BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global Health and Victimization



Victimization refers to the unjustifiable targeting of an individual or a group for subjection to crime, exploitation, unfair treatment, or other wrong. It is the process of hurting someone or a group of people (victims) by perpetuating or committing a crime against them. Victimization can take either psychological forms through as bullying, verbal abuse or physical forms through sexual abuse, murder, torture, burglary robbery and assault. The rate of victimization may be influenced by age, gender, social group and location.  Although anyone can be a victim, specific groups such as children, seniors and disabled individuals may be more susceptible to certain types of victimization. For example, bullying or peer victimization is most commonly found in children and adolescents. Victimization is criminal act which is a frightening, unsettling, unexpected and largely unpreventable experience. Sometimes, people are victimized by people who are known to them, not strangers. A peer reviewed study published in PUBMED showed that specific types of victimization such as physical bullying and sibling assaults, were highest prior to adolescence and then declined afterwards. Other types of victimization were influenced by gender- for instance, peer assaults increased in adolescence for boys but not for girls. Child maltreatment and sexual victimization increased in adolescence for girls but not for boys. Symptoms of victimization may vary in several ways and are associated with the type of victimization as well as characteristics and experiences of the victim.

The impacts of victimization can be observed in four broad aspects of life including emotional, physical, psychological and financial aspects. Emotional impacts of victimization include feelings of shock, incredulity and denial. These reactions can last for as short as a few minutes or as long as a few years. Following these reactions are stronger and more aggressive feelings of anger, fear, frustration, confusion, guilt, shame, and grief.

Physical impacts of victimization begin from the moment the event is occurring or after the realization that the event has occurred. Victims are likely to have a number of physical experiences or changes which may include increased adrenalin in the body, increased heart rate, hyperventilation, profuse quivering, tearing, numbness, dryness of the mouth and enhancement of the sense organs. There are also physical injuries that result from crime and they can be classified as: minor, moderate and major injuries. Minor injuries include scratches; moderate injuries may include bruises while major injuries are broken bones and damage to internal organs. Some victims may experience long-term health-related side effects such as ongoing headaches, chronic pains, stomachaches, disability and depression.

Psychologically, common reactions to crime can include feeling helpless, paranoid and disorganized. These are closely followed by distressing thoughts about the event, nightmares, depression and a loss of confidence. Behavioral responses to these psychological effects include increased alcohol or substance abuse, fragmentation of social relationships and social withdrawal. The financial impact of victimization occurs in victims who lost money or possessions and have been financially injured. It also occurs when victims are unable to return to work or find a means of livelihood due to their injuries and experiences. Other ways that victimization can incur costs to victims include repairing or replacing possessions, higher insurance premiums, medical and burial expenses, court appearances and time off from work.

Victimization can be prevented by being aware of their one’s environment, making safety plans such as access to emergency and help hot lines and taking self-defense courses.

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