damage, marriage after rape was accepted; this was a measure to preserve the value of a victim as well as ensure a “future” for the victim (Lekskes et al, 2007). In Liberia, types and intensity of sexual violence differed based on regions. In some regions, gang rape in public was favored while in other regions, rape occurred in more private and isolated areas. With sentiments considering rape as “provocation by [a] woman” and not a crime by a man, this creates differences in societal reactions (Lekskes et al., 2007). Due to the nature of a public rape, this allows for the possibility of discussion among community members as the secretive nature of sex has been abandoned. In other communities, victims of sexual violence keep their rape a secret to prevent stigmatization and social isolation. While some Liberian adult women refuse to acknowledge or call themselves victims of sexual violence, sexual abuse of minor girls (as early as 18 months) is socially unacceptable (Lekskes et al, 2007). In acknowledging and working against a specific population’s experience with sexual violence (i.e. sexual abuse of minor girls), this opens more discussion about sexual violence against adult women and treatments needed for healing.
Until the beginning of 2006, mental health in Liberia was not prioritized enough due to a lack of money allotted for psychological care. Due to a lack of clinical care, many non-governmental organizations have undertaken the responsibility of providing psychosocial care in Liberia. One NGO, the Concerned Christian Community (CCC) provide counseling to women; the counseling teams utilize a community-based approach to provide care. In teams of three or four people, they visit each village weekly to provide free medical and counseling services. After counseling, the organization offers skill-based training, where the women can learn how to construct water pumps and latrines (Lekskes et al., 2007). Qualification for the program includes selection based on story of sexual abuse and psychological condition even though the criteria to determine psychological condition are not clear (Lekskes et al., 2007). During the initial individual session, history is taken; this includes social history pre-war, family history and a mental status exam as well as victims are encouraged to discuss the “entire story of what happened to them during the war” (Lekskes et al, 2007). 
Another program, Women’s Health and Development Program (WHDP), provided support to women through skill training for income generating activities such as soap making and tie-dying fabrics. With this program, there is no direct counseling however, the program does reinforce that establishment of coping skills (Lekskes et al, 2007).  In a study done to evaluate PTSD symptoms in women, there was reduction in PTSD symptoms for those involved in the CCC program, while there was an increase in PTSD symptoms for those involved in WHDP. Women involved in both interventions displayed a reduction in PTSD symptoms. This indicates that while learning skills and coping strategies may be important at some points of recovery, the chance for women to express what happened to them may be more important for the healing process. While each NGO has its own recommendations concerning care for victims of rape, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that women survivors be provided first line support within the first 5 days of assault. This support includes “providing practical care and support, listening without pressuring her to disclose information” as well as taking a complete history that includes time and type of assault, risk of pregnancy and mental health status (WHO, 2013). In the case of CCC, their regulations coincided with the recommendations from WHO, however while such recommendations may work theoretically or in the long term, these recommendations don’t include the discrepancies that can occur due to vagueness of language. While CCC carried out extensive intakes, many counselors did not have a clear idea of what type of interventions to perform, did not pay attention to the traumas the participants went through as well some would advise survivors to “forget what happened to them and not to blame themselves” (Lekskes et al, 2007).  This highlights that while trauma informed counseling interventions can positively affect survivors, due to the vagueness and lack of adequate training for counseling, this leaves room for much improvement. While the interventions from WHDP were insufficient by themselves, when combined with CCC interventions, they resulted in a reduction of PTSD symptoms.  It’s imperative to recognize the importance of providing women with income generating skills and coping strategies especially in countries where socio-economic problems are still persistent. By allowing women to express their experience as well as create employment possibilities, this can foster hope, distract women and allow women to reconstruct their lives.
