Abstract This report will provide the information about the evolution of the concept of 'victim' and the study of victim ology. Victimology is a term first coined for a specialty within the field of criminology. In recent times, victim ology has come to embrace a wide array of professional disciplines working with victims. In its original form, victim ology examined characteristics of victims and how they 'contributed' to their victimization. The emergence of the crime victims' rights movement has influenced the field of victim ology and the nature of the research. Current research has been helpful in identifying risk factors related to victimization, without blaming victims.
The concept of victim dates back to ancient cultures and civilizations, such as the ancient Hebrews. Its original meaning was rooted in the idea of sacrifice or scapegoat -- the execution or casting out of a person or animal to satisfy a deity or hierarchy. Over the centuries, the word victim came to have additional meanings. During the founding of victim ology in the 1940's, victims were defined as hapless dupes who instigated their own victimization's. This notion of 'victim precipitation' was replaced by the notion of victims as anyone caught up in an asymmetric relationship or situation.
'Asymmetry' means anything unbalanced, exploitative, parasitical, oppressive, and destructive, alienating, or having inherent suffering. In this view, victim ology is all about power differentials. Today, the concept of victim includes any person who experiences injury, loss, or hardship due to any cause. Basically it is the image of someone who has suffered injury and harm by forces beyond his or her control. The term 'crime victim' generally refers to any person, group, or entity who has suffered injury or loