A victim of a crime is a person whohas experienced some level of suffering or adversity. In crime context, avictim is considered to be a person who has submitted a complaint of a crimecommitted against them. Criminology has, in the past, only focused on analyzingthe criminal accused of a crime (Robertson, 2017). Scholars in the recent timeshave put much focus in getting a complete view of the whole crime by examiningthe victim, offender and the nature of the crime committed.
Scientific advancesand further research have provided a foundation for theoretical analysis of thevictim, the offender and the crime. Different theoretical outlooks thatdescribe the victim of crime emerged to give a deeper understanding of thefactors that influence the offender to pick a specific target, and the prioractions of the victims that might have caused the crime. Victimization of avictim refers to the tendency of an offender to pick out a particular victim.Victimology, as a discipline of criminology, aims at investigating the reasonsfor victimization (Robertson, 2017).
Radical in nature, the theory ofvictimology emerged in the mid-20th century and aimed at emphasizing thedifferent influences that result in an occurrence of crime. Benjamin Mendelsohnis credited with the introduction of victimology. Victimology is asub-discipline of radical criminology and sociology, and connects threedifferent parties associated with crime and victims. The primary focus ofcriminology is the criminal, while the primary focus of victimology is thevictim (Robertson, 2017). Wilcox and Gialopsos (2015) defined victimology as acrime-event criminology, which specifically focuses on the events that lead toaccidents and crime rather than using the traditional offender behavior focusadopted by criminology. Daigle, L. E. (2018) defines victimology as gainingscientific knowledge of the victim and causes of victimization.
The in-depthanalysis of victims offers vital information, especially on the emotional, physicaland psychological effects victims face; how the justice system offers support;and how society accommodates victims and media reactions to victim cases(Hernandezpeterson, 2017). A general observation of different crimes and theirvictims has led to the description victimology as a satisfactory andaccomplished, scientific and academic, discipline that studies the victimexplicitly and uniquely follows a distinct research methodology (Daigle, L. E.
2018).Benjamin Mendelsohn is famous forhis research in victimology. He is referred to as the father of victimology andhis work was one of the earliest known to be documented on paper; his work waspresented at a conference in Bucharest, Romania in 1947. Mendelsohn was apracticing attorney, and his contact and interaction with crime victims led tothe observation of a standard pre-existing connection of crimes and theirvictims. He discovered that there was an inevitable trend regarding the methodof attack, the reason for attack and level of attack when it came to victimswho suffered from the same type of crime. His observation led him to emphasizethe need to interrogate victims and get the real picture of the crimecommitted. His approach on victimology is based on human rights, and underlineson a complete investigation to prove the legitimacy of the victims’ claims. Thereis also primary focus on the role of the justice system in creating criminalsand victims.
An accused criminal who is declared guilty by the criminal justicesystem is mostly tagged as a criminal. Some of these criminals can be victimsof poor investigation or extreme manipulation of the justice system by falsevictims. Mendelsohn created a topology to classify the victim by consideringthe level of guilt related to the victim’s action. This topology intended totry to classify victims and understand their level of relation to the crime.Mendelsohn’s typology identified sixcategories of victims concerning crime. This topology allowed extensive classification of victims andevaluation of their culpability in their own victimization (Robertson, 2017).The first victim was the completely innocent victim who lacked responsibilityin creating a situation that led to the crime also referred to as victim of theoffender. These victims are majorly targeted because of their nature.
Forexample, young children or persons who show weakness in resistingvictimization. The second victims are of minor guilt, and whose unintentionalactions have led to victimization. These victims are mainly described asvictims of ignorance who unknowingly place themselves in a vulnerablesituation. The third victims are guilty of creating a situation that leads totheir victimization. These crimes mainly fall under intentional self-inflictedcrimes, such as suicide. The fourth victims are considered as imaginary orsimulating victims who formulate an offense with ill intentions.
They fabricateevents that lead to the victimization of other innocent victims. The fifthvictim is a criminal offender or suspected offender who suffers victimizationas a result of a crime. This can occur when a criminal is caught in thevicinity of a crime that he might not have committed but is blamed for thecrime. The sixth victim classified represents victims who act in a way thatprovokes the offender leading to their victimization. The victims might have,in the past, angered or assaulted the offender and in retaliation, the offenderattacks the victim. Mendelsohn developed a victim typology to distinguishvictims who are more responsible for their victimization and those who areconsidered guiltless or innocent. The topology mainly focused on the victims ofthe crime rather than criminals.
