The suffering of victims and of the people who are very close to them always has been a popular theme for artists and writers to interpret and for political and religious leaders to address. But this long and rich tradition embodies what might be categorized as the subjective approach to the plight of vic- tims, since issues are approached from the stand- point of morality, ethics, philosophy, personalized reactions, and intense emotions. Victimologists examine these same topics and incidents from a fresh, new angle: through a social science lens. Objectivity is the hallmark of any social scientific endeavor. Scientific objectivity requires that the observer try to be fair, open-minded, evenhanded, dispassionate, neutral, and unbiased. Objectivity means not taking sides, not showing favoritism, not allowing personal prejudices to sidetrack analy- ses, not permitting emotion to cloud reasoning, and not letting the dominant views of the times dictate conclusions and recommendations.

Prescriptions to remain disinterested and unin- volved are easier to abide by when the incidents under scrutiny happened long ago and far away. It is much harder to maintain social distance when investigating the plight of real people right here and right now. These scientific tenets are extremely difficult to live up to when the subject matter—the depredations inflicted by lawbreakers—connects to widely held beliefs about good and evil, right and wrong, and justice and unfairness. Most offen- ders show such callous disregard and depraved


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indifference toward the human beings they have cold-bloodedly targeted as depersonalized objects that it is difficult to avoid being caught up and swept away by strong emotional currents. Consider how natural it is to identify with those on the receiving end of violent attacks, to feel empathy and sympathy toward them, and to bristle with hostility toward the aggressors, as in the following real-life cases (all involving college students):

A 22-year-old student government president is car- jacked and kidnapped by two armed young men, 21 and 17 years old, and forced to withdraw money from an ATM. Next, they drive their hostage to a remote location in the woods, molest her, and then decide to kill her since she could identify them. She pleads for her life and urges them to pray with her. Instead, one shoots her four times. But she still can move and talk, so he blasts her with a shotgun to finish her off. The two assailants are caught and convicted of murder. (Velliquette, 2011)

A 22-year-old college student who aspires to become a police officer works in a bakery. But he is gunned down in his home by a gang of young men who barge in and mistake him for his look-alike younger brother, who had gotten them in trouble with the authorities. “He was one of the best boys you will ever find,” his mother laments. (Bultman and Jaccarino, 2010)

A sophomore attends a campus party and leaves alone around midnight. About 2 am, footage from a sur- veillance camera shows her walking in a downtown pedestrian mall followed by a man. After that she disappears, and her family, friends and volunteers undertake the largest hunt for a missing person in the state’s history. Over a month later, her remains are discovered on an abandoned property about 8 miles away from the mall, and the police arrest the man in the video, who is linked by forensic evidence to other attacks. Students at her university organize a memorial during homecoming weekend, and her parents thank the police and the volunteers who searched for her, but

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