The mental health of crime victims: Impact of legal intervention

Author(s)Herman, Judith
Title The mental health of crime victims: Impact of legal intervention
Source Journal of Traumatic Stress Vol 16 No 2 April 2003, pp 159 -166
Date 2003
Document type Journal article
Summary This paper, through reviewing available literature, considers the effect the criminal legal system may have on the mental health of crime victims. It is suggested that involvement with the justice system may compound the original psychological trauma experienced by crime victims. This can be due to the different needs of victims and requirements of legal proceedings or victims fearing for their safety. Other barriers are considered, including linguistic, cultural and social obstacles. The potential benefits to a crime victim's mental health are also examined, including validation and increased safety. A brief outline is given of some of the reforms aimed at empowering crime victims, such as obtaining compensation, having a victim witness advocate or being able to discuss their case with a prosecutor. It is acknowledged, however, that implementation of the reforms has been uneven across jurisdictions and many victims are not aware of rights and available services. The author discusses literature that has examined the relationship between satisfaction with the criminal justice system and mental health of victims. Future research is recommended in this area in order to identify policies and practices associated with the best outcomes for victims as well as those which may be detrimental.
Keywords Justice; criminal justice system; mental health; retraumatisation; victim participation,
Topic Psychological effects and treatment