Who is in need of victim support?: the issue of accountable, empirically validated selection and victim referral

F. Winkel, Aldert Vrij

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The tremendous growth in victim-oriented laws granting various rights to crime victims, which emerged worldwide during the last two decades, has initiated a renewed research interest in the varied aspects of the ’needy victims’ concept. Highly sophisticated theoretical models, indicating various risk factors (e.g. external control, upward relative risk assessments) and protection factors (hardiness, behaviour attributions), were developed to explain which crime victims are in need of victim support. The practical validity of these models is relatively low: at the police level there are simply no resources to conduct lengthy diagnostic interviews with crime victims. This article aims to bridge the gap between sophistication and mundane selection of needy victims. The focus is on a simple selection instrument, namely the victim's psychological condition prior to the victimization. Analyses suggest that low pre-victimization well-being constitutes a central risk factor, predicting a delayed deterioration in post-victimization well-being, and longer term psychological distress, which is manifest ten months after the victimizing incident. The ’traffic light’ model is discussed as a simple selection tool, which might be used during the ’witness’ interview. Such a model may also be used by defense attorneys to examine if clients were appropriately assessed as needing support after describing their experiences to the police. For the prosecutor's office the ’traffic light’ model offers an instrument to predict which victims might benefit from a personal interview with the prosecutor. Some implications of low well-being for studies on repeat victimizations are discussed, inter alia in terms of a potential mood congruence bias, that might result in inflated estimates of multiple victimizations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-41
Number of pages19
JournalExpert Evidence
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 1998


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