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Constitutional Considerations: Government Responsibility and the Right Not to be a Victim
Pepperdine Law Review (1984)
  • Richard L. Aynes, University of Akron School of Law
In an era of increasing concern over crime and the growth of government agencies into bureaucratic institutions which may not readily respond to individual needs, support for legislative and private actions to establish and protect the rights of the victims of criminal acts has blossomed. These actions generally fall into two categories: those which are directed at making the victim "whole" by compensation, medical aid, and other similar programs; and those directed at requiring government employees, including prosecutors, police officers, and judges to share more information with the victim, to involve the victim in the criminal justice process, and to treat the victim in a more courteous and dignified manner. These concerns appear to have originated in modern times as a result of the women's rights movement and its efforts to protect the welfare of rape victims. Such efforts were often initiated in the form of private help-groups that offered counseling, shelter, and support. These efforts quickly expanded to include public actions such as reform in the manner in which rape cases were "processed" and the enactment of rape/shield laws establishing limitations on cross-examination about past sexual experiences. With the movement to protect rape victims as a guide, concern for the victims of crimes spread to include other identifiable groups, particularly the elderly and victims of domestic violence, causing the enactment of similar private and public programs. These types of programs convinced many that there was a need to offer greater protection to all victims of crime. In recent years this concern has resulted, not only in a number of legislative enactments dealing with matters such as victim compensation, but also in more comprehensive bills at both the state and federal levels designed to significantly alter the role of the victim in the civil and criminal justice systems by defining and implementing a series of "victims' rights." Those legislative enactments are commendable because they attempt to bring about long over-due reforms. As positive as those efforts may be, however, they overlook, and may even obscure, the most fundamental right of all: the right not to be a victim. "It is all very well to counsel and compensate a victim who has been hit on the head, but the chances are that he would rather not have been hit on the head in the first place." It is that right, and the remedies for its violation, that this article seeks to explore. Article includes analysis of historical background of fourteenth amendment.
  • Fourteenth Amendment
Publication Date
Citation Information
Richard L. Aynes, Constitutional Considerations: Government Responsibility and the Right Not to be a Victim, 11 Pepperdine Law Review 63 (1984).