This Crime Victimization Glossary is a compilation of terms and definitions provided in various OVC resources, including:
- The OVC 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 Victimization
The source of the definitions in this section is the Office for Victims of Crime Performance Measure Dictionary and Terminology Resource, Office for Victims of Crime, 2021.
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 examples.
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, 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 person intimate partner to gain or maintain power and control over another.
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 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.
Recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act or the person induced to perform such act(s) is under 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
Survivor of victim of murder or voluntary manslaughter, which are the willful (intent is present) killing of one human being by another.
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
Unless otherwise noted – the source of the definitions in this section is the Office for Victims of Crime Performance Measure Dictionary and Terminology Resource, Office for Victims of Crime, 2021.
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, and
- 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 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 using language lines, 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 initial 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.
The source of the definitions in this section is the National Victim Assistance Academy Text: Chapter 5: Financial Assistance for Victims of Crime, Office for Victims of Crime, June 2002.
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.
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.
Lawsuits filed by victims to recover from injuries sustained and damages incurred as a result of the perpetrator's crime.
See Aiding and Abetting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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—
- he or she owes a legal duty to the other;
- he or she materially breaches that duty;
- the breach is the proximate cause of the other's injury; and
- the other person suffers damages.
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.
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.
The "cause in fact" of injury to victims; a "cause" without which the victim's injuries would not have occurred.
Damages awarded to victims against perpetrators, over and above compensatory damages, in order to punish or make an example of perpetrators.
See Homeowner’s Insurance.
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.
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.
The civil action for the killing of one human by another, without justification or excuse.