Victimology is a relatively newconcept that is still developing regarding relating the victim and offenders inthe commission of a crime (Robertson, 2017). Researchers focus on the characterof victims as well as their contact with offenders. It is assumed thatvictim-offender interaction leads to the cause of victimization. Victiminteraction with offenders is still a matter under scrutiny, but the habit ofblaming the victims is still prevalent.
Victim blaming occurs when the victimof a crime is held partially or fully responsible for the events that have ledto their victimization, these cases are commonplace in sexual related cases(Maier, 2015). Individuals who have endured suffering and hardship due to thecrime, more often than not, are faulted for creating an atmosphere thatattracts the crime (Rickard, 2014). The society expects that individuals shouldbe aware of situations deemed dangerous and therefore should strictly takenecessary precaution to ensure their safety. Failing to make precautions leadsto victim blaming due to the view that an individual acted carelessly. The people who are expected to offersupport to the victims are mainly the ones who are at the forefront of victimblaming (Maier, 2015). Persons who originate from a particular group orcategory of people who have a history of committing a crime also are prone tosuffer from victim blaming.
In a typical example, in areas that have associatedblack people with crime, if a crime is committed where a white man and blackman are present, the black man is likely facing more suspicion as the guiltierone. The level of support for victims varies depending on the society’s visualimpression and degree of interaction with the victim or the offender. Thenegative responses from part of the professional community that is given thetask to support the people affected by crimes, lead to difficulty in recoveringfrom effects of the crime (Coates L. et al., 2006).According to the just worldhypotheses, some people view the world as a just and an equally safe place (Kayet al., 2005).
The reason for victimization is blamed on the notion that thevictims have negative characters and deserve whatever crime that comes theirway. Just as criminals are punished for crimes committed, victims should answerfor their wrongdoing before the attack and in the advent of the crime.Mendelsohn notes that such victims are partially responsible for the crimeleveled against them (Idisis et al.
, 2017). This means that they are theprimary cause of their victimization (Johnson et al., 2002). This theory,therefore, approves the misfortune of the affected victims emphasizing thecrime is a fair and deserving outcome of their ‘bad actions or influence’ inthe world. The extent and severity of the harm to the victims increase thelevel of blame and leads to people adopting a tendency to avoid individualcharacters that are associated with the attraction of such crimes (Idisis et al.2017). Blaming victims shows a lack of compassion and victims, who havesuffered a great deal from the crime, have an extra burden of facing thesociety that imposes more suffering on them. The result of victim blaming leadsto pernicious effects that involve self-inflicting crimes.
Attribution theory furtheremphasizes the faults in the victim’s character as the primary determinant ofthe crime against them. Situational contributors are given less concern givingpreference to the internal failings. The victims are partially responsible dueto their ways of life and character. The people, on the contrary, findthemselves blaming the environmental situation for their misfortune andacknowledge personal attribute or characteristic for their successes (Johnsonet al., 2002).
Attribution theory is majorly linked to sexual and genderviolence. Sexual assault is a common crime whose victims face a lot ofprejudice due to the mentality created by the society that the situation theyface is a byproduct of their indecent character or dressing. This, however, is notthe case most of the time and victims should get support from the society andrelevant institution to overcome their state of misfortune. Gender violence canoccur in a situation where women are blamed for the abuse they face from theirspouse. Most women are encouraged to change their behaviors which lead to harmrather than the provision of services that would help them escape such abusivesituations. Invulnerability theory describes theactions of using victim blaming as a way to condemn the victim and offerself-protection from personal insecurities. The actions that associate thevictim with the crime are actions that the society majorly condemns.
Thevictims fit in Mendelsohn’s victim category for the victims who are directlyresponsible for their victimization. In a situation, for example, where aperson decides to walk through a street, very late in the night, which happensto be a notorious hotspot for mugging and rapes, then becomes the victim ofexpected crimes. In other words, the person is directly responsible for thecrime that is leveled against him or her – an example or warning is portrayedthrough the victim.
