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Crime Victimization Glossary

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This Crime Victimization Glossary is a compilation of terms and definitions provided in various OVC resources, including:

  • The Online Directory of Crime Victim Services
  • National Victim Assistance Academy

The list of terms, its sources, and the links to more information are provided for ease of reference and should not be interpreted as comprehensive and exhaustive to the crime victims field , victimology, or criminology.

The Glossary content is organized by—

  • Type of Victim/Victimization
  • Type of Service Provided
  • Civil Remedies

Type of Victim/Victimization

Adult Molested as Child
Adult age 18 or older who was sexually abused as a child (see child sexual abuse definition below).

Adult Sexual Assault
Sexual offense—including rape, incest, fondling, exhibitionism, or pornography—of an adult age 18 or older.

Aggravated Assault
Unlawful, intentional causing of serious bodily injury with or without a deadly weapon, or unlawful, intentional attempting or threatening of serious bodily injury or death with a deadly or dangerous weapon.

Any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling, house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, or personal property of another.

An unlawful attack by one person on another, with or without a weapon, that inflicts, or attempts or threatens to inflict, physical injury.

A person under the age of 18 or as otherwise defined by state law.

Child Physical Abuse
Non-accidental injury to a child by a parent or other adult that may include severe beatings, burns, strangulation, or human bites.

Child Sexual Abuse
Sexual offense (see definition below) against a child by a parent or other adult.

Domestic Violence
Violent acts involving a current or former spouse or domestic partner.

Accident involving one or more motor vehicles in which at least one driver was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUI) or was legally intoxicated (DWI) at the time of the crash.

Elder Abuse
Abuse perpetrated by a caretaker on an elderly individual who depends on others for support and assistance.

A deliberate deception perpetrated for unlawful or unfair gain.

Gang Violence
Criminal acts committed by a group of three or more individuals who regularly engage in criminal activity and identify themselves with a common name or sign.

Human Trafficking
Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion, for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

Identity Theft
A crime in which an imposter obtains key pieces of personal information, such as Social Security or driver's license numbers, to impersonate someone else.

Other, referring to types of victim served
Victims of nonviolent crime, such as burglary and white-collar crime.

Other Violent Crimes
Other crimes not listed, not including property crimes (which is the taking of money or property without force or threat of force).

Taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence.

Sexual Offense
Forcible rape, attempted rape, statutory rape, sexual harassment, prostitution, or other unlawful sexual contact and other unlawful behavior intended to result in sexual gratification or profit from sexual activity.

Any unwanted contact between two people that directly or indirectly communicates a threat or places the victim in fear.

Survivor of Homicide Victim
Family member or loved one of a murder victim.

Use of violence or intimidation to coerce a government or civilian population to further political or social objectives.

Victims with Disabilities
Victims of crime who have a physical or mental disability.

White-collar crime
Nonviolent crime for financial gain committed by means of deception by persons with special technical and professional knowledge of business or government.

Type of Service Provided

Assistance in Filing Compensation Claims
Making victims aware of the availability of crime victim compensation (see definition below), helping victims complete required forms, and gathering needed documentation. May also include followup contact with the victim compensation agency on behalf of the victim.

Criminal Justice Support/Advocacy
Support, assistance, and advocacy provided to victims at any stage of the criminal justice process, including post-sentencing services and support.

Crisis Counseling
In-person crisis intervention, emotional support, and guidance and counseling provided by advocates, counselors, mental health professionals, or peers. Such counseling may occur at the scene of a crime or immediately after a crime or be provided on an ongoing basis.

Crisis Hotline Counseling
Operation of a 24-hour telephone service, 7 days a week, which provides counseling, guidance, emotional support, and information and referral.

Emergency Financial Assistance
Cash outlays for such needs as transportation, food, clothing, and emergency housing.

Emergency Legal Advocacy
Filing of temporary restraining orders, injunctions, and other protective orders, elder abuse (see definition above) petitions, and child abuse (see definition above) petitions. Does not include criminal prosecution or the employment of attorneys for such nonemergency purposes as custody disputes and civil suits.

Followup contact
In-person contacts, telephone contacts, and written communications with victims to offer emotional support, provide empathetic listening, and check on a victim's progress.

Group Treatment
Coordination and provision of supportive group activities, which include self-help, peer, and social support.

Information and Referral (in-person)
In-person contact with crime victim to identify available services and support.

Information and Referral (telephone)
Telephone contact with crime victim to identify available services and support.

Other, referring to services provided
Other services and activities allowed under the 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).

