U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Feelings of Guilt and Need for Retaliation in Victims of Serious Crimes Against Property and Persons

NCJ Number
Victimology Volume: 4 Issue: 1 Dated: (1979) Pages: 75-85
G J A Smale; H L P Spickenheuer
Date Published
11 pages
The intensity of victims' feelings of guilt and need for retaliation are described and related to other victim characteristics and some aspects of crime.
The investigation sought to determine whether the feelings of guilt and the need for retaliation are different in intensity between victims of violence and victims of property crimes. A number of factors possibly related to the intensity of victims' feelings were also investigated: the seriousness of injuries and the extent of financial loss, fear of repetition, a history of previous victimization, the law-abiding or lawbreaking nature of the victim's own past, and the victim's age and profession. Victims selected were 100 Dutch males between 20 and 65 years of age. Half of them had suffered physical injuries from serious violent attacks; the other half had been victimized in a property offense with a loss amounting to at least $200. The offenders in all these incidents had been sentenced for these crimes. About 10 percent of the victims admitted to strong, continual feelings of guilt, while three-quarters of the remaining victims experienced no such feelings. Additionally, about 70 percent felt that the judge's sentence had been too light. However, sentences that half of the victims themselves would pronounce were not more than 3 months of imprisonment. Only 7 percent of the victims would have sentenced offenders to more than 5 years of imprisonment. There was no clear relationship between feelings of guilt and need for retaliation; strong feelings of guilt did not result in lesser need for retaliation, suggesting that moral indignation eclipses the effects of personal guilt. Property victims had stronger guilt feelings than violence victims. In the property group, guilt correlated with how well and if the offender was known to the victim. Lack of professional status, the amount of loss, and the victim's criminal record correlated with need for retaliation. Three tables and two references are provided.