Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Much effort on the part of researchers from all social science disciplines has gone into studying the effect of crime on its victims, their treatment by the criminal justice system, and others who routinely come into contact with them. This research has shown a need for improved treatment of crime victims by service providers and other helpers. Because empathy plays such an important role in mediating an individual's response to another's victimization, reliable methods to evaluate and foster empathy are needed. Increased empathy for victims on the part of police officers, prosecutors, health care providers, friends and family, could help prevent revictimization caused by victim blaming and other aversive responses, as well as lessen the negative psychological consequences experienced by most victims.

The Victim Empathy Scale (VES) was developed by the author in a previous study as a measure of emotional empathy for victims of violent crime. The scale proved to have a high level of reliability, and factor analysis showed the scale was measuring one construct.

The present study focuses on assessing the validity of the VES, Subjects were 228 undergraduate university students. Convergent validity was shown by a positive correlation with the Rape Empathy Scale, a measure of empathy for rape victims that has demonstrated validity. Discriminant validity was shown by an insignificant correlation with the Marlowe/Crowne Social Desirability Scale, a measure found useful for reducing the confounding effects of responses selected solely for their perceived social desirability. Predictive validity was shown in a study in which subjects viewed a videotaped therapy session with either a male or female crime victim (portrayed by actors). The "victim" discussed his/her response to either or a robbery during which a physical assault occurred or a sexual assault. Subjects completed a 10-item Emotion Response Questionnaire developed for this study. Results indicated that women showed more empathy for the crime victim than did men, and that age, subject's prior victimization, type of assault, and gender of victim significantly affected the level of empathy reported by subjects. VES scores were positively correlated with those from the Emotional Response Questionnaire.