Although individuals have excellentcontrol of events in their lives, they may have less command in a crimesituation, but there should still be some capacity for them to avoid crimesituations. They should not resign to their fate without acting. It is then,therefore, the responsibility of individuals to make sure they review theirlifestyle and usual routines to promote personal safety and security (KarmenA., 2015). Victim blaming cannot always be the sole responsibility of thevictim neither can the victim be completely innocent when the circumstancesleading to the crime are investigated. The notion of the total innocence of thevictim is debatable as situations leading to victimization can be avoided byunderstanding the level of criminal activities in the society. Knowledge of thecriminal activities might be helpful, but it is assurance that an individualwill be safe from victimization. No one can, with complete confidence, beprecisely sure no matter what measures are taken, that they can avoid meetingwith dangerous criminals.
There is a lack of an identification system thatdifferentiates the right person from the wrong person to associate with.There is a state of sequence wherebyvictims’ level of blame can be found to range from totally blameless on one end,to full responsibility on the other (Karmen, 2015). These ranges mainly lie inMendelsohn topology of victims of one’s self. At one end of the range, forexample, a company can invest heavily in the security of its business premisesby installing the latest CCTV cameras, hiring highly qualified securitypersonnel and installing electric fences. Well organized criminals might raidthe company of its valuables and sensitive information. The company, therefore,will fall under the blameless victim of crimes.
On the other end of the rangelies a company that did not take any measures to secure its company premisesbut faced similar demise. They are fully accountable for the loss of theirvaluables or for any harm they have encountered.The focus of victimology has, inrecent years, focused on identifying typologies to give a classification ofvictims. Focusing on the victims offers an in-depth look at the real situationof the crime. This is especially important in the case where the crime iscommitted by a victim of one’s self, categorized by Mendelsohn as imaginaryvictims who formulate crimes with hidden intentions.
The victims are thereforedescribed as offenders hiding in the pretense of a victim (Karmen, 2015). Anassumed victim might have arranged for his or her assault aiming to blame aninnocent individual. Focusing on the suspected criminal might lead to wrongconclusions. Topological classification of the victim cases is essential toallow rational and just findings to any crimes committed.Opportunity theory is a result ofthe combination of the lifestyle and routine activities theory which explainthe relation of income, race, and age to victimization. The lifestyle ofvictims dramatically affects their level of vulnerability. For example,individuals who love partying and getting drunk find themselves more prone tovictimization.
Some individuals also like to flaunt their wealth to the public,therefore, exposing them to criminals. Opportunistic theory aims to identifythe possible reasons that would cause an offender to victimize a particular targetand avoid another specifically. The model theory explores five factors thatresult to victimization: proximity, the attractiveness of targets, exposure,guardianship and definitions of specific crimes (Robertson, 2017; Cohen et al.,1981). Social inequality is a major contributing factor for criminalvictimization. Researchers have found that crime is associated with poverty andrace. The level of illegal activities in an area is affected by the type ofindividuals who reside in an area or the failure of the people in an area tocooperate in preventing crime.
Eck and Madensen (2018) do not believe thatsocial disorganization is a major factor but a minor factor that results incrime and victimization. Cohen (1981) does not blame persons for being victims.Instead, his approach to the study of crime and victimization is from theperspective that some factors lead to crime, not just the victim. It is verycrucial to review all aspects that create crime, therefore, combiningMendelsohn theory of victimization that seeks to analyze the victim, and theopportunistic approach that examines factors that connect the victim and theoffender is useful in generating a model that can be used to control andstrategies on crime prevention.Proximity to crime means nearness tocrime areas or the closeness of potential crime victims to areas where thereare large populations of potential criminals. Proximity mainly puts emphasis onphysical distance. The likelihood of contact between the victims and offendersincreases the risks of victimization (McShane M. D.
, 2015). Offenders have theopportunity to analyze their targets and plan an attack. In highly populatedareas, there are places considered safe zones while some others are labeled ashot spots of crime. Regions populated with people who have something of valueto criminal offenders are more likely to have high crime rates. Research hasshown that chances of committing a crime in one’s neighborhood are less.Offenders tend to attack different neighborhoods that are close in proximity(Gibson et al., 2014). The offenders’ target areas usually consist of asuitable supply of potential targets such as drugs, prostitution markets andretail markets (Bernasco W & Block R.
, 2011).Cohen et al. (1981) observed that themore visible or publicized objects or persons are, the more susceptible theobject and persons face victimization. Exposure is measured by activities thatlead to persons to get out of their home and venture into public locations.This activity makes potential targets have a higher risk of victimization by increasingthe probability of contact with likely offenders. Studies have shown thatincrease in exposure leads to increased property and violent attacks,especially when engaging in leisure activities outside one’s homes (Gibson etal., 2014). Further research done, after examination of specific activities,has also shown that some activities have provided protection againstvictimization (Henson et al.
