This Study explored the living conditions of victims of crime and the experiences with and perception of social support for crime victims in detail, through questionnaire surveys and in-depth interviews, which targeted not only victims of various crimes but also staffs working in various crime victim support institutions. Through such interviews and surveys, this Study sought to widen the scope of researches on crime victims and systems/activities aimed at providing support for crime victims, while deepening them at the same time. The data analyzed in this Study were collected from surveys on 620 crime victims or their families, 214 staffs working at the relevant institutions, as well as interviews with 44 crime victims and their families, and 19 staffs working at the relevant institutions. The key findings are as follows.
First, the questionnaire surveys on crime victims and their families revealed that victims relying on crime victim support institutions comprised a extremely small portion of the overall crime victims, and the even smaller group of victims of serious crimes showed different characteristics from the other victims in terms of the type of harm suffered, relationship with the assailant and financial state, etc. This suggests the need to fully consider diversity within the crime victim group.
Second, both crime victims and institution staffs pointed out the need for financial support and medical support. This emphasis was also found during interviews, where the crime victims reported that they are seriously concerned about their physical or mental injury and the serious financial burden for physical and mental recovery, and their very livelihood is being threatened by financial instability. And the interviews also revealed cases of secondary victimization where the victim suffered additional harms from personnel lacking proper training during the legal proceedings, and some victims were deprived of their normal life out of fear for retaliation. The above findings show us that it is imperative to take immediate actions including special education for persons in charge of legal assistance for crime victims, and provision of temporary residence to protect the victims.
Third, victims experienced different types of difficulties during investigation or court proceedings. Victims of sexual crime, in particular, faced numerous difficulties during investigation and court proceedings, including being asked about their personal lives. Therefore, the institutions in charge of criminal investigation and trial should take caution not to put the case and trial over the position and circumstances of the victims.
Fourth, supports provided to crime victims in South Korea main focus on victims of violent crimes, such as homicide, robbery and rape. Supports provided to victims of property crimes are extremely limited. The surveys revealed that victims of property crimes also suffer from various forms of mental injury - which include loss of confidence in social relationships, and experience various difficulties while proceeding with procedures to recover from injuries and bringing the assailants to justice. To understand these aspects experienced by crime victims, we need to consider the actual qualitative level of the specific harm inflicted, rather than simply relying on criminal categories prescribed by the law：such efforts will represent a progressive direction for the future protection and support for crime victims to take.
Fifth, as for satisfaction with crime victim support institutions widely used by victims of crime, the victims reported more than average satisfaction with all institutions, and answered that the staffs were professional. On the other hand, the staffs themselves answered that they lack expertise related with crime victim support：such recognition is likely to result in active participation in expert training and education, which will positively affect development of the crime victim support system in the future.
This study is limited in terms of the representativeness of the samples analyzed. Although the researchers did try to eliminate possible sample bias by including subjects with experience as crime victim randomly selected from the general public, as well as contacting victims through support institutions, the samples were collected only from Seoul and Gyeonggi regions, and the number of the samples actually interviewed was small, which renders generalizing the findings of the interviews to the crime victim group in general. Despite such limitations, as an attempt to overcome the current difficulties with crime victim surveys, this study will be able to provide various implications for future research efforts.
This study verified the diversity within the crime victim group, direct/indirect difficulties caused by the harm suffered and the specific supports required by the victims. The needs of crime victims in such respects were found to be similar to those identified by the staffs working at the support institutions, which is expected work favorably for establishing a more advanced system for crime victim support. More in-depth researches on the harms themselves are required if the crime victim survey is to go beyond mere supplement to the national crime victim survey conducted on large samples. In addition, we need to extend efforts to apply new methodologies, for example by forming a panel of interviewees so that we may look into the details of social supports provided in sequence, so as to reveal the actual process of restitution.