"The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong in the broken places. (1)" Introduction 86 I. Intersectionality 91 II. Crime Victimhood in the Light of Intersectionality 93 A. The Current Approach: Crime Victimhood as an Axis 93 B. The Proposed Change: Crime Victimhood as an Axis of 97 i. From Radical to Cultural Feminism and the 97 Recognition of Multi-Gender Victimhood ii. From Traditional to Positive Victimology 101 iii. From the Liberal to the Vulnerable Subject 103 C. Crime Victimhood as a Complex Universal Experience 104 III. Practical Consequences of the Proposed Conceptual Change 107 A. Recognizing a Range of Modes of Behavior 108 B. Deploying Inclusive Practices 110 C. Increasing State Involvement and Adapting Social 112 Institutions to the Needs of the Group Conclusion 114 INTRODUCTION
What do you think when you hear about someone who has suffered harm as a result of a crime? Most people tend to connect crime victimhood with helplessness. Crime victims are part of a social group that is almost automatically perceived as a weak group in society. (2) Victims are often described in a one-dimensional manner as inferior, passive, weak, ignorant, or pathetic. (3) Victims of crime, especially of sexual offenses and domestic violence, are at times accused of bringing the harm upon themselves due to what are labeled in some societies as non-normative behaviors. Such behaviors include dressing revealingly, acting flirtatiously, and walking alone in dangerous places. (4) In those instances, the victims may be held partially responsible for the harm suffered.
The link between victimization and marginalization is reinforced by social narratives that perpetuate the helpless image of victims of crime. These social narratives include the victimization discourse of radical feminism, (5) the focus of classic victimology on the factors of victimization and its negative consequences, (6) and the perception of humans as liberal and independent subjects, immune to harm. (7) These prominent narratives generate considerable knowledge, but along the way they contribute to perpetuating the marginalization of crime victims. Additionally, the "otherness" discourse assumes that as long as individuals behave according to social norms, no harm will come to them. (8) In this way, the prototype of the "victim" is created, and, at the same time, the social perception that victims of crime are located at the margins of society is reinforced. (9)
Yet, social hierarchies are human creations. As such, they are dynamic and changeable. (10) This Essay offers an intellectual exercise designed to challenge existing perceptions of crime victimhood by replacing prevalent narratives with alternative ones, breaking the stereotypes that shape victimhood in order to empower the victims. Using intersectionality" as a theoretical framework, we suggest a different reading of the identity characteristic of victimhood: not as representing weakness, which serves as grounds for exclusion and discrimination, but as granting personal and social power.
Intersectionality discusses the social stratification and hierarchy stemming from the presence of various identity axes. (12) An identity axis can be described as an imaginary line, with everyone located on it sharing a common characteristic. According to the theory, some identity axes are perceived by the prevailing social construction as axes of oppression, whereas others are seen as axes of domination. The axes of domination serve as the criteria with respect to which the other axes are measured and determined. (13) Those who are positioned on the axes of domination enjoy social privileges, whereas those positioned on the axes of oppression generally experience discrimination. (14) The convergence of various axes of identity creates an identity intersection. The intersection consists of a set of characteristics that affect each other in a way that creates complex and multi-dimensional identities. (15) The classification of the axes at the intersection affects the classification of the intersection within the social hierarchy. (16) Those located at high-status intersections, where several axes of domination meet, enjoy substantial social power that enables them to shape the boundaries of the norm and various social institutions. (17) By contrast, those located at the intersection of axes of oppression suffer from oppression and discrimination. (18)
This Essay proposes to conceptualize crime victimhood as an axis of identity. This axis stands in itself as a characteristic of identity, and it is not limited to a given gender, economic, or social affiliation. Moreover, the axis of victimhood is based on a flexible characterization that extends across a spectrum: a wide range of types of crimes and different types of harm resulting from the commission of any given offense distinguish between different types of victims located at different points along the axis. Furthermore, intersectionality highlights that an axis will never stand alone but always intersect with other axes, creating social complexity.
However, the axis of victimhood is generally perceived as an axis of oppression. Replacing the common narratives with alternative ones may create a social-cognitive change that can help relocate the axis to a higher position in the social hierarchy. This Essay presents three possible theories for converting "disempowering" narratives into "empowering" ones: (1) adopting the discourse of cultural feminism over radical feminism; (2) embracing positive victimology theories over traditional victimology; and (3) replacing the perception of humans as liberal subjects with theories that emphasize the inherent human vulnerability shared by all people. The "disempowering" narratives have a widespread presence in the victims' discourse. The proposed change in the perception of the axis of victimhood has important practical implications. Those positioned along the axes of domination enjoy flexibility in the design of social institutions. Therefore, they are more likely to easily promote their worldview. Thus, identifying crime victimhood as an identity characteristic located on a higher axis in the social hierarchy will enable crime victims to influence this design, and develop support mechanisms such as advancing crime victims' rights, advocating restorative justice for the victims, and even changing social norms attributed to victims through public discourse. For instance, the #MeToo campaign of 2018 and the Larry Nassar case illustrate our claim and show that recognition of the prevalence of crime victimhood affects the empowerment of the group of victims in a way that enables the expansion of the modes of action of group members, eliminating the shame and transferring power to members of the group.
Part I of this Essay presents the general theory of intersectionality. Part II analyzes the status of the axis of identity of crime victimhood. It also proposes adopting a conceptual change that would replace the stereotypical victim narratives with stories that emphasize victims' power and strength in coping with harm. Part III discusses the practical implications of the conceptual change. Finally, Part IV suggests future directions for developing the thought experiment proposed in this Essay.
Intersectionality is a conceptual framework developed by Professor Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, (19) which sheds light on social power relations and their stratification, and enables us to map them. (20) The theory traces elements of social similarity and variation that create a dynamic of hierarchy, subordination, and exclusion between different social groups, based on a multidimensional view of complex identities. (21) The theory usually revolves around categories that define certain identity characteristics, such as sex, sexual orientation, and race, and around the social forces that construct these categories. (22) Crenshaw explains that black women are at the intersection of two axes of oppression: an axis of sexist oppression, stemming from belonging to the biological axis as women, and an axis of racist oppression, stemming from their racial affiliation, which is African American. This position produces a life experience for black women that differs from that of white women, on the one hand, and that of black men, on the other, and establishes a system of discrimination that prevents recognition of their uniqueness and needs. (23) By exposing the social mapping, the theory of intersectionality helps analyze the power structures that dictate and preserve the existing social structure. (24)
In practice, those located at the intersections of oppression are discriminated against and deprived in various areas of life because of ignorance about their life experiences and unique needs. They are silenced and denied access to social resources. (25) To benefit from various social privileges, oppressed groups must show their similarity to the high-status intersection. (26) The need to resemble the ruling group also dictates what behaviors are considered normative and accepted. Those located along the axes and intersections of dominance dictate the behavioral norms in society. (27) At times, their point of view is accepted as the normative reference point, and they are perceived as authorized to speak for the general population. (28) This is not to say those located along the axes of dominance are entirely free of social constraints, (29) but their control of social resources gives them greater room to maneuver.
The power gaps and the imposition of a standard of behavior by those located at the intersections of dominance exist in the legal field as well. As Martha Minow explained, the legal treatment contains "an assumed point of comparison: women are compared to the unstated norm of men, 'minority' races to whites, handicapped persons to the able-bodied, and 'minority' religions to...