Personal Advocacy
Assisting victims in securing rights, remedies, and services from other agencies; locating emergency financial assistance and intervening with employers, creditors, and others on behalf of the victim; assisting in filing for losses covered by public and private insurer programs, including workers' compensation, unemployment benefits, and public assistance; and accompanying the victim to the hospital.

Safety Plan
Guidelines for stalking victims that, if implemented, may reduce the odds of physical or emotional harm from a stalker.

Shelter/Safe House
Short- and long-term housing and related support services for victims and families following a victimization.

Supervised Visitation
Contact between a noncustodial party and one or more children in the presence of a third person, either paid or unpaid, who is responsible for observing and, to the greatest extent possible, providing a safe environment for those involved.

Intensive professional, psychological, psychiatric, or other counseling-related treatment for individuals, couples, and family members to provide emotional support in crisis arising from the occurrence of crime. Includes the evaluation of mental health needs and the delivery of psychotherapy.

Transport service either to or from a victim service agency.

Victim Compensation
Payment or reparations made to a crime victim.


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language. 4th ed. 2000. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Comer, R. 1998. Abnormal Psychology. 3rd ed. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.

Criminal Justice Today Glossary. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Criminal Law Glossary. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Criminology Today Glossary. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. Crime in the United States—2001. Uniform Crime Reports. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

The National Center for Victims of Crime. Stalking Resource Center. Safety Plan Guidelines. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

National Criminal Justice Reference Service. In the Spotlight: Gangs: Related Resources. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Sacramento Court Appointed Special Advocate Program. Access to Visitation Program Overview. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Subgrant Award Report Form, OJP ADMIN FORM 7980/2A (REV. 11–95). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime.

U.S. Department of State. Trafficking in Persons Report. Retrieved July 11, 2003.

Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary. Revised edition. 1996. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Civil Remedies

Aiding and Abetting
Similar to civil conspiracy, when someone, not the actual perpetrator, so significantly contributes to the criminal operation as to be considered liable for their actions.

To go in a secretive manner out of the jurisdiction of the courts, or to lie concealed, in order to avoid their process.

Formal written responses to the defendants/perpetrators file in response to plaintiff's complaints. These pleadings may deny some or all of the allegations; they may raise defenses such as self-defense or assumption of risk, or they may allege that even if all of the plaintiff's allegations are true, there is no liability. These pleadings are usually accompanied by legal memoranda and briefs. The names of the pleadings vary from jurisdiction. "Demurrers," "motions for summary judgment," motions to dismiss," and "answers" are all descriptions of a responsive pleading.

A cause of action for intentionally putting the victim in fear of a battery, coupled with the apparent ability to commit the battery.

Assumption of Risk
A legal doctrine that may relieve perpetrators of liability for injuries to victims if the victim voluntarily entered into a situation knowing that there was a risk of foreseeable injury.

Automobile Insurance
Insurance policies that cover injuries "arising out of the use, operation, or maintenance" of the vehicle.

The intentional, offensive, unpermitted touching of the victim by the perpetrator.

Burden of Proof
The threshold of evidence that one party must present in order to prevail in his or her case. In criminal cases, the burden of proof is very high: "beyond a reasonable doubt," or generally 99 percent of the evidence. In civil cases, however, the burden of proof on the victim/plaintiff is "a mere preponderance," or more than 50 percent of the evidence.

Causes of Action
The legal basis for a civil lawsuit.

Civil Actions
Lawsuits filed by victims to recover from injuries sustained and damages incurred as a result of the perpetrator's crime.

Civil Conspiracy
See Aiding and Abetting.

Collateral Estoppel
A legal doctrine which provides that, in some cases, the criminal conviction of perpetrators will be considered proof of those perpetrator’s legal liability in civil actions brought by the perpetrator's victims.

A general term meaning the extent to which defendants/perpetrators have the financial means to pay judgments from assets on hand, assets reasonably to be expected in the future, or financial assistance from such sources as insurance coverage.

Comparative Negligence
The more prevalent approach to reducing amounts paid to plaintiffs/victims allowing partially negligent plaintiffs/victims to recover damages from defendants/perpetrators, however, reducing the amounts of the award by the applicable percentage of the plaintiff's/victim's own negligence (see also: Contributory Negligence).

Monetary reparations made to crime victims by a state or a governmental entity to recover "out-of-pocket" expenses incurred as a result of a crime.

Compensatory Damages
Damages paid to compensate victims for losses caused by the torts of the perpetrator. Such losses include out-of-pocket expenses; loss of income; expenses such as medical bills, therapy, and funeral costs; loss of present and future earning capacity; conscious pain and suffering; financial support; and "consortium," the loss of the affection and society of loved ones

The formal written pleading filed in a civil court alleging that the defendant(s) injured the plaintiff(s), and that the defendant(s) should be liable for damages caused.

