Victims of crime
The victims experience of crime
30 years ago it would have been difficult to have found any criminological agency (official, professional, voluntary or other) or research group working in the field of victims of crime, or which considered crime victims as having any central relevance to the subject apart from being a sad product of the activity under study - criminality. To officials, the victim was merely a witness in the court case, to researchers either the victim was totally ignored or was used as a source of information about crime and criminals. Until very recently there was a striking lack of information about victims, and even now the knowledge is sketchy, limited to certain crimes and often to certain types of victim.
In Britain, and much of the rest of Europe, most of the focus has been on providing practical services to victims rather than on addressing their rights in a criminal justice or legalistic way (although the Human Rights Act 1998 might change this in future).
Much of the work so far has been done by VSS (Victims Support Schemes), which started in 1974 in Bristol to fill a gap in provision for those involved with crime. It was started by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, on the assumption that victims too had needs which were not being met.
These needs soon became very apparent and the VSS grew very quickly. Almost all of it's work is done by volunteers, but as the numbers of serious cases needing long-term support grows it is being forced towards professionalism VSS has largely avoided any political arguments on the position of victims in the British system. Other important victim agencies in Britain are the Rape Crisis Centres (RCC) and shelter homes or...