Penn State DuBois criminal justice students give campus talk on 'victimology'

Penn State DuBois students Lilia Lion, left, and Cierra Hoffman, right, at the conclusion of their victimology presentations in Hiller Auditorium.

Penn State DuBois students Lilia Lion, left, and Cierra Hoffman, right, at the conclusion of their victimology presentations in Hiller Auditorium.

Credit: Penn State

DuBOIS, Pa. — Two criminal justice students at Penn State DuBois recently shared presentations with the campus community on different types of victimology that they selected and researched for a class taught by Selena Price, lecturer in criminal justice. Both presentations were accompanied by a panel discussion with a victim specialist in each of the discussed areas.

Victimology is the study of the psychological effects of a crime on a person. It also examines the relationship between victims and offenders. The goal is to find patterns and tendencies that would allow for better understanding, education and prevention of crime and abuse, said the participants.

Fourth-year student Cierra Hoffman presented “Childhood Trauma: The Lifelong Effect of Child Abuse,” on Dec. 4; and third-year student Lilia Lion presented “Behind the Badge: Examining Domestic Violence Within Law Enforcement," on Dec. 6.

Hoffman began her presentation by asking those in attendance, “What is the meaning of child abuse to you?” Hoffman said she asked this question to allow listeners to reflect and respond with their own, unique thoughts, but also to draw attention to the fact that the term "child abuse" covers much more than the physical harm that one can see visually.

“Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver fails to act or acts in a way that causes harm to a child,” Hoffman said in her presentation. “Not every sign of injury or illness means that a child is being abused, but sometimes a deeper investigation is warranted.”

Hoffman spoke on how challenging a topic child abuse is, and how it often evokes painful feelings for many individuals and families. Child abuse is considered to be an epidemic in the United States, with more than three million Child Protective Services investigations or other investigations into child abuse in the year 2020, according to Hillside Inc., said Hoffman.

Hoffman highlighted in her presentation that there are four major types of child abuse: emotional, sexual, physical and neglect.

Hoffman highlighted the many ways in which abuse can happen that might fall under each type. For example, she said, neglect can include physical, medical and educational neglect — all these cause a child to suffer in some way. Hoffman also shared detailed statistics on child abuse, the causes of child abuse, and the signs of child abuse, to help it be further recognizable by everyone.

At the conclusion of her presentation, Hoffman then introduced Robin McMillen from Passages Inc., a sexual violence awareness and prevention agency serving Clarion, Clearfield and Jefferson counties. The organization provides a 24-hour hotline, counseling, legal advocacy, medical advocacy, and prevention and educational services throughout the area it serves. McMillen shared information on her experiences with child abuse, specifically highlighting the sexual abuse side that she sees through her organization. The audience had the opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts.

Lion's presentation focused on domestic violence often seen in law enforcement individuals, but noted at the start that her findings do not apply to every member of law enforcement. She began by giving an overview of what domestic violence is and what it includes.

“Domestic violence is when one person uses abusive or violent behavior to exert power over their partner,” Lion said in her presentation. “It includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse. Behaviors like manipulation, intimidation, isolation, humiliation, coercion, or even blaming, threatening, injuring, frightening, harming, stalking and terrorizing are common forms of domestic violence.”

Lion focused much of her research on intimate partner violence, which refers to intentional harm inflicted by one’s intimate partner, and how that pertains to those in law enforcement. According to Lion, recent studies have shown that law enforcement officers are more likely to be involved in abuse when compared to the general population, and the percentage of domestic violence is on the rise.

Continuing with her presentation, Lion shared testimony from a survivor of this kind of domestic violence, and the emotional and psychological impact domestic violence can have on an individual, including having and keeping relationships with others.

Lion also presented information about the barriers present in reporting intimate partner violence. While her information shows, she said, that some form of intimate partner abuse happens to an average of 24 people every minute, she shared that less than half of those incidences are reported. This might happen for several reasons, including victims' fear and also loyalty, Lion said.

Lion concluded with areas that she said she believes could be improved to help with domestic violence reporting and reducing domestic violence as well. She also shared information on support services in the local area.

Lion then introduced Becky Misko from the Crossroads Project. The Community Action, Inc. Crossroads Project helps domestic violence victims and their children remain safe by providing emergency shelter, a 24-hour hotline, community and school educational programs, options counseling, legal advocacy, and group support in Clearfield and Jefferson counties. A panel discussion was held with Lion, Misko and members of the audience, with Misko sharing information on domestic violence in the campus area and what services her organization offers to those in need.

“One day, these presenting students and the students who attended will be working in the field and more than likely they will come across someone who has been victimized,” said Price. “I want them to remember what they heard and learned here today, to have empathy and to listen, no matter the situation.”

For students who are in need, victim resources for Penn State DuBois students are available.