, 2010). Delinquent and criminal lifestyles lead toincreased interaction with criminals. Criminals can efficiently target peopleliving such lifestyle, and this factor increases the risk of victimization(Gibson et al.
, 2014).Cohen et al. (1981) described targetattractiveness as selection based on the symbolic and financial importance ofthe victim or target to the offender. Targets assumed to be easy to attack dueto their physical vulnerabilities, or lack of resistance are most preferred byoffenders (McShane M. D., 2015; Cohen et al.
, 1981). The common factors thathave been found to lead to targeting on an individual level are ownership ofexpensive consumer goods (especially portable goods), carrying precious jewelryand cash publicly, and level of family income and social class. Family socialclass and income are the most favorable factor for the offenders due to theeasiness of assessing. The target level of victimization is divided into threecomponents target antagonism, target usefulness, and target vulnerability.Antagonism is as a result of the victim arousing negative feelings towards theoffender. Target usefulness arises when the victim or target has characteristicsor qualities that are attractive and useful to the offender. Targetvulnerability displays the victim’s attributes of lacking resistance to preventvictimization.Guardianship represents securitymeasures adopted by a target to avoid experiencing victimization.
This isachieved through having company availability during a specific action orinstalling security apparatus. Scholars have, in the recent years, definedguardianship as the actions and presence of individuals in matters that involvethe provision of protection. Individuals who adopt high-level safetyprecautions such as advanced door locking mechanisms, burglar alarms, or owningweapons, are less likely to be victimized by burglars. Sex offenders find ithard to attack a target that has self-protection tools like pepper sprays, gunsor other weapons (Fisher et al., 2010). The capacity for guardianship islimited by the level of self-control of the target.
Lower self-control is anegative characteristic of an individual and leads to target proneness tovictimization. Motivated offenders are highly attracted to any form ofvulnerability. Studies show that targets with lower self-esteem end upsuffering from repeat victimization (Pratt et al., 2014).Some crimes are more frequent thanothers due to the complexity of initiating the offense. Offenders sometimes optto go for the easy targets that have quick results or success, in theircontext, rather than crimes that are considered riskier. Time plays asignificant factor in deciding what crimes an offender can get involved in.
Extensive knowledge of the victim’s activities is required, in some cases, tounderstand the level of approach the offender will adopt. In other instances,it requires less input and time to identify and attack a target. Cohen et al.(1981) argued that the frequency at which crimes associated with exposure,guardianship, target attractiveness and proximity, were based on tangiblevaluables and was higher compared to those crimes which were a result ofoffenders’ expressive motives such as assault. Offenders are known to takerisks where they estimate the reward will be worthwhile, but will frequentlycommit less risky crimes when the level of restraint by targets is low.Finally, in a world advancing inunderstanding the concept of crime, it is primal to achieve reliable resultsfrom crime analysis. Results that accomplish a complete review of crime and itsconnected parties help a lot in reducing ignorance and victim blaming by thesociety, justice system and related institutions.
Victims of a crime, whetherguilty or partially responsible or innocent, suffer a great deal due to blamingand some may end up committing crimes against themselves or others. It issignificant to understand victim blaming and identify limiting factors thatassociate with it. A platform or system of offering support to victims isessential in every society. Equally, the culpability of victims should be givenmuch scrutiny by relevant crime investigators to verify who the real victim of crimeis. Mendelsohn’s typology classifies victims according to their culpability.
Some victims are classified as innocent while others are false victims who areliable for their victimization. The science in identifying victims needs moreadvance due to the complexity of understanding modern age crime.It is imperative for individuals ina society, community or specific area to be cognizant of their environment.Awareness is a primal factor that may prevent prevalent crimes that are knownto occur at particular places. Taking security measures may help avoid specificcrime situation but may not always guarantee safety from crime.
Crime can bepredictable to the community, but the time and place at which it occurs aresometimes unpredictable. Offenders are becoming more aware of their victims,and advanced technology is only easing the chances of victimization. Theinternet has become a famous avenue where victims interact with offendersunknowingly and where victims find themselves exposed and attacked by societyfor their responsibility for their victimization. More research is needed to identify newavenues and methods that offenders and victims are likely to interact, and thelevel of opportunity that arises from developing societies.