Vulnerable Victims

Vulnerability implicitly entails a situation of risk. Individuals or communities in fragile situations are vulnerable due to social, economic, environmental, or other reasons. Our legislation acknowledges the particular vulnerability of certain at-risk groups, such as people in public calamities, children and adolescents, the elderly, disabled individuals, victims of domestic and family violence, racism, terrorism, sexual crimes, human trafficking, the LGBTQIAPN+ community, and victims of misogyny, to name a few examples. However, significant progress is still needed regarding protective measures for victims in vulnerable situations. If you or someone you know is in such a situation, seek specialised help. Supporting a victim at risk is crucial as you might be the only support network they encounter throughout their journey.

Social and individual vulnerability reproduce domination patterns hindering significant progress towards equity or social justice. Their living conditions, representations, gender, origin, and social class differences are unknown to established law and thus to the use of legitimate violence, whether they are positioned as a victim or offender in a given process.

There needs to be an awakening of the humanitarian consciousness regarding daily violence practised by legal practitioners against victims, offenders, and the members of the justice system itself. We live in a continuum of self-perpetuating violence due to the lack of established viable and consensual ways to administer justice. The benefits of using victim-offender conferences instead of merely negotiated solutions are substantial. This approach not only restores the violated dignity of the victim but also contributes to the reeducation and reintegration of the offender, who actively takes responsibility for their mistakes, refusing the infantilisation imposed by the procedural formula in the name of presumed innocence. Under this presumption, criminal processes are delayed for years, damages go unprepared, and violence rates increase exponentially without anyone questioning if the procedural formulas used for four hundred years as guarantees for the citizen against the state are still valid in a Welfare Society.

The central role of the victim in the development of public policies that address individual and collective vulnerabilities in the face of traumatic events is both a challenging and current issue.

Merely existing exposes one to potential harm (Latin vulnus). The fundamental dependency inherent to the human condition and the need for establishing connections constitutes the primary form of vulnerability that knows no social barriers or classes.

Without intending to exhaust all possibilities of individual and social vulnerability, here you will find provisions contained in the Penal Code that acknowledge the victim’s vulnerability and, therefore, the need for special treatment by all professionals involved in their care.

The victim’s unique vulnerability can stem from their young or advanced age, health condition, or the fact that the aggressor is a family member or part of an intimate social group where the victim is subordinate or dependent. This refers to individuals who are particularly defenceless due to age, disability, illness, pregnancy, economic dependency, cohabitation with the aggressor, etc. This relates to the type, degree, and duration of victimisation resulting in severe psychological imbalance or social integration conditions, evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If you believe you are in one of these situations, inform the public prosecutor, police officer, or judge responsible for your case so that special protective and supportive measures can be adhered to.

The World Health Organization proposes a classification according to which there can be Primary Prevention, Secondary Prevention, and Tertiary Prevention. Primary prevention aims to prevent the emergence of disease through vaccination and information. Secondary prevention aims to detect and screen for the disease to prevent its spread and the aggravation of its individual and collective effects. Tertiary prevention aims to avoid disease sequels and relapses, aiming to combat the recurrence of violent behaviours by offenders. Secondary and tertiary preventive interventions are palliative and repressive measures against violence (cf. Ferreira da Cunha, 2016, p. 222/223).

Victim of Gender-Based Violence

What is gender-based violence? The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) sets minimum standards for state actions to promote women's human rights and suppress violations. It defines discrimination as: Any distinction, exclusion, or restriction based on sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on the basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field" (Article 1, CEDAW). The Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence Against Women, held in 1994 in Belém, Pará, defined such practices as an offence to human dignity and a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between women and men. The United Nations defines violence against women as "any act of violence based on gender that results or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether in public or private life." This violence affects all ages, from infants to the elderly, manifesting differently: physical, psychological, sexual, financial, and moral. The concept of gender-based violence has expanded to encompass any physical, psychological, sexual, or symbolic aggression against someone vulnerable due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.


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