The Department of Justice Canada defines a victim as “…any person who is harmed, killed, or suffering as a result of an accident or intentional act or situation. The victim may experience suffering and loss, e.g. physical, psychological, emotional, financial, social, medical, and others”.

The important points of this definition include:

Any person – anyone can become a victim and there may be one victim or many victims from any situation.

Harmed, killed or suffering – there can be primary, secondary or tertiary victims involved in any situation.

  • Primary victims – those directly involved in the critical event, e.g. the deceased, the injured and their loved ones.
  • Secondary victims – those who are in some way observers of immediate traumatic effects on primary victims, e.g. eyewitnesses, rescuers, converging rescuers.
  • Tertiary victims – those removed from the critical event but who are nonetheless impacted through encountering a primary or secondary victim, e.g. immediate neighbours, community members, former victims.

Accidental or intentional act or situation – victimization may result from acts or situations which may or may not be a crime and may or may not have a perpetrator.