During the Bosnian War (1992-1995), violence took a gendered form as Bosnian Serbian forces utilized rape as an instrument of ethnic cleansing (Loncar et al., 2006). With the inflammation of Serbian nationalist sentiment against Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) in 1989, aggression towards Bosniaks were further stirred up due to stories about the role a small group of Bosniaks played in the Ustase genocide during the 1940s. Due to years of social and political resentment against the former Ottoman empire, President Milosevic was able to increase Serbian nationalism through stories of murder and oppression (Bensel & Sample, 2015). Serbian forces, under President Milosevic’s command, set up roadblocks near ethnic villages; these soldiers were instructed to burn down Muslim homes, Ottoman Empire architecture and Islamic mosques (Bensel & Sample, 2015).As Serbian forces began to target Bosniak civilian population, such forces set up “rape camps” where they would rape the women repeatedly and only released them once the women became pregnant (Benson & Sample, 2015). As mentioned previously, these children of rape would be considered to have the perpetrator’s “ethnicity”, thus furthering Bosnian Serbian nationalist sentiment. In a study done by Loncar and others (2006), many Bosnian women who participated expressed that they were raped more than once and by different perpetrators as well as were raped every day during captivity. Many of the rapes were accompanied by threats of death, physical injury or injury to family. Immediately after the rapes, victims expressed that they suffered through episodes of depression, avoidance of thoughts associated with the trauma and feelings of self-blame (Loncar et al., 2006). A year after the trauma, most victims suffered from depression, social phobia and PTSD.
In the case of Bosnia, this paper will discuss psychosocial interventions in the United States for Bosnian female refugees.  For cases of demonstrated symptoms of PTSD, refugees can undergo Cognitive- Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to treat trauma-related distress. CBT as a treatment involves managing distress by changing the way people think and behave. In this study, individuals were referred through health clinics, a refugee agency as well as individuals could also self-refer themselves into the program (Schulz et al., 2006). Assignment to a therapist was based on availability as well as sessions took place in participants’ homes as many participants did not have them means to attend a private practice. During intake, participants received information about services provided, PTSD and the treatment process. Unlike other interventions that emphasize complete history at initial intake, several sessions were allotted to assess symptoms and to determine case-specific treatment goals (Schulz et al., 2006). The therapist and patient would negotiate the length of treatment and duration of therapy sessions. For this study, participants showed a significant decrease in PTSD symptoms at termination of treatment (Schulz et al., 2006). With the spread of assessment occurring over several sessions, this allowed for adequate time to identify symptom severity.
An alternative to cognitive-behavioral therapy is testimony psychotherapy, where “a survivor’s trauma story is told and documented” (Weine et al., 1998). Testimony has been a way for individual recovery as well as a means for bearing witness to realities related to sexual violence. Due to the nature of documentation, there is an explicit understanding that the survivor’s stories are becoming part of a collective experience thus can reduce individual suffering (Weine et al., 1998). Participants were recruited through outreach work in the Chicago Bosnian community. For assessment, all participants were screened for traumatic stress, depression and psychosocial functioning. Each participant received a clinical assessment that included complete prior psychiatric history, mental health status and a checklist for commonly diagnosed disorders (via definitions of DSM- IV). On average, psychotherapy consisted of six sessions and the entire procedure lasted about six weeks (Weine et al., 1998). The final document was given back to the survivor and signed by the survivor. One copy was given to the survivor and the second was sent to the archives of the Project on Genocide, Psychiatry and Witnessing. The testimony psychotherapy decreased both PTSD symptoms and severity in participants (Weine et al., 1998). There was also a reduction in depressive symptoms and there were no apparent negative effects that accrued from the study. From this study, this emphasizes the importance of allowing survivors to express their stories as it can reduce symptoms and improve functioning. Similarly, to the interventions utilized in these studies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is recommended by WHO as well as there is some aspect of shared decision making (in terms of whether to take HIV prophylaxis) (WHO, 2013). On the other hand, Testimony Psychotherapy did not utilize complete history at initial intake especially concerning the sexual assault; this could be attributed to the process of an individual documenting their experience for themselves as opposed to a healthcare worker documenting the experience. In either case, documentation of the experience seems to be the key as it provides a way for a survivor to convey their experience.
While atrocities against humanity have been a consistent aspect of mankind, few have reached the international stage and historical memory as much as the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. Within 100 days, 75% of the Tutsi population in Rwanda were killed (Weitsman, 2008). The Hutu government encouraged propaganda to incite violence against Tutsi men, women and children; much of this propaganda led to the killing of Tutsi women. The propaganda depicted Tutsi women as promiscuous as well as portrayed feelings of superiority toward Hutu men (Weitsman, 2008). Reintroducing the aspect of sexual violence where there is an imbalance in power between the genders and male dominance over women, much of the violence during the genocide was directed at Tutsi women. One witness expressed the killing of a baby as it emerged from its mother’s body, “a multitude of rapes with foreign objects […] and the burning of a women’s pubic hair “(Weitsman, 2008). Unlike the sexual violence enacted in Bosnia that was directed towards reproduction, rape in Rwanda was mostly conducted with foreign objects- tools of all sorts such as spears, gun barrels and bottles. The systematic rape that took place was utilized to degrade, punish and humiliate Tutsi women. As a consequence of the genocide, rates of mental disorders have elevated in Rwanda; there has been increased rates of depression, PTSD and general anxiety symptoms (Heim & Schaal, 2014). Despite the high prevalence of mental disorders in Rwanda, access to mental health treatment is still limited. In 2011, there were only five psychiatrists and one neuropsychiatric hospital based in Rwanda (Heim & Schaal, 2014). This lack of health professionals can be attributed to the fact that 80% of Rwanda’s professionals were either killed or fled the country (Zraly et al., 2011).
