VICTIMS by J. L. Barkas
Kirkus Star


Email this review


Barkas' concern for what she terms ""America's most forgotten and persecuted minority""--victims of crime--derives initially from the senseless murder of a brother. To her credit, she has buttressed her indignation with newly gained knowledge of the criminal justice system and the traumas suffered by victims and their families. The aftershocks of assault, murder, rape, or burglary, she points out, may be as severe and damaging as the event itself. Barkas has taped interviews with scores of victims who testify to the persistence of phobias, tremors, guilt, and mistrust long after the crime. Police, prosecutors, and even friends often deal with victims callously or cruelly. The tradition of blaming the victim is an old one; certainly it predates TV, and Barkas finds that writers from Dostoevsky to Dreiser to Judith Rossner are among those who've attached their sympathies wrongly--on the perpetrator. Whatever the literary merits of her argument, Barkas' point is socially incontestable. Criminology has long disregarded victims except to infer their complicity; criminals get ""treated,"" fed, housed, sometimes schooled at state expense; victims fend for themselves, putting together their battered bodies, finances, and psyches as best they can. Barkas is not, finally, advocating the ""eye-for-an-eye"" philosophy, whatever ""get tough"" legislators make of it. Yet she points to the uncomfortable fact that victims' revenge fantasies are very real, and suggests strongly that they need some outlet--financial restitution or compensation is the least a society can do to acknowledge the wronged party. A timely book, extensively documented, which tries to deal both rationally and feelingly with what is fast becoming a volatile social and political issue.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1978
Publisher: Scribners