Dictionary of Terrorism

By John Richard Thackrah | Go to book overview

V

Victims

Terrorism purposely uses fear as a means to attain particular ends. It is by nature coercive, dehumanising, theatre of the absurd and designed to manipulate its victims and, through them, a larger audience. The effects of terrorism on society centre on a democracy's peculiar vulnerability to terrorism.

Looking at the impact of terrorism on individual citizens in countries that have consistently borne the brunt of terrorism, such as Argentina, Egypt, El Salvador, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Spain and Turkey one notes a serious erosion in the quality of life. Terrorism is exacting a heavy toll on international diplomacy and on the lifestyles and work habits of political leaders, diplomats and business executives the world over. Concerns for personal safety are affecting a widening circle of people, i.e. air travel is now encumbered by the scanning and frisking procedures for travellers who must endure a serious invasion of privacy. Airports, banks, industrial complexes, private and public institutions and even prisons have been affected by terroristic actions.

The fears generated by terrorism and by the possibility of victimisation in an ever widening arena are raising the social costs of the problem, in addition to the economic costs. It does so by weakening the social and political fabric of affected countries and by diverting scarce economic and criminal justice resources from other vital areas.

There are varied circumstances under which individuals may become victims of terrorist acts and these are as varied as the causes of terrorism. Victims can be chosen selectively or at random. In selective terrorism specific groups, such as police, judges, soldiers or prison personnel are targeted. In randomised terrorism, victims are chosen indiscriminately, a method guaranteed to instil maximum fear among the public.

Regardless of the objectives and format of terrorisation, it involves an unpredictable, powerful force, which threatens the victim with annihilation. The experience is immensely stressful and generates in the victim feelings of total helplessness and powerlessness. Terrorisation denies the victim's ability to control his behaviour. The psychological and physical shock characteristics of any severe trauma follow. Since the choice of victim in many terrorist attacks is determined by chance, victims can neither anticipate nor control the event. The multiple threats, to security, bodily integrity and self-esteem, precipitate in most victims a crisis reaction in which the emotions and behaviour of the threatened person are significantly disrupted. A victim faced with the very real possibility of imminent death finds himself unable to muster the necessary physical and mental resources to rise against the assault on his person.

The first phase of the victim's response to terrorisation is concerned with the immediate situation and its experience. The response is one of shock, disbelief, denial and delusion. It is characterised by a paralysis of action and the denial of sensory impressions. Second, there is paralysis of effect, or 'frozen fright', and, unrealistically, victims expect authorities will rapidly rescue them. If victims are not rescued during this period of initial adaptation, the pressures of the situation and terror combine to overwhelm most victims and

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Dictionary of Terrorism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface and Acknowledgements vi
  • Introduction viii
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms xii
  • Glossary xviii
  • A 1
  • B 23
  • C 32
  • D 62
  • E 82
  • F 97
  • G 103
  • H 112
  • I 126
  • J 147
  • K 151
  • L 156
  • M 164
  • N 177
  • O 185
  • P 191
  • R 220
  • S 229
  • T 256
  • U 277
  • V 293
  • W 296
  • Z 304
  • Films and Documentaries 305
  • Terrorism - A Historical Timeline 309
  • Index 311
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