Social Justice Research

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 47–68 | Cite as

Victims' Responses to traumatic life events: An unjust world or an uncaring world?

  • Ronnie Janoff-Bulman
  • Hillary J. Morgan


Although the psychological literature has generally equated deservingness and justice, victims' responses suggest the need to disentangle the two concepts. Victims usually feel their traumatic experience was undeserved but typically do not consider the outcome in terms of justice or fairness. Rather, their feelings about not deserving the victimization derive from a second type of moral judgment involving caring rather than justice. These two orientations are discussed in light of recent developments in work on moral reasoning. A framework for understanding the trauma of victimization is presented; the shattering of assumptions related to a caring world—in which people are protected from harm—is highlighted in this model. The crucialrole of social support and specific cognitive strategies used by victims in the aftermath of their victimization are discussed in terms of survivors' efforts to rebuild their assumptions about a caring world. Although concerns about justice are less common among survivors, an effort is made to discuss when these isues are most apt to arise.

Key words

traumatic events victimization moral judgment fairness deservingness 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronnie Janoff-Bulman
    • 1
  • Hillary J. Morgan
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MassachusettsAmherst
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherst

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