When Do We Blame Victims?

Examining the tendency to attribute blame to crime victims reveals a striking dichotomy. Some types, such as children, elicit intense emotional reactions from the public. Alternatively, others, such as the typical victims of street crimes, garner substantially less concern. According to the “just world” hypothesis, these latter groups may be perceived by the public as criminally involved, and so “blameworthy” for their victimization. A recebt study published in the journal Victims and Offenders tests this hypothesis—specifically, researchers evaluate whether perceptions of the extent of victims’ involvement in crime are associated with dispositional attributions for victimization. Data from a recent national survey (N = 760) are analyzed. To extend generalizability, they replicate results with a college sample (N = 733). Findings indicate that victim-offender overlap perceptions vary consistently by crime type. There is also consistent evidence that perceiving a larger victim-offender overlap is associated with the view that the causes of criminal victimization are, in part, dispositional—and thus that crime victims hold personal responsibility.

For the abstract


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