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Judging Victims: Why We Stigmatize Survivors, and How They Reclaim Respect

Jennifer L. Dunn
Judging Victims: Why We Stigmatize Survivors, and How They Reclaim Respect
ISBN: 978-1-58826-702-3
ISBN: 978-1-58826-819-8
2012/241 pages/LC: 2009036831
Social Problems, Social Constructions
"[An] impeccably researched and well-argued book."—Karen G. Weiss, Social Forces

"Not only makes an original contribution to the study of victimization but also serves as a fine primer about the history of victim movements.... An excellent book.... Essential."—Choice

"Dunn's study of the stories we create and tell about victims not only aptly captures the controversies that have erupted over these narratives, but also the consequences the characterizations and their uses have for those who have experienced specific types of violence. I applaud her careful and reasoned analysis and the accessible style through which she shares it in this book."—Claire M. Renzetti, University of Dayton

"Subtle, yet accessible and a pleasure to read. Dunn gives us a sophisticated new framework for thinking about victims of violence and fresh insight into why our larger culture calls their claims—and the victims' own morality—into question."—Joel Best, University of Delaware

"An important book…. Dunn addresses significant practical questions that are also theoretically intriguing in this empirical exploration of the cultural category of 'victim.'"—Donileen Loseke, University of South Florida 


Choice Outstanding Academic Book!

"Why didn't she resist?" "Why is he telling us only now?" "Why can't she move on?" Unpacking the questions that cast victims as deviants, Jennifer Dunn critically examines why we stigmatize survivors of rape, battering, incest, and clergy abuse—and how they reclaim their identities.

Dunn explores the shifting perceptions over time of victims as blameworthy, blameless, pathetic, or heroic figures. She also links those images to their real-world consequences, demonstrating that they dominate the ways in which people think about intimate violence and individual responsibility. Her analysis cuts to the core of fundamental issues at the center of debates about crime and deviance, victimization, and social problems.


Jennifer L. Dunn is professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University. Her book Courting Disaster: Intimate Stalking, Culture, and Criminal Justice received the Charles Horton Cooley book prize. 


  • Vocabularies of Victimization: Sympathy, Agency, and Identity.
  • Survivor Movements Then and Now.
  • The Anti-Rape Movement and Blameworthy Victims.
  • The Battered Women's Movement and Blameless Victims.
  • "Backlash" and Pathetic Victims.
  • Survivors of Clergy Abuse and Admirable Victims.
  • The Vanguard of Victimology: Survivors, Identity Work, and Cultural Change.