Cover of Victims
Victims' Rights and Victims' Wrongs
Comparative Liability in Criminal Law
Vera Bergelson

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2009
248 pp.
$52.50

Cloth ISBN: 9780804755382
Digital ISBN: 9780804772433
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"Don't blame the victim" is a cornerstone maxim of Anglo-American jurisprudence, but should the law generally ignore a victim's behavior in determining a defendant's liability? Victims' Rights and Victims' Wrongs criticizes the current criminal law approach and outlines a more fair, coherent, and efficient set of rules to recognize that victims sometimes co-author their own losses or injuries.

Evaluating a number of controversial cases involving euthanasia, sadomasochism, date rape, battered wives, and "innocent" aggressors, Vera Bergelson builds a theoretical foundation for reform. Her approach to comparative criminal liability takes into account the actions of both the perpetrator and the victim and offers a unitary explanation for consent, self-defense, and provocation. This innovative book supplies a practical and coherent mechanism for evaluating the impact of a victim's conduct on a perpetrator's liability in a variety of circumstances, including those that are now artificially excluded from comparative analysis.

About the author

Vera Bergelson is Professor of Law and Robert E. Knowlton Scholar at Rutgers University.

"Her thesis raises a number of interesting and important questions. . .Bergelson develops these ideas with a clear eye for a good argument, and an impressive breadth of engagement."

—Christopher Bennet, Criminal Law and Philosophy

"This book boldly challenges the entrenched conviction that the perpetrator's liability does not depend on the conduct of the victim. It's time we rethink this conviction, and Bergelson succeeds in providing a vision of rights that explains existing criminal law doctrines and exposes the difficulties of alternative theories."

—Alon Harel, Hebrew University Law School

"This is a work of breath-taking intellectual courage and honesty. In the face of a crescendo of demands to protect victims' rights, Professor Bergelson has the temerity to suggest that sometimes—and perhaps often—the criminal justice system should blame victims for the crimes they have endured. Professor Bergelson's remarkably careful, cogent, and insightful analysis probes the moral, legal, and sociological ingredients of criminal wrongdoing to make surprisingly plausible the discipline-shattering conclusion that the criminal law should exonerate wrongdoers in proportion to the blame that can be assigned to victims for the wrongs done to them." —Heidi M. Hurd, University of Illinois

"Bergelson, the author of many articles on victims' rights, is well qualified to prepare this book, which calls for reform of laws dealing with criminal liability.... The arguments are cogent and easy to follow, and the book includes an excellent bibliography and a useful index."

—R. A. Carp, Choice