How the Criminal Justice System responds to male victims

Essay add: 7-06-2017, 13:50   /   Views: 21

The Criminal Justice System is increasingly drawing attention to male victims of sexual and violent crime, but some of those responses are, to some degree, uneven and lacking equity. This essay will first focus on the definition of 'victim' and the types of victimisation that males' experience. Then the general responses of the Criminal Justice System and other agencies will be examined, and the uneven responses to male victims will be shown. Additionally, masculinity, a main reason why male victims are likely disregarded, will be considered. Finally, the experience of male victims and responses in Northern Ireland will be used as an example to show how the Criminal Justice System responds to male victims.

Previously, it was controversial to define the term 'victim', which varies argues between 'political' and 'social' definition. A political definition considers the only 'one side' of perspective of the status of victim and perpetrator in a conflict. While, a social definition looks at the nature of harm that victim have suffered, but not who inflicted the harm. However, the United Nations (1985) declared 'victims' as people:

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, including those laws proscribing criminal abuse of power.(cited in NIHRC, 2003, p98)

Although, some critics argue that victimology is almost synonymous with the female victim (Walklate, 2004: Goodey, 2005), men experience victimisation in many ways. Taking violent crime, which includes domestic violence, mugging and other violence by strangers, into consideration, according to Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey (2008, p113): "young men experience the greatest risk of becoming a victim of violent crime". This was also concluded in the 2004-5 the Home Office British Crime Survey (BCS) which stated that 15.1 percent of males aged between 16-24 reported that they had been a violent victim before being surveyed, while it is 6.9 percent of females. Additionally, the above survey found that 90 percent of female victims knew the offender, compared to just 75 percent of male victims. It is obvious that males are more likely to be assaulted by stranger violence than it would be with females (Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey, 2008). Moreover, mugging is the one that highly occurred by male victims. 2001-2 BCS data shows that 67 percent of incidents of robbery, which is a form of mugging, happened to a male victim, while a quarter of them were males aged 14-17 (Home Office, 2004a). Furthermore, the figures for domestic violence, which the police do not tend to see against men as a serious crime (Hoyly and Young, 2002), show that 27 percent of incidents of domestic violence are experienced by males. The risks for men are statistically less than for female victims (0.2 percent and 0.7 percent respectively) (Hird, 2006). And Mirrlees-Black (1999, cited in Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey, 2008) found that the men (4.9) are fewer than women (5.9) on experiencing physical assaults. Another type of crime that males are easy to be disregarded is sexual crimes. Considering rape at first, which from vast literature that are concerned about women and little academic evidence on male. Although prevalence and incident evidence on male rape remain under-investigated, it not means the male rape does not exist (Graham, 2006). According to the Home Office (2004a, p45) that: "fewer men than women are raped and in 2003-3, the police recorded 11441 rapes of females compared to 825 (6.5 percent) male rapes". In addition, males also suffered from "hate crime", which, in other words, is homophobic violence. According to Dixon et al (2006, cited in Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey, p117) that: "two-thirds of gay men have been the victim of homophobic crime". While, another study in Edinburgh shows that half of the investigated gay men had undergone harassment with one in four men becoming the victim of violent crime (Morrison and Mackay, cited in Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey, 2008, p117). What is more, Stonewall gave a statement that young gay men under 18 were especially vulnerable: "48 percent experienced violence, 61 percent reported being harassed and 90 percent said they had experienced verbal abuse because of their sexuality" (cited in Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey, 2008, p118). In short, males have also experienced several crimes.

Recently, the Criminal Justice System (CJS) has decided to give victims' concerns a high priority. There are three main rights that victims can enjoy after the publishing of Victims' Charter in 1990. The first right is to know the truth. It is important for the state to establish a system that shows transparency of criminal investigation and disclosure of all relevant information. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC, 2003, p64) stated that "the seeking of justice is to a large extent the seeking of truth". The second is right to justice, which means the involvement of the criminal justice system. The establishment and strengthening of "judicial and administrative mechanisms", which the United Nations Basic principles advocated, benefit victims to "obtain redress through formal and informal procedures that are expeditious, fair, inexpensive and accessible" (NIHRC, 2003, p52). Thirdly, the most important right for victims is the right of reparation, which was extended from compensation by the Criminal Justice Act. Obviously, more efficient reparation will be more effective to help victims remove fears from hurts. Undoubtedly the extent of reparations should be proportional. Therefore, NIHRC (2003) points out that there are four methods of action applied to effective reparation: restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. Restitution aims to make a restoration to their previous conditions. In addition, the physical damages and some lost opportunities will be supplied through compensation, while, the mental aspect, such as psychological will be offered through rehabilitation. Furthermore, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition is: "taking measures to ensure that there is a cessation of hostilities and closure provided for victims, including a search for those who have disappeared and an official acknowledgment of responsibility and apology, in addition to preventative measures instituted to prevent recurrence of violation" (p53).

