A Victim’s Power of Resilience

· February 5, 2018

The concept of resilience is complex and has many applications. Among them, it’s important to highlight victimology. This branch studies people who have suffered harm because of a crime. In other words, victims. 

Once we’ve gone through a traumatic experience, such as experiencing a criminal act firsthand, the best thing is to find a way to live a normal life. But this is not always easy. 

Researchers have studied different methods or processes that help people overcome trauma. In other words, they have studied the victims’ capacity for resilience.

What is victimology?

Authors differ on where this discipline fits in. Some say it should be part of criminology. Criminology is a wider field that studies crime, perpetrators, and victims. It also studies the interaction between the aforementioned parties and the context in which this all takes place.

I personally subscribe to this particular school of thought. However, there are other authors and experts on the subject that prefer to treat it as an independent branch.

Aside from that debate, what is truly important is that this field of study comes from the need to recognize the victim. The victim is the oft-forgotten subject in the world of crime. 

However, studying this subject can prevent future criminal acts as well as help victims.

a victim, a sad woman

The subject “originated” in 1973 during the First International Symposium of Victimology in Jerusalem, Israel. This event consolidated victimology as a true scientific discipline.


One of the lines of study within the specialty is the “process of victimization“. This is basically the transformation that leads someone to be or think of themselves as a victim.

This phenomenon involves many factors and causes that determine the response of the subject. Because, really, the perception of a traumatic event is always an individual process.

That’s why the process will never be the same for everyone. It will depend on personal, social, and cultural causes, etc.

The process of “de-victimization”

Considering its importance, resilience is a concept that has not been sufficiently studied. It’s based on two fundamental ideas: resisting the incident and restoring oneself. 

Some researchers, like Janoff-Bulman, created a scale of items to determine if a person was resilient or not. The items were a series of sentences or expressions for analyzing self-esteem and confrontational capacity.

The subject rates each phrase on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how strongly he or she agreed or disagreed with the sentence. From there, researchers get a result that they consider related to the subject’s resilience.

resilience as pictured by a flower growing out of a rock

Resilience in victims

Victims’ resilience refers to their capacity to overcome traumatic events. It’s their ability to not allow the event to negatively interfere in their daily lives. 

Different authors offer different definitions or perspectives on the subject. We basically have two distinct schools of thought:

  • French authors relate the concept to that of post-traumatic growth. This phenomenon studies or analyzes the possibility of learning and growing from adverse experiences.

We could summarize it as “you live, you learn.” It would be a positive projection of a negative event. Basically, you take something negative and make it beneficial.

  • Authors from the United States relate the concept to the process of coping. They would define it more as the person’s return to their previous life.

Victims can develop resilience. It is an ability that comes out of a dynamic process. Researchers have investigated its “origin” and the possible factors that encourage resilience.

Some personality traits favor the development of resilience, as do particular characteristics of our surroundings. However, the most important factor is our perception of ourselves. The more positive the perception, the higher our capacity for resilience.

a path in the woods

That definitely doesn’t mean that only resilient people can overcome traumatic events. But it helps. That’s why it is important to keep researching this particular area.

We need to know what factors help develop resilience. That way, we can find ways to encourage it and help victims of traumatic events overcome them with as little suffering as possible.