Victims & Offenders

Christina Mancini and Justin T. Pickett*



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. We test this hypothesis—specifically, we 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, we 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.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates, Affiliates, and Staff