While psychosocial interventions have typically focused on the impact of war rape on the raped women themselves, few studies examine the relationship between women and their child. With the context of this child being born out of rape, traumatization of the mother can interfere with the psychological development of the child (Hogwood et al., 2014). Often, both mother and child are stigmatized and experience social isolation. With the introduction of the NGO, Foundation Rwanda and Survivors Fund (FRSF), there is an initiative to support mothers with various types of resources (Hogwood et al., 2014). In this community counseling program, women were selected through a local NGO (Kanyarwanda). The groups met twice a month and the groups were facilitated by female Rwandese counselors. The groups aimed to provide resources to mothers, a safe place to share experiences, provide psycho-education and to help the women learn strategies to deal with their experience (Hogwood et al., 2014). They also aimed to help the women gain knowledge about disclosure and strengthen their relationship with their child.
An evaluation tool was administered to all group members during the first session; the counselor would read the questions and the women would answer the questions individually and privately. The mothers were asked to rate their life on scale of 0-10. where 0 is the worst life possible. They were later asked if they had other people to talk to about their problems, how much they accepted their child and how happy they were as parents (Hogwood et al., 2014).  This tool was asked again during the half way point and at the end of the duration of the group counseling. After three months, a follow-up group was organized, and the evaluation was repeated for a fourth time. By the end of the treatment, individuals rated the counseling groups as helpful, reported improvement in life satisfaction and increase in acceptance of being a parent to a child born out of rape (Hogwood et al., 2014). Unlike WHO recommendations that seem to emphasize individual counseling, FRSF alternatively encouraged group counseling with the aim of future disclosure on the part of the women. A key aspect of the group counseling is that it encouraged women to connect with other women in a similar situation as well as reduce their sense of social isolation. In contrast with this aspect of group counseling, individual counseling may not reduce feelings of social isolation as it is a private, individual act. Another key difference is a lack of extensive information required at intake; the women were only asked to rate their lives on a subjective scale. The reason for this would be they are most likely disclosing such information during their group counseling sessions. Similar to the testimony therapy, there is a feeling of collectiveness, however in this case, there is a lack of documentation.
While diagnosis of mental disorders is on the rise in conflict areas (and everywhere in general), the quality of care for such disorders are not necessarily consistent throughout conflict areas. The World Health Organization has established some recommendations in providing care to survivors of sexual violence such as care through listening and offering information in a one to one environment. There is also an emphasize on individual counseling (WHO, 2013). While such recommendations seem to be the basis for adequate care for survivors, the vagueness of such recommendations leaves much room for mistakes to occur during the process of care. As seen in Liberia, many counselors especially community-based counselors were not necessarily aware of what constitutes proper listening and identification of trauma.  Also, we’ve seen alternative ways of typical interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, in terms of therapy at home as well as new ways to witness such violence through testimony therapy. Mothers in Rwanda utilized group counseling to heal as well as reduce the feeling of social isolation. Through this paper, it is important to highlight that standardization of mental health may be adequate for determining mental health status but in terms of providing care, care comes in many different forms. Depending on the needs of the intended population, different forms of counseling and therapy may be more efficient.  
