This Crime Victimization Glossary is a compilation of terms and definitions provided in the Directory of Crime Victim Services.
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 Victimization
- Type of Service Provided
Unless otherwise noted – the source of these definitions is the Office for Victims of Crime Performance Measure Dictionary and Terminology Resource, Office for Victims of Crime, 2020.
Type of Victimization
Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse
Adult survivors of sexual abuse and/or assault which was suffered while they were children.
Any willful or malicious burning or attempting to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling, house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, personal property of another, among others.
Simple Assault: Assaults and attempted assaults where no weapon was used, or no serious or aggravated injury resulted to the victim. Intimidation, coercion, and hazing are included.
Aggravated Assault: An unlawful attack by one person upon another, inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied with the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm.
Repeated, negative acts committed by one or more children against another child. These negative acts may be physical or verbal in nature—for example, hitting or kicking, teasing or taunting—or they may involve indirect actions such as manipulating friendships or purposely excluding other children from activities. Implicit in this definition is an imbalance in real or perceived power between the bully and victim.
The unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft.
Physical abuse that is nonaccidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) because of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child.
Any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct, including any photograph, film, video, picture, drawing, or computer-generated image or picture, which is produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, where—
- its production involved the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
- such visual depiction is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct;
- such visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
- it is advertised, distributed, promoted, or presented in such a manner as to convey the impression that it is a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.
Child Sexual Abuse
This may include activities such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution by a parent, caregiver, or other person. This definition includes teen sexual assault.
Domestic Violence/Family Violence
A crime in which there is a past or present familial, household, or other intimate relationship between the victim and the offender, including spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends, ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, and any family members or persons residing in the same household as the victim. Involves a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.
Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.
Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) includes driving or operating a motor vehicle or common carrier while mentally or physically impaired as the result of consuming alcoholic beverages or using drugs or narcotics.
Also known as elder mistreatment, elder abuse/neglect generally refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a family member, caregiver, or other person in a trusting relationship that causes harm or creates a serious risk of harm to an older person. Elder abuse may include abuse that is physical, emotional/psychological (including threats), or sexual; neglect (including abandonment); and financial exploitation. This is a general definition; state definitions of elder abuse vary. Some definitions may also include fraud, scams, or financial crimes targeted at older people.
A criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.
Identity Theft, Fraud, or Financial Crime
Identity theft occurs when someone wrongfully obtains another’s personal information without their knowledge to commit theft or fraud. Fraud and financial crimes include illegal acts characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and that are not dependent upon the application or threat of physical force or violence. Individuals and organizations commit these acts to obtain money, property, or services; to avoid the payment or loss of money or services; or to secure personal or business advantage.
Kidnapping (Noncustodial): Occurs when someone unlawfully seizes, confines, inveigles, decoys, abducts, or carries away and holds for ransom or reward, by any person, except in the case of a minor by the parent thereof.
Kidnapping (Custodial): Occurs when one parent or guardian deprives another of his or her legal right to custody or visitation of a minor by unlawfully taking the child. The definition and penalties of custodial kidnapping vary by state. In some states, kidnapping occurs only if a child is taken outside of the state and/or if an existing custody order is intentionally violated.
Obtaining a person through recruitment, harboring, transportation, or provision, and subjecting such a person by force, fraud, or coercion into involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery (not to include commercial sex acts).
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 and/or by putting the victim in fear, including carjacking.
Inducing a person by force, fraud, or coercion to participate in commercial sex acts, or the person induced to perform such act(s) has not attained 18 years of age.
Individuals are classified as victims of stalking or harassment if they experienced at least one of the behaviors listed below on at least two separate occasions. In addition, the individuals must have feared for their safety or that of a family member as a result of the course of conduct or have experienced additional threatening behaviors that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.
Stalking behaviors include: making unwanted phone calls; sending unsolicited or unwanted letters or emails; following or spying on the victim; showing up at places without a legitimate reason; waiting at places for the victim; leaving unwanted items, presents, or flowers; and posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the Internet/social media, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
Survivors of Homicide Victims
A family member or loved one of a victim of murder, mass violence, terrorism, and so forth. In addition, some victims prefer to be called survivors rather than victims.
Source: Helping Victims of Mass Violence & Terrorism: Planning, Response, Recovery, and Resources, Office for Victims of Crime, August 2015
Other Vehicular Victimization
Hit and run crimes and other vehicular assault. Excludes DUI/DWI crashes.
Includes a wide range of victimizations/crimes that include attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing, fondling, and verbal threats. Also included is rape, which is defined as penetration of any kind, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration of a sex organ by another person, without the consent of the victim; may also include penetration of the mouth by a sex organ by another person.
Teen Dating Violence
The occurrence of physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a teen dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner.
Terrorism and Mass Violence
An intentional violent criminal act that results in physical, emotional, or psychological injury to a sufficiently large number of people to significantly increase the burden of victim assistance and compensation for the responding jurisdiction.