In addition, the CJS conducts other practical steps to respond to victims. For instance, the establishment of the National Association of Victim Support Scheme in 1979, which was covered the whole of England and Wales by the mid-1990s and aimed to "provide emotional support and practical help to those who are victims of crime" (Joyce, 2006, p270). What is more, the Crow Court Witness Service, which was created by the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, emerged. A succession of services, such as advice and information, are provided to victims and witnesses so as to help them to deal with the stress of a court appearance. Furthermore, in 2001, England and Wales introduced the Victim Personal Statement Scheme. It provided relatives of victims to show the extent that the crime affected them physically, emotionally, psychologically and financially, and it would be considered during the prosecution (Joyce, 2006). Meanwhile, there are some other measures that have been developed to aid the victims, such as the Victims' Code of Practice that aims to inform victims of their rights, the principle of joined-up government that requires all criminal justice agencies working together to meet what victims need and the 2004 Domestic Violence, Crime and Victim Act. The benefits of this Act are described by Joyce (2006, p272): "it increased the protection, support and rights of victims".

However, the CJS responses to victims are uneven and lacking equity, especially in the responses to male victims. Allen et al (2006) point out that men have less confidence in CJS than women, and most male victims distrust the responses by the police because of the working ineffectiveness. It is ridiculous that although male victims are encouraged to imform their experiences to the police actively, according to the HMCSPI and HMIC (2002, cited in Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey, 2008, p122) study, it shows that: "the police were struggling to come to terms with the investigation of male rape with regard to a relatively new group of crime victims". Meanwhile, another survey of the police response to emergency calls indicated that not much notice was taken of the information reported by male victims which was concluded from 35percent of the respondents (George and Yarwood, 2004). The most revealing example that shows how male victims distrust to the police is under-reporting of homophobic hate violence. Stonewall (2008, p20) have discussed it in their book that: "over a third did not believe they could or would do anything about them". In addition, some crimes, such as domestic violence, are sceptically treated by the police when cases are reported. The possible reason is that: "the current policies thus generally do not appear to deal at all with the large extent of female violence or abuse against male partners" (George and Yarwood, 2004). However, the police are not the only agency that treats male victims differently. Recent research by Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey (2008) shows that: "men reporting abuse or violence experience prejudicial and discriminatory treatment not just from the police, but the court and other agencies as well" (p122).

The main reason why male victims are treated differently to women is that the social and cultural ideas about masculinities do not think that males can be victims. Generally, feminism prominently contributes to drawing criminologists' attention to the subject of masculinity. Coller (1998, p5) makes a statement that: "the masculinity turn begins with the feminist recognition of criminology's historic failure to adequately address the 'sex' of most crime". It is also addressed in Connell's (1995, p68) book that: "masculinity does not exist except in contrast with femininity". Additionally, Coller (1998) points out that feminist critiques influence the discipline of criminology and crime justice practices, therefore, "the centrality of masculinity to these feminist critiques cannot be underestimated" (p6). Obviously, masculinity seriously affects the views and treatments to male victims. Historically, the recognition that "crime is almost always committed by men" is referenced to the concept of masculinities (Newburn and Stanko, cited in Coller, 1998). After extensive researches, criminologists found out that males commit more conventional and more serious crimes than females, and "sex difference explains more variance in crime across nations and cultures than any other variable" (Coller, 1998, p2). It draws a common sense that females commit fewer and less serious crime than male do. Moreover, a number of criminologists, including Von Hentig (1948), argue that some male victims are, to some degree, responsible for their victimisation. It is easy for victims to neglect the way they behave, which results in provoking their own victimization. Therefore, Dixon et al (2006) make a statement, which focuses on males' life style approach and probably will decrease the offenders' responsibilities:

….some of these victims may not have been entirely blameless, they may well have unreasonably provoked the offender ……lifestyle undoubtedly plays a part here: people who visit a pub at least three times a week are more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime as those who never go. (p16)

Furthermore, related to masculinity, males are fear of being disbelieved and feel a humiliation of being victims of rape and homophobic hate crime. They are afraid of being mocked, embarrassed and disbelieved, male crimes are reluctant to report their experiences to the police (Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey, 2008), even to their friends and family members (Karmen, 2004, p247). They are trying to be stoic and fortitudinous when facing the predicament. Consequently, because of masculinity and its influence, male victims are more easily disregarded by the criminal justice system and the society.