Literature Cited

Bensel, T. T., & Sample, L. L. (2015). Collective Sexual Violence in Bosnia and Sierra Leone: A Comparative Case Study Analysis. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology,61(10), 1075-1098. doi:10.1177/0306624×15609704
Cohen, D. K., & Green, A. H. (2012). Dueling incentives. Journal of Peace Research,49(3), 445-458. doi:10.1177/0022343312436769
Cohen, L. J., & Roth, S. (1987). The Psychological Aftermath of Rape: Long-Term Effects and Individual Differences in Recovery. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology,5(4), 525-534. doi:10.1521/jscp.1987.5.4.525
Farwell, N. (2004). War Rape: New Conceptualizations and Responses. Affilia,19(4), 389-403. doi:10.1177/0886109904268868
Heim, L., & Schaal, S. (2014). Rates and predictors of mental stress in Rwanda: Investigating the impact of gender, persecution, readiness to reconcile and religiosity via a structural equation model. International Journal of Mental Health Systems,8(1), 37. doi:10.1186/1752-4458-8-37
Hogwood, J., Auerbach, C., Munderere, S., & Kambibi, E. (2014). Rebuilding the social fabric. Intervention,12(3), 393-404. doi:10.1097/wtf.0000000000000053
International Criminal Court. (2011). Elements of Crimes. 1-50. doi:
Lekskes, J., Hooren, S. V., & Beus, J. D. (2007). Appraisal of psychosocial interventions in Liberia. Intervention,5(1), 18-26. doi:10.1097/wtf.0b013e3280be5b47
Loncar, M., Medved, V., Jovanovic, N., & Hotujac, L. (2006). Psychological consequences of rape on women in 1991-1995 war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croat Med.
MacKinnon, C. A. (1994). Rape, Genocide, and Women’s Human Rights. University of Nebraska Press,,183-196.
Mason, F., & Lodrick, Z. (2013). Psychological consequences of sexual assault. Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics & Gynaecology,27(1), 27-37. doi:10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2012.08.015
Schulz, P. M., Resick, P. A., Huber, L. C., & Griffin, M. G. (2006). The Effectiveness of Cognitive Processing Therapy for PTSD With Refugees in a Community Setting. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice,13(4), 322-331. doi:10.1016/j.cbpra.2006.04.011
Swiss, S. (1993). Rape as a Crime of War. Jama,270(5), 612. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510050078031
Swiss, S. (1998). Violence Against Women During the Liberian Civil Conflict. Jama,279(8), 625. doi:10.1001/jama.279.8.625
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Ward, J., & Marsh, M. (2006). Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources[Scholarly project]. Retrieved from
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The Types, Victims and Strategies to Intervene in Human Trafficking

People in today’s society probably have no idea what human trafficking even is, and if anyone would try to tell them that it is equivalent to modern-day slavery, they would deny it saying that slavery ended a long time ago. However, that is not entirely true. Slavery still exists today just not in the same form that is widely known and with a different name – human trafficking. According to the Convention of Transnational Organized Crime, human trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, or fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs (Qtd. in Shelley 10).
Human trafficking takes place just about everywhere, including almost every country in different forms, ranging from domestic service to sex work. Human trafficking can differ from place to place, yet it usually does follow a common trend depending on the actual location. Trafficking and its victims can include anyone; males, females, children, longtime family friends, and even relatives.
Recruitment of trafficking victims usually takes place in plain sight and victims are transported globally where they are forced into a new identity. Once this happens, because of the great knowledge traffickers have of what they are doing, the chances of finding victims before any damage occurs are very slim. Although human trafficking is an international issue, it has a greater effect on the United States’ citizens and economy more than anyone would have ever expected.  

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Across the globe, the industry of human trafficking is estimated to be worth around $32 billion encompassing over 12,000,000 victims which does not include the victims that we are already aware of. These statistics help prove the fact that human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal activity only behind the sale of drugs (Shelley 87). People commonly mistake human trafficking as only existing in third world countries, or low-income areas and not actually being an international issue, but that isn’t true. Elizabeth Miller stated, “there is a perception that human trafficking is something that happens in large, urban centers or on the coast, but it’s everywhere.” (Crompton) In the United States for example, trafficking takes place in every state. Those states that do present red flags of a higher concentration of trafficking include New York, California, Florida, and Washington D.C. (Human Trafficking). This trend is also apparent globally as there are indicators of areas with higher rates of trafficking than compared to others.
Countries with high levels of poverty are prone to more cases of human trafficking as many individuals are poor with no job and they feel as it might be their only way out. As said by Belinda Luscombe, “certain countries that are unable to educate their citizens about the law are also at a higher risk because they are unsure of what is legal or illegal” (33). Those countries that are among the worst are Burma, Cuba, Iran, Kuwait, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and the Sudan (Gale).
Each country’s need for a specific type of work varies, therefore the types of human trafficking in each country also differ. The two most common forms of trafficking are sex work and domestic servitude, although others include bonded labor, involuntary servitude, and child labor. Traffickers beat them and in extreme situations when victims refuse to cooperate, they force them to take drugs which in turn make them do actions they normally wouldn’t do (11). Domestic servitude commonly has victims working as maids or nannies in people’s actual homes. This work is usually the easiest as they spend their days cleaning, babysitting, and cooking, and the victims don’t have to move around from place to place as much. Still just as every other form of trafficking, victims are locked in their rooms at night, starved, and even beaten (9-10).
In both bonded labor and involuntary servitude, victims are usually taken to different countries other than their own to work. Bonded labor, which is illegal in all countries but Nepal, India, and Pakistan, can almost be considered the victim’s own fault for being in the situation that they are in. For one reason or another they had to make a deal with a trafficker to work in order to make money. What they were unaware of was just how smart the traffickers they were dealing with really were. Traffickers are very cunning individuals and are able to get into the minds of victims and convince them that they haven’t made enough money yet and must continue to work. Therefore, the work just never stops, and victims remain working far after they have already earned enough money (6).
Involuntary servitude involves victims who are working against their will. Traffickers threaten them to the point that they are afraid to refuse to work and to attempt to escape because of what might happen to them as a result. Now child labor might be the worst form of trafficking. As children in today’s society are raised to respect and listen to their parents and other adults, they will do almost whatever they are told to do by someone who appears to be older than them, which makes them the most vulnerable for any type of trafficking. They are forced to do it all: domestic servitude, involuntary servitude, just labor of any sort, and even prostitution. This in turn is very harsh on their well-being and causes them life-long consequences (11-12)).
Now each country has its own reasoning for trafficking. These motives could be anything from poverty and lack of education, to public or individual health issues and a demand for cheap labor. As stated before, in some countries other than the United States, poverty is a really big deal. Numerous people are not receiving an education because they just don’t have the money to. Since they become trapped in debt, some feel desperate and are very gullible in believing that working for traffickers is their only way to provide for themselves or their families (Hart 16). Cultural influences also have a big impact on human trafficking. In some countries there are “unwritten rules,” and if members of those countries don’t follow them, they are said to be unfit and don’t belong among other people in their communities.
Another main cause of recent increased incidents is political factors that happened as a result of the end of the Cold War. The end of the war triggered an increased number and duration of intrastate and regional conflicts that ended up dissolving families and communities. The end of the war also lead to a collapse of the communist political and economic systems therefore meaning that the state guaranteed employment was gone and the social safety net (Shelley 49).
So one might ask who a trafficker is or how to identify them. They would probably expect someone who appears to be different, that isn’t exactly true. Traffickers can be almost anyone; males, females, individuals, families, friends. What is even more shocking is that traffickers are not just men. Women are guilty of this crime as well. In most cases if one is able to pin point the ethnicity or background of victims, they would have an easier time figuring out the culture of the trafficker as they are usually the same because traffickers are better able to understand and known their victims vulnerabilities if they come from the same place. (Lockerby).
But who exactly are the victims of human trafficking? Victims are more than less women and children and as mentioned before, and they usually come from communities where women don’t have the same rights as men do. They aren’t allowed to own their own property, have proper access to education or economic rights (Shelley 16). Other characteristics of victims include vulnerable, diverse ethnic or economic backgrounds, varied levels of education, runaways or homeless, and victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse (Lockerby).
The United States has a law that divides victims into three separate groups that are based on the age of the victim and the type of trafficking imposed. These contain children under eighteen forced into commercial sex, adults eighteen or over forced into commercial sex through fraud, or coercion, and children or adults force to perform labor or services through fraud, or coercion (Lockerby).
Recruiting individuals takes a lot of skill but it “is easiest during economic crisis, natural disasters, and conflicts because there is already a supply of potential victims.” (Shelley 95-96) Victims don’t just volunteer, traffickers must find ways to make them fall for their tricks. Traffickers sometimes use the help of or are actually friends, family, acquaintances or even boyfriends to the victim. Ways the traffickers recruit victims include proposals of marriage, employment agencies, and fake modeling agencies (Shelley 98). After victims are recruited, traffickers take any identification that may have on them as well as their money so they are unable to communicate with their friends and family and have no idea as to where they may be and they are taken to auctions to be sold to other traffickers and to be sent off to work (Lockerby).
One of the hardest parts of trafficking once the victims are recruited is transporting them into a new country especially the United States. The conditions the victims encounter are usually very inhumane as they must be hidden to prevent be discovered, just as drug dealers must do when transporting drugs. Yet transporting drugs is much easier because drugs can be disguised, and humans can’t always be hidden.
In some situations victims are forced into the compartments of cargo vessels, small boats that provide no protection from the elements, and poorly ventilated spaces of vehicles (Shelley 100). After successfully transporting victims into new countries, they must find a way to secure their residence. This can be done through the creation of false documents, retention of visa mills, or false marriages between residents and victims, (Shelley 105). 
In order to make victims obey what they are told, traffickers must use means of violence being either physical or mental. Many of the techniques the Nazis used during the Holocaust are currently still used in manipulating them. Victims are “deprived of their identities, moved vast distances in inhumane conditions, and are tortured to induce compliance. Some have their arms and bodies tattooed indicating they are the possessions of the traffickers … those who continue to resist can be thrown to their deaths from windows of apartment buildings or left to die from gangrene of the wounds inflicted by the traffickers” (Shelley 107). They work long, stressful hours while being deprived of breaks, receive no pay whatsoever, and have no say in any situations (Lockerby). Among all else, the only place that human traffickers are referred to as “pimps” is the United States. A pimp “is a U.S.-born trafficker, operating often in loose but mutually supportive networks” (Shelley 123). In most cases pimps are men who search out young, vulnerable girls that they find alone in malls or bars. They are able to convince them into sex work by wearing expensive clothing and jewelry and driving nice cars.
The attraction the girls find of these men makes it easy for the pimps to use psychological manipulation to make the girls trust them. The girls know that if they stay with them, they will get whatever they’ve always wanted, and it soon turns into “false love.” Once the girls fully trust them, they are easily talked into becoming sex workers and work for them wherever that may be: adult clubs, parking lots, mattresses in alleys, cars, or hotel rooms. The pimps then take the money their girls earn for them and use it to buy themselves new things (Shelley 125).
Trafficking is also very popular in the United States because of the number of women who are unable to have their own children. For one reason or another they are unable to get pregnant, which in turn causes an enormous toll of these women mentally and emotionally. They then act in very unusual ways that they wouldn’t normally do. In one particular situation, a woman by the name of Judith Leekin was unable of having children of her own so what she did was adopt eleven different children using four names in New York and then moved them all with her to Florida. Leekin was able to make over $1.68 million from welfare provided as an incentive to adopt them because of age, background, and physical/mental disabilities. She was able to live a very luxurious life, but the children on the other hand did not. Leekin abused them physically and mentally and deprived them all of schooling (Shelley 244). 
An individual’s health is affected both physically and mentally. They often suffer from medical conditions that include STDs, complications from so many abortions that sometimes lead to sterility, cancer, and hearing loss (Hart 30-32). The psychological effects on victims are usually much worse than any of the physical because of the amount of time it takes to completely heal. Stress is probably one of the biggest symptoms of trafficking. It causes a weakened immune system, depression, feelings of worthlessness and shame, and PTSD, among many other things. One victim actually admitted, “I feel like they have taken my smile and I can never have it back.” (Shelley 63) The family of a victim also suffers as they lost a loved one and feel guilty as they failed to do their job in protecting their family (Shelley 61). Human trafficking is such an issue world-wide that the consequences are unspeakable ranging from the ones we are aware of to the ones that no one knows about yet. Human trafficking happens worldwide, probably closer around that anyone realizes. No matter the type of trafficking, victims suffer, but so do their families and the rest of the world in one way or another.
Slavery is still existent in today’s society no matter what anyone thinks and every person that reads this paper increases the number of people who know about what human trafficking and who knows, one day it might even save them from falling for a trafficker’s trick.
Works Cited

Chisolm-Straker, Makini. Human Trafficking. Mount Sinai Emergency Medical Department, 2005. Web. 25 June 2019
Crompton, Janice, and Rich Lord. “Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery.”, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, 8 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 June 2019
Fischer, Mary A. “Freedom Fighter.” Reader’s Digest Oct. 2010: 130-141. Print
Hart, Joyce. Human Trafficking New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2009. Print
Lockerby, Thomas P. Polaris Project. 2015. Web 25 June 2019
Luscombe, Belinda. “Bring Back All Girls” Time. 25 June 2019: 30-34. Print 
Shelley, Louise. Human Trafficking: A Global Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2010. Print