Second Wounds

Victims’ Rights and the Media in the U.S.

Second Wounds

Book Pages: 290 Illustrations: 4 photos, 12 figures Published: March 2011

Gender and Sexuality, Media Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Feminist Theory

The U.S. victims’ rights movement has transformed the way that violent crime is understood and represented in the United States. It has expanded the concept of victimhood to include family members and others close to direct victims, and it has argued that these secondary victims may be further traumatized through their encounters with insensitive journalists and the cold, impersonal nature of the criminal justice system. This concept of extended victimization has come to dominate representations of crime and the American criminal justice system. In Second Wounds, Carrie A. Rentschler examines how the victims’ rights movement brought about such a marked shift in how Americans define and portray crime. Analyzing the movement’s effective mobilization of activist networks and its implementation of media strategies, she interprets texts such as press kits, online victim memorials, and training materials for victims’ advocates and journalists. Rentschler also provides a genealogy of the victims’ rights movement from its emergence in the 1960s into the twenty-first century. She explains that while a “get tough on crime” outlook dominates the movement, the concept of secondary victimization has been invoked by activists across the political spectrum, including anti–death penalty advocates, who contend that the families of death-row inmates are also secondary victims of violent crime and the criminal justice system.


Second Wounds is an elegant, moving cross-disciplinary investigation into representational debates about victims’ rights…. [A] difficult yet compelling read.” — Nina Seja, Media International Australia

“[Rentschler’s] intervention into and revaluation of the politics of victimization is a welcome addition to discussions of victimization that find in the rhetoric of victimization (and the speaking position of victim) only disempowerment, resentment, or the flowering of a repressively punitive political project. . . . It will be of interest to a variety of scholars, including those interested in the cross-disciplinary study of trauma and its representation and those in the fields of American studies, media studies, cultural studies, gender studies, and criminology.” — Jennifer Peterson, International Journal of Communication

“For journalism, media, and communication faculty, Second Wounds provides a solid resource for better explaining and examining what victims experience when interacting with media following a crime or tragedy. . . . Second Wounds offers students and scholars alike much to consider with regard to victims of crime in America today.” — Wendy Townley, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator

“Cultural Studies at its best, Second Wounds makes a significant intervention into contemporary US political culture—  not by adopting an ideological filter for cultural analysis, but by offering a nuanced history and critical analysis of the victims’ rights movement in all of its complexity.” — Rachel Hall, Cultural Studies

“[A] thoughtful, provocative, and critical analysis of the victims’ rights movement and victim advocacy. . . .  The author draws on multiple disciplines in framing her argument and her analysis is appropriate for the goal of the project. I highly recommend the book.” — Steven Chermak, Theoretical Criminology

Second Wounds is a nuanced study of how victims’ rights have become important factors not only in criminal justice cases but also in how crime is covered by journalists and understood as a social phenomenon. In this complex analysis of the rise of the victims’ rights movement, Carrie A. Rentschler explicates the politics of victimization while remaining sympathetic to activists. Based on original interpretations of legal discourse, cultural studies, feminist theory, and media studies, Second Wounds is interdisciplinary scholarship at its best.” — Marita Sturken, author of Tourists of History

Second Wounds is a terrific book, an important, timely work of cultural history grounded in thorough research and inventive analysis. Carrie A. Rentschler offers a deft account of the origin of victims’ rights advocacy and its influence on thinking about violence across the political, psychological, and media professions, and through them, across American public life.” — Fred Turner, author of From Counterculture to Cyberculture


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction. The Victims' Rights Movement and the Second Wound 1

Part One. The Life and Times of Victims' Rights

1. Law and Order: The Dominant Ideology of Victims' Rights 33

2. An Activist History of Victims' Rights 55

Part Two. Opening and Closing the Second Wound: Representing Victims

3. Meet the Press: Representing Victims' Rights 83

4. Undisclosed Sources: Victims' Rights and Journalism Training 113

5. Profiles of Life: News Memorials to the Dead 137

6. Faces of Murder 177

Conclusion. Giving Face to the Family as Victim 211

Notes 223

Bibliography 233

Index 257
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4949-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4930-3
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