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The Victim-Offender Overlap: One Class of Crime Victim Rarely Seeks, Receives Available Services

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2021

This resource looks at how first responders can help offenders who become crime victims connect with existing services despite formidable systemic barriers to post-injury services for this distinct crime victim subset. 


In communities low on resources, but high on violence, the same individual is often both a victim of violent crime and a violent offender. Criminal justice scholarship has long recognized that split existence, known as the victim-offender overlap. The literature to date has mainly focused on formative influences on the victim-offender overlap. A key insight from the 1980s was that dual victim-offender status is largely reflective of the retaliatory violence prevalent in underprivileged urban areas. Far less light has been shed on post-crime consequences of those violent street encounters for their victims, and in particular whether and how victims who also are offenders are guided toward or seek help for their serious injuries and other harms, such as psychological trauma, caused by criminal assaults. Recent research sponsored by the National Institute of Justice has examined the help-seeking and help-finding behavior of those victims. On the positive side, a study of inner-city Philadelphia crime victims by a Temple University team found that when police respond to crimes involving serious injury, that response improves the odds that the victim will receive one of four key types of post-injury services. That measurable benefit, however, does not alter the bottom-line reality that crime victims who are also offenders are highly unlikely, overall, to seek or receive any victim services. In the end, only 16% of victims in the study reported having accessed any of the key victim services. Inability of offender-victims to connect with victim support services can have profound consequences, for victims and communities. The report recognized formidable systemic barriers to post-injury services for this distinct crime victim subset, including a “Good Victim/Bad Offender” dichotomy, Victims of Crime Act ineligibility, and a lack of victim awareness of services.

Date Published: March 1, 2021