Contributory Negligence
A legal doctrine, now modified in most jurisdictions, that any negligence on the part of the plaintiff/victim will bar civil lawsuits against defendant/perpetrator.

Criminal Action
Cases in which the state prosecutes perpetrators of criminal acts, committed in violation of the state's laws.

Amounts of money awarded to winning parties in civil suits expressed in a judgment.

Parties against whom civil actions are brought.

Legal doctrines that relieve defendant/perpetrator of liability for having committed a tort.

Delayed Discovery Rule
A legal doctrine that suspends the running of statutes of limitations during periods of time in which the victims did not discover, or by the exercise of reasonable diligence, could not have discovered, the injuries that would lead to their causes of action against the defendant/perpetrator.

Pretrial proceedings in which attorneys for parties in a civil case have the opportunity to examine, under oath, the opposing parties and potential witnesses in the case. Depositions are sworn and reduced to writing. The transcripts may be admissible in evidence at trials if the witnesses are no longer available, or for purposes of impeachment.

First Party Action
Lawsuits brought by victims directly against their perpetrators.

General Liability Insurance
Insurance policies covering whatever losses are enumerated in the policy.

Homeowner’s Insurance
Broad-based insurance policy that contracts to protect the insured from enumerated causes of accidental injuries to others. The accidents usually are not confined to acts that happen on the insured’s "home" premises but also includes accidents that happen elsewhere. Renters of premises can obtain Renter’s Insurance.

The individual who has contracted to receive insurance coverage from the Insurer whose actions are otherwise covered by an insurance policy.

The business entity which has contracted to provide insurance coverage to the insured.

The formal recitations of the outcomes of civil cases. They are almost always reduced to writing, and recorded as a part of the file.

A legal doctrine providing that one may be liable to another if (1) he or she owes a legal duty to the other; (2) he or she materially breaches that duty; (3) the breach is the proximate cause of the other's injury; and (4) the other person suffers damages.

Negligent Entrustment
A tort in which one or more persons give, lend, or allow someone to use, or should have anticipated that the person would use, a dangerous instrumentality to injure another.

Parental Liability
A legal doctrine that holds parents civilly liable for the torts and crimes of their children.

Persons who have criminally injured victims.

Party bringing civil actions. In the case of victim civil remedies, the victim is the plaintiff.

Professional Liability Insurance
Insurance coverage issued to professional persons: doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, etc., to cover any losses caused by malpractice in the course of their professional services.

A legal doctrine that may excuse defendant/perpetrator from the consequences of his/her crime/tort if the plaintiff/victim instigated a confrontation, or otherwise caused or provoked the defendant's actions.

Proximate Cause
The "cause in fact" of injury to victims; a "cause" without which the victim's injuries would not have occurred.

Punitive Damages
Damages awarded to victims against perpetrators, over and above compensatory damages, in order to punish or make an example of perpetrators.

Renters Insurance
See Homeowner’s Insurance.

Rescue Doctrine
A legal doctrine that allows one to recover for injuries suffered in coming to the rescue or assistance of others in peril. It is used as a counter to the defense of Assumption of Risk.

Court action that requires perpetrators to make financial payments to their victims, usually as a condition of probation or leniency in sentencing.

Self Defense
The legal doctrine which relieves defendants/perpetrators of liability for torts if they acted in the reasonable belief that they had to use force to defend themselves, or others (loved ones, etc.), from death or great bodily harm.

Agreements among the parties to lawsuits to end the suits without trial; usually the plaintiff agrees to drop the lawsuit for a fixed sum of monetary damages paid by the defendant.

Statute of Limitations
Periods of time, set by law, after which civil actions cannot be brought.

Third Party Actions
Lawsuits brought against persons whose negligence or gross negligence has facilitated the commission of a tort by a defendant.

Tolling of Statutes of Limitations
The running of statutes of limitations is suspended.

Civil or private wrongs (as opposed to criminal offenses) committed by perpetrators against victims.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists
State law usually makes it compulsory that drivers have enough insurance to cover damages if they, or others defined in the policies, are injured by motorists who have no insurance, or not enough insurance, to cover injuries that they have caused.

Persons who have been injured by the criminal acts of perpetrators.

Wrongful Death
The civil action for the killing of one human by another, without justification or excuse.


National Victim Assistance Academy Text. "Chapter 5: Financial Assistance for Victims of Crime.’ June 2002.

Date Created: May 18, 2020