Popular debate about the appropriate place of victims in criminal justice decision-making tends to be couched in terms of 'balance'. This rhetorical device precludes a comprehensive analysis of the issues raised by victim involvement. This article argues that an analysis of the concept of participation is more fruitful. I delineate four different participatory roles for victims, each envisaging a particular relationship between victim and criminal justice decision-maker. I then discuss a recent reform in England and Wales - the Victim Personal Statement Scheme - to illustrate the ambiguity that can arise in a victim's participatory role when governments pay insufficient attention to the issues underlying rationales for victim involvement.