Type of Service Provided
Assistance in Filing Compensation Claims
Assistance to potential recipients of crime victim compensation benefits (including potential recipients who are victims of federal crime) in applying for such benefits may include, but are not limited to, referring such potential recipients to an organization that can so assist, identifying crime victims and advising them of the availability of such benefits, assisting such potential recipients with application forms and procedures, obtaining necessary documentation, monitoring claim status, and intervening on behalf of such potential recipients with the crime victims' compensation program.
Source: Victims of Crime Act Victim Assistance Program Final Rule, Federal Register, July 2016
Communicating among professionals and victims regarding activities resulting from the victimization. This includes actions necessary to expedite a case for victim protection, initiation of legal actions needed to protect the victim such as probation revocation, etc.
Providing immediate, in-person crisis intervention, emotional support, guidance, and counseling. These services must occur at the scene of a crime, immediately after a crime, or become immediately necessary due to the crime.
Emergency Financial Assistance
Providing cash outlays for food, clothing, short-term alternative emergency housing (e.g., hotel due to capacity at shelter), and other support services such as toiletries provided to primary and secondary victims. Emergency financial assistance may also include emergency loans, payments for items such as food and/or clothing, changing windows and/or locks, taxis, prophylactic and nonprophylactic medications, durable medical equipment, and other similar items allowable under program guidelines.
Emotional Support or Safety Services
Services in this category include—
- crisis intervention,
- hotline counseling,
- crisis response,
- individual counseling,
- support groups,
- emergency financial assistance, and
- other therapy (traditional, cultural, or alternative healing; art, writing, or play therapy, etc.).
Performing/conducting a forensic exam, interview, or medical evidence collection in accordance with any requirements or guidelines identified by the applicable jurisdiction. Individuals performing the exams, interviews, or medical evidence collection should be trained to conduct these activities in a trauma-informed and developmentally and culturally appropriate manner.
Providing live hotline services by trained professionals or volunteers. Services may be provided via telephone, instant messaging, mobile application, or website contact. Individuals may be identified or may be anonymous contacts.
Justice System Support to Victims
Services in this category include—
- notification of criminal justice events,
- victim impact statement assistance,
- assistance with restitution,
- civil legal assistance in obtaining protection or restraining order,
- civil legal assistance with family law issues,
- immigration assistance,
- prosecution interview advocacy/accompaniment,
- law enforcement interview advocacy/accompaniment, criminal advocacy/accompaniment, emergency justice-related assistance, legal advice and/or counseling.
Identity Theft Counseling
Assisting victims with the process of addressing problems associated with identity theft, including: help writing letters to creditors and debt collectors, assistance with placing a credit freeze, or guidance reviewing documents related to the identity theft.
Source: What To Know About Identity Theft, Federal Trade Commission, accessed March 2021.
Information and Referrals
Informing victims about the criminal justice system and process could include information on how to file a police report, request a protective order, or how a case might progress through the legal system. This service includes explanation of legal terminology. In addition, this includes post-sentencing services and information regarding assistance with property return.
Informing the victim about the existence of the Federal Crime Victim Rights Act (2004), state laws regarding victim rights, state victim compensation programs, and/or the Victim Notification System.
Referring victims to other victim service providers if their specific agency lacks capacity to provide needed support. This could also occur if another agency is better able to provide the type of service needed, developmentally or culturally appropriate services, or services that correlate with the offense experienced.
Referring a victim to other services to meet a victim’s needs. Includes assessment of service needs and provisions of referrals or providing victims with information and contacts to obtain services on their own.
Providing communication services for victims that have a limited English proficiency or a disability that affects their ability to communicate. This includes translating, using sign language, or providing braille. In addition, this includes language line, texting, or distributing translated documents, as well as translations provided via staff/volunteers or a contract with an outside agency/service.
Assisting victims in requesting restitution when collection efforts are not successful.
Providing emergency short-term shelter to individuals and families following victimization.
Providing temporary housing for victims who, due to the nature of the victimization, cannot safely return to their former housing and need more time to stabilize themselves before living independently.
Coordinating assistance with rental expenses, utility deposits, security deposits, and/or moving fees. This includes assistance locating long-term housing for the victim, regardless of distance, based on safety needs.
Victim Advocacy and Accompaniment Services
Services in this category include—
- victim advocacy/accompaniment to emergency medical care,
- victim advocacy/accompaniment to medical forensic exam,
- law enforcement interview advocacy/accompaniment,
- individual advocacy (e.g., assistance in applying for public benefits, return of personal property or effects, etc.),
- performance of medical or nonmedical forensic exam or interview, or medical evidence collection,
- immigration assistance,
- intervention with employer, creditor, landlord, or academic institution,
- child or dependent care assistance,
- transportation assistance, and
- interpreter services.
Providing psychological, psychiatric, and/or other counseling-related treatment for individuals, couples, and family members. This service must be provided by a person who meets professional standards to provide these services in the jurisdiction in which the care is administered.
Communicating with victims to notify them of hearings and appearances, the defendant’s release from jail, the status of the case, bond hearings, grand jury decisions, disposition options, appellate decisions, etc. This includes assisting victims in contacting probation/parole offices, community supervision, department of corrections, etc. to get information of any changes in the convicted defendant’s status.
Victim Support Groups
Providing or facilitating supportive group activities led by staff or peer. This can include group counseling sessions, peer support groups, or other groups that bring victims together to aid in the healing process.