Victims & perpetrators  

Victims of armed violence are people who individually or collectively suffer harm as a consequence of the use or threatened use of weapons against them. This harm can include death, temporary or permanent injuries, emotional suffering, loss of property, or economic hardship. Victims can be direct or indirect, meaning they have been affected by an act directed against another person, group, or institution. Using homicide data as a proxy, the age and sex composition of victims varies considerably between regions. Socioeconomic characteristics of victims can sometimes also be identified, such as employment status and income, or membership of certain racial or minority groups.

  • Globally, the risk of becoming a victim of homicide is highest for young men in the 15-29 age group and declines steeply with age thereafter.[1] The pattern is less pronounced however in Asia and Europe.[2]
  • For women, the rate oscillates between 3 and 4 per 100,000 for all age groups after the age of 15.[3]
  • The share of female homicide victims ranges from 10% in the Americas to 27% in Europe, although overall femicide rates are still higher in the Americas than in Europe, and highest in Africa.[4]
  • In South African cities, black males between the ages 20 and 40 are roughly 17 times as likely as white males in the same group to die from homicidal violence.[5]

Perpetrators of armed violence individually or collectively use or threaten to use weapons to inflict harm on people or communities.

  • Over 25% of homicides in the Americas are related to gangs or organised criminal groups, a significantly higher proportion than in Asia or Europe.[6]
  • Trends in homicides in Central America are largely attributable to fluctuations in cocaine trafficking and resulting criminal conflicts.[7]
  • In Europe, half of female homicide victims were murdered by family members (35% by spouses or ex-spouses and 15% by relatives), while only 5% of male homicide victims were killed by spouses or ex-spouses and some 10% by other family members.[8]

Young men are disproportionately involved in, and exposed to, armed violence. This appears to be the result of socialisation with boys in many societies, learning from an early age that conflict can be resolved by using physical and psychological violence.

  • On average, men account for 82% of homicide victims and perpetrators.[9]
  • Data from the United States suggests that the typical pattern is a man killing another man (64% of cases), while in less than 3% of cases a woman murders another woman.[10]
  • Global homicide rates are of 11.9 per 100,000 for men and 2.6 per 100,000 for women.[11]
  • Women account for 77% of all victims of intimate partner/family-related homicide in Europe.[12]
  • In Asia, dowry-related deaths still cost many thousands of women’s lives every year.[13]
Perpetrators of armed violence individually or collectively use or threaten to use weapons to inflict harm on people or communities.

In many contexts, the distinction between victim and perpetrator is blurred. This is the case for example of children recruited (often by force) into fighting forces in armed conflicts. It is also the case when victims of armed violence are members of youth gangs or criminal groups. In this case, a notion of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ victim is often introduced, and disturbingly services offered to the latter can be less. Such discrimination is sometimes extended to the families of the victims.

  • In India, the ‘Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims/Family of Victims of Terrorist, Communal and Naxal Violence’ is not applicable to individuals who have been deemed as “perpetrators” – i.e. insurgents, militants – nor to their family members. Uncertainty over the identity of perpetrators and victims is common.[14]

Resources and References

Center for Civilians in Conflict (formerly CIVIC)

Coalition for the International Criminal Court

International Centre for Transitional Justice

Article 36

World Victimology Society

 

More resources: Click here for a document with more website suggestions, articles and reports

 

[1] UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Global study on homicide 2011: Trends, contexts, data (Vienna: UNODC, 2011), p. 64.

[2] UNODC, (2011), p. 67.

[3] UNODC, (2011), p. 65.

[4] UNODC, (2011), p. 63.

[5] K. Ratele, “Watch your man: Young black males at risk of homicidal violence,” South African Crime Quarterly 33 (2010), pp. 19-24.

[6] National police data cited in UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, World crime trends and emerging issues and responses in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice (Vienna : UNCCPCJ, 2012), p. 12.

[7] UNODC, (2011), p. 11.

[8] Economic Commission for Europe Statistical Division Database, cited in UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (2012), p. 13.

[9] UNODC, (2011), p. 63.

[10] UNODC, (2011), p. 72.

[11] UNODC, (2011), p. 12.

[12] UNODC, (2011), p. 11.

[13] UNODC, (2011), p. 11.

[14] Ministry of Home Affairs, “Revised Guidelines: Central Scheme for Assistance to Civilian Victims/Family of Victims of Terrorist, Communal and Naxal Violence,” (New Delhi: MHA, 2010).

 

Image: Protesters carry burning crosses during a march honoring victims of political violence in Bogotá, Colombia, March 2008. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)