Navigating the Invisible: Understanding Unknowing Victims and the Complexities of Liminality

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Have you ever thought about the victims of crimes who don’t even know they’ve been victimized? In a thought-provoking article titled Recognizing the Paradigm of the Unknowing Victim and the Implications of Liminality authors delve into this less-discussed aspect of criminology and victimology, introducing us to the concept of Unknowing Victims (UVs).

The Unknowing Victim: A Hidden Realm in Victimology

Typically, when we think of victims, we imagine someone aware of their suffering due to a crime. However, the concept of UVs challenges this notion. These are individuals who have been victimized but remain unaware of it. Imagine a person who has been covertly photographed without consent or someone drugged and assaulted without their knowledge. These victims live in a state of liminality – on the brink of unknowingness and the realization of their victimhood.

Victimology’s Blind Spot: The Case of UVs

Victimology, the study of victims, often overlooks UVs due to their unique nature. Their suffering is invisible not only to society but to themselves. This creates a significant gap in understanding and responding to their needs. The article argues that acknowledging UVs and understanding their liminal state is crucial for a more comprehensive approach in criminology and victim support.

Ethical Dilemmas in Unveiling the Truth

Informing UVs about their victimization poses ethical challenges. On one hand, knowledge could lead to empowerment, enabling them to seek justice or support. On the other, it might inflict trauma and disrupt their life narrative. This delicate balance demands careful consideration, tailored to each victim’s context, especially for those from marginalized or minority backgrounds.

Liminality: A Critical Transition Phase

The state of liminality in UVs refers to their transition from unawareness to awareness of being victimized. This phase is complex and fraught with potential for further harm. Criminal justice systems and support services must navigate this phase sensitively, ensuring that the disclosure of victimhood is handled with utmost care and ethical consideration.

Implications for Policy and Practice

Recognizing UVs challenges current victimology practices and calls for a more nuanced approach. This includes developing specific training for law enforcement and support services, focusing on the ethical implications of disclosing victimhood to UVs. Empirical research involving victims’ voices is essential to shape policies and practices that are truly victim-centered.


The concept of UVs opens a new window into understanding victimology. It highlights the need for a dynamic approach that considers the complexities of victimhood, especially for those who are yet to realize their own victim status. As we expand our understanding of what it means to be a victim, we must adapt our legal and support systems to meet the unique needs of UVs, ensuring that no victim remains invisible.

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