The Young and the Helpless: Re-Defining the Term 'Child Victim of Crime'

44 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2014 Last revised: 15 Apr 2017

See all articles by Michal Gilad

Michal Gilad

University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: July 16, 2014


Children are the most highly victimized segments of our society. The victimization of children is estimated to be the most costly public health and public safety problem today.

Despite the urgency of the problem, and the proliferation of literature and policy proposals pertinent to childhood victimization, thus far, no significant efforts have been made to design a coherent definition to the term ‘child victim of crime.’ Existing definitions fail to account for the distinct developmental needs of children, and the unique effect of crime on children.

The result of this lacuna is a colossal failure of our legal system to protect the most vulnerable and impressionable group, our children. It also leads to wasteful and inefficient utilization of public funds, and compromises public safety.

This article provides a comprehensive framework, that bridges theory and practice, to develop an innovative evidence-based definition to the term ‘child victim of crime’. Implementation of the proposed definition will enable the protection and treatment of millions of children crippled by crime, who currently fall beyond the boundaries of narrow policies designed for adults and unsuitable for children. It will also help improve public safely, and save invaluable public resources.

Keywords: crime, children, victims, developmental victimology, definitions, criminal law, law and social science, best interest of the child, VOCA, VAWA, crime victim services, CAPTA, violence, child protection, exposure to violence, child witnesses, parental incarceration

Suggested Citation

Gilad, Michal, The Young and the Helpless: Re-Defining the Term 'Child Victim of Crime' (July 16, 2014). U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 14-23, Available at SSRN: or

Michal Gilad (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA
United States

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