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Revisiting the “Ideal Victim”Developments in Critical Victimology$
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Marian Duggan

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781447338765

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447338765.001.0001

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‘Our most precious possession of all’1: the survivor of non-recent childhood sexual abuse as the ideal victim?

‘Our most precious possession of all’1: the survivor of non-recent childhood sexual abuse as the ideal victim?

Chapter:
Seven ‘Our most precious possession of all’1: the survivor of non-recent childhood sexual abuse as the ideal victim?
Source:
Revisiting the “Ideal Victim”
Author(s):

Sinéad Ring

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781447338765.003.0009

A key contribution of Christie’s has been to show that the notion of the ideal victim (and offender) is concerned with meaning-making. It helps society to make sense of the suffering of individuals, and to respond appropriately to individuals’ demands for justice. However, as Christie (1986) makes clear, in order to qualify as an ideal victim, a person cannot threaten established social hierarchies. Similarly, the ideal offender must be someone who does not threaten the status quo: they must be outside the norm, a kind of monster. The contours of who can and cannot be an ideal victim or ideal offender illuminate the values held by a particular society. This chapter examines the salience of Christie's conceptualisation of the ideal victim/offender in the context of legal and political responses in Ireland to reports of historical childhood sexual abuse. It argues that abusers were typically constructed as monstrous, but victims were not ‘ideal’ because they threatened the established order of Church and State. It is argued that, contrary to Christie, non-ideal victims may still gain political purchase, if their offenders are constructed as ideal offenders.

Keywords:   child sexual abuse, historical sexual abuse, ideal offenders, Ireland, Catholic church, state accountability

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