Middle Tennessee State University
This research applied Andrew Karmen’s classifications of shared responsibility to the fictional victimizations of “anonymous victims” in the television program CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, exploring the extent to which male and female victims were considered responsible for their attacks. Findings indicate a disparity between the victimization of men and women. Storylines and visual aesthetics suggested that the victimization of anonymous men was random, therefore, male victims were not responsible for their crimes and were considered “completely innocent.” The victimization of anonymous men was quick and no sexual assault was involved. Female victims, on the other hand, were typically considered “facilitators” in their victimizations because they ignored basic rules of crime prevention or behaved in a “sexually inviting” manner. Almost all female victims were sexually assaulted and murdered, suggesting that they were not just killed, but were punished for their careless behavior. For both male and female victims, resistance proved to be futile and, in some cases, incited further attack.
Given the popularity of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, these findings are alarming. Numerous storylines convey the message that that women place themselves in danger and therefore are, to extent, responsible for becoming victims, whereas, male victims are “completely innocent.” These diverging representations perpetuate myths about rape (that women somehow “ask for it”) and overall reinforce a patriarchal hegemony in which women are too vulnerable to venture alone in public. By implicating female victims in their crimes, these fictional representations could hinder overall support in victimization discourse, and may discourage victims from reporting their crimes.