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Responsibility toward victims’ rights

Henry, Carl F. H
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) In God and the victim: Theological reflections on evil, victimization, justice, and forgiveness, ed. Lisa Barnes Lampman and Michelle D. Shattuck, 61-69. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; and Neighbors Who Care: Washington, D.C.

Carl Henry, a professor of theology, notes the common definition of a victim as one who has suffered from the aggression of another, with the aggressor bearing responsibility for causing injury. Yet, in some contemporary thought this notion is reversed. The perpetrator of harm is viewed as the victim of an unjust and oppressive society. Responsibility for offending behavior lies not so much with the offender as with the society that produced this person. Henry urges a more complex perspective than the alternatives of the individual’s absolute responsibility or the responsibility of a determining social environment. In Henry’s view, all of us, including victims, have potential for evil and wrongdoing; and all of us bear some responsibility for social conditions that foster wrongdoing and crime. Hence, we must assist victims, yet we must also treat offenders humanely and desire their spiritual repentance and redemption.


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