This month, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime will promote awareness of the rights and needs of crime victims across the country with “National Crime Victims’ Rights Week” from April 21 – 27, 2013.
Crime Victims Studies Reveal Certain Groups Targeted More Often Than Others
From federal analysis of crimes committed in the United States over many decades, the following facts have been revealed from statistical studies:
- Overall, crime is disproportionately committed by males (see “Homicide”).
- Some crimes (e.g., stalking, intimate partner violence, sexual assault), are predominantly committed by males against females (see “Stalking,” “Intimate Partner Violence”).
- Although crime tends to disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities (both as victims and offenders), most crimes are committed by whites against whites.
- Certain populations are disproportionately affected by crime, not necessarily because of the sheer numbers of victims but as a result of crime’s greater impact on these groups (see “Elder Victimization,” “Crime against Persons with Disabilities,” “Children, Youth, and Teen Victimization”).
- Young people (16-24) are the population group most victimized by crime. They also commit the most crimes (see “Children, Youth, and Teen Victimization”).
Criminal Justice System Not Able to Fully Provide Justice to Crime Victims
The essence of the criminal justice system – from arrest to conviction and sentencing – is to find the wrongdoer who violated state or federal crime laws and punish this person for doing so. Victims of crime do not take part in this process directly: they do not set at the prosecutor’s table, they don’t argue to the judge or jury, they don’t negotiate plea bargains.
Groups exist to help crime victims get help for damages they have suffered as the result of a crime. In Indiana, for example, agencies offer help in filing compensation claims, getting emergency financial assistance, and support through victims’ groups and psychological counseling.
All of this is good and necessary. However, the civil system offers many crime victims another avenue to seek justice: through personal injury lawsuits. For many crime victims, it will be through the civil laws and personal injury lawsuits that justice fully and finally prevails.
Crime Victims Can Find Justice in Injury Lawsuits Filed Against the Perpetrator of the Crime — and Other Parties, Too
These injury lawsuits may be filed against the perpetrator: the same person (or persons) who is facing criminal action for committing a crime. However, laws also exist on the books that provide remedies in the form of legal duties placed on other potential parties to the injury case.
For example, most states have passed bullying prevention laws to place duties on schools to protect students. In these instances, a victim of assault by a bully may have a personal injury claim against the school district as well as against the bully who physically hurt him (or her).
During National Crime Victims Rights Week, let’s remember to educate crime victims that their rights extend not only to seeing the person who did them wrong face punishment in the criminal system, these victims may have rights under personal injury law that offer justice, as well.