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‘Comprehensive handbook victims’ – Interview with Janne van Doorn

What do scholars, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service, the police, the National Rapporteur Human Trafficking, Victim Support Netherlands, and the Violent Offences Compensation Fund have in common? They all work with victims, each from their own expertise. High time to combine that knowledge, according to Leiden researchers.

The book is the first of its kind

Researchers from Leiden Law School wrote and edited the book ‘Slachtoffers: Onderzoek, beleid en praktijk’ (Victims: Research, policy, and practice) in collaboration with fellow researchers from other universities. The compilation ‘is complete and diverse’ and addresses ‘insights from academia and practice’, says Janne van Doorn, author and editor, and assistant professor at the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology at Leiden Law School. 

There are quite a few parties out there who are in fact conducting research into victims, also known as victimology, but ‘they don’t always call themselves victimologists’, says Van Doorn. ‘With this book we fill a void, because although you can take a purely academic approach to studying victimhood, that won’t necessarily give you a clear picture: the knowledge and expertise from people working in the field is invaluable.’ To be able to oversee the entire playing field, the editors have selected a wide range of topics and approached a variety of authors.

The diversity in topics can also be seen in the contributions of the staff members of the Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology: Van Doorn wrote about ‘honour related violence’; Maarten Kunst, professor in criminology, chose ‘victimhood as traumatic event’, and Jelle Brands, assistant professor at the faculty, discussed ‘fear of victimhood’. Van Doorn and Kunst collaborated on writing the chapter ‘credibility assessments in legal proceedings’.

The importance of a contemplative book

When it comes to the rights of victims, the focus has historically always been on embedding those rights into the legal system. Van Doorn: ‘The role of the victims has been ignored for a very long time.’

Now that there is a legal basis, Van Doorn believes it is important to take a closer look at those acquired rights, such as a victim’s right to be heard in criminal proceedings. ‘It’s important for victims' rights to be based on thorough research. We’ll also have to evaluate those rights from time to time.’ Take for instance access to all those rights: ‘it’s not always a given that everyone can exercise their right to be heard, let alone to the same extent. So, it’s good to take the time to reflect on the intent of certain rights and to see if those intents are actually met.’

Yet even a recently published and complete book is not without ‘defects’. Van Doorn: ‘if you really want to delve deeper, each chapter [there are 40 chapters, red] deserves its own book. We may have to publish a new edition in five years or so.’

Attention for the book on a high administrative level

But for now, it is time to celebrate: on 20 April there will be a book launch during which the editors will be presenting the book to a very special guest: Minister Franc Weerwind. As minister of legal protection, Weerwind is already in close contact with all the different victimologists. 

The event will also be the first time that the authors and editors will be able to meet up: due to Covid it has been impossible to organise such a meeting before now. So, this is also a festive occasion from that perspective. 

If you are interested in attending the book launch, please register here

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