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Impacts and Consequences of Victimization, GSS 2004

By Kathy AuCoin and Diane Beauchamp, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

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Nearly three out of ten Canadians 15 years of age and older were victimized in some manner in the year leading up to the 2004 General Social Survey on victimization (GSS). The impact and consequences of these victimizations can involve physical injury, financial loss, and property damage, as well as psychological and emotional after-effects. Criminal victimization may also affect victim’s families and friends as well as society as a whole. Moreover, research to date has found that crime witnesses, who may not suffer immediate physical and/or economic consequences as a direct result of a crime incident, may suffer from trauma, anxiety and heightened levels of stress as a result of their experience (Kilpatrick et al., 1997).

The impact of criminal victimization may be shaped by a number of variables: sex of the victim, age, a victim’s prior history of victimization or that of persons known to the victim, overall perceptions of crime, the type and severity of crime experienced, and the relationship between the victim and the offender. For example, research has found that victims of property crime are not as traumatized as victims of violent crime, yet they still experience elevated levels of fear, depression, hostility and sleep problems that can last for a long period of time (Norris, et al., 1997). In addition, women have been found to report higher levels of fear as a result of being a victim of crime relative to men (Kilpatrick and Acierno, 2003).

Measuring the overall cost to society, as a result of victimization, is difficult at best. Defining what and how to measure the many different costs associated with victimization is just one of the many barriers to undertaking such a study. Short-term and long-term, direct and indirect costs to victims, their families, and society are just a few of the many factors that would need to be considered to complete such a costing exercise.

Using the 2004 GSS, the present analysis describes some of the direct and indirect impacts of crime, including physical, economic, emotional/psychological and societal costs. Where feasible, the analysis breaks down victim categories by violent (robbery, physical and sexual assault), non-violent (personal and household-related incidents of theft or attempted theft) and witnesses of crime. Where possible, gender differences are considered.

This analysis shows that not only do victims incur physical, emotional and financial costs as a direct result of their victimization, but that their perceptions of their neighbourhoods and personal safety and their opinions concerning the police system are affected by their prior victimization experience. The analysis highlights the fact that regardless of crime experiences, women tend to express more fear related to crime than men and when women are victims of crime the impact on their emotions, their use of precautionary measures and their sense of security seems to be greater relative to men.

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