Within Northern Ireland, domestic violence, which is approved as a global issue, has had substantial problems. Men have experience several types of domestic violence. First of all, physical violence, which is involving both actual and intended harm, is the most common type that males experience. Gregorash (1990) and Tuttle (1997) reported that the violence included: "being scratched with their partners' fingernails, hit with an object such as a wooden clothes hanger or fist, or kicked them in the back" (cited in Binns, 2004, P25). However, there is more severe violence with murderous weapons, such as cutlery and knives. Sweet (2010) points out that nine out of thirteen participants were attacked by their partners with weapons, one of them by a gun and three of them stated that it occurred regularly. Secondly, a majority of studies shows that psychological abuse, such as emotional abuse, controlling behaviour and sleep deprivation, are worse than physical violence. Most respondents think that emotional abuse is more sustained because of cumulative effects, and they feel depression, humiliation, and the collapse of self-confidence and self-esteem, with sexual innuendoes. Due to the potential physical consequences and bad influence on the children, emotional violence should not be neglected (Brogden and Nijhar, 2004). Moreover, most respondents feel that their daily time and the ways to spend time are under the control of their partner. It is kind of a privacy restrictions. What is worse, Brogden and Nijhar (2004, p32) conclude from their survey that: "several of the women who engaged in control behaviour with their partner, reportedly acted similarly towards their children". In addition, a major form of aggravation, which is easily disregarded, is sleep deprivation. This occurs not only deliberately kept awake by men's partners, such as using vacuum or doing other kinds of housework, but also from a fear of being attacked when men slept. According to the research by Brogden and Nijhar (2004) that:

while the threat alone of physical violence can be sufficient to prevent the man from sleeping, several respondents reported physical attacks while they were asleep…. Sleep deprivation probably is the most frequent form of abuse recorded. (p33)

Facing this serious violence, the CJS in Northern Ireland is involved in responding to male victims, but some agencies' treatments lack understanding. Frequently, the first service that intervenes after domestic violence happens is the police. According to Sweet's report (2010), it shows that some participants are given very sympathetic and positive responses by the police, and three out of thirteen participants thought the police did what they could for them. However, five participants were dissatisfied with the response. One of them said he tried to report his victimisation to various police stations several times, and none of the stations took it down. According to the Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI), there are changes in police training and most police forces have established Domestic Violence Units. However, Brogden and Nijhar(2004, p63) points out that: "the respondents believe that these units had been intensively structured around the assumption of female victims and of male abusers". Police officers are somehow confused about male victimisation and they do not properly deal with the domestic violence with males as victims. In addition, a majority of male victims suggest that they distrust Legal Services. Many of them will go to meet a solicitor at first to get some legal advice. However, they were treated sceptically and got useless suggestions. Consequently, male victims have a lack of confidence in the legal process. They feel that the legal process has an anti-male bias, which can be concluded from Brogden and Nijhar's research (2004, p64): "past experience with the courts and warned their clients about the hopelessness of attempting to persuade senior members of the legal profession that a male could be a victim of female violence and abuse". Overall little help can be supplied by solicitors, because of unbelief of their client and courts' bias. However, following the Criminal Justice Review (2002), the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), which aims to decide whether to prosecute people who commit crime, was established ( Ethically, although the PPS states that their decisions must not be discriminately treated on gender, the genders of both victims and offenders are obviously shown from the statements written by the police, which become a challenge (Sweet, 2010). However, the PPS officers still believe that: "when men attend agencies such as Victim Support and Men's Advisory Project, if they are given information on the PPS, this may help improve confidence that the PPS will take their case seriously" (cited in Sweet, 2010, p68).

In conclusion, currently, males have experienced a lot of victimisation, such as domestic violence, mugging and rape. However, because of their masculinity, male victims are humiliated and reluctant to report to the police and other agencies, which results in a lack of support for them. Additionally, although the Criminal Justice System has increasingly paid attention to male victims, for instance, perfection of victim rights, establishment of Victim Support and Public Prosecution Service, male victims still distrust and are dissatisfied with the police, the courts and even the whole Criminal Justice System. This may have bad influence on the psychology of male victims and the development of the Criminal Justice System.

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