Scott-Victimology-Canadians in Context-01 Understanding Victimology - CHAPTER 1 Understanding Victimology Learning Objectives After reading this chapter

Scott-Victimology-Canadians in Context-01 Understanding Victimology

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CHAPTER 1 Understanding Victimology Learning Objectives After reading this chapter, you will be able to situate our current understanding of victims in a historical context; understand that victimization is a relatively common occurrence; recognize basic trends of victimization in Canada; and identify some of the hidden costs of victimization. Introduction This chapter will discuss how we have come to adopt certain concepts about victims in our various historical and legal institutions. Although victims have been defined in legal terms, such terms have been shaped by historical events. The way we understand victims of crime informs our definitions of victimization, and this understanding shapes current trends in the subject. Most recently we have seen a renewed interest in the role of the victim, particularly in fields that focus on criminal justice systems. A Historic View of the Role of the Victim The modern criminal justice system is a relatively recent entity. The system of com- mon law-so named because it is based on a system of laws applied to all people- originated during the reign of King Henry II, in England's Middle Ages. Prior to the emergence of this formalized system of dealing with offenders, there existed only a set of informal rules regarding conduct between people. Serious crimes were identified as mala in se, or offences that are in and of themselves wrong or said to go against nature. A victim was not only expected to state that he or she had been harmed if it was not obvious to onlook- ers but was also expected to be part of the process of exacting justice on the offender. justice, or retribution, where one exacts punishment in retaliation for harm that has been done to someone, was the responsi- bility of the victim and his or her friends and family. Anthropological studies offer excel- lent examples of this system. Box 1.1 outlines an event in the Dobe !Kung tribe as it was told to Canadian anthropologist Richard B. Lee (1979). The case ofHxome and Gau illustrates how a dispute led to a series of events resulting in death and how early informal justice systems may have worked. The dispute remained unre- solved after Hxome was killed. One family had lost a family member, while the other
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6 Victimology Box 1.1 The Case of Debe (Oobe !Kung) From 1963 to 1969, Canadian anthropologist Richard B. Lee (1979) documented the activ- ities of the Dobe !Kung, a hunting and gathering people of the !Kung San of the Kalahari Desert In Africa. According to Lee, the !Kung were a people without a state; all disputes had to be resolved 'from the hearts of the people themselves' (p. 87). While Lee was present, they lived in relative peace. However, discussions with the tribe members revealed that 22 homicides and 15 serious injuries had occurred between 1920 and 1955. Lee also found that feuds accounted tor 15 of the homicides and that one killing was usually followed by another in retaliation. When there were a string of such homicides, the surviving !Kung would discuss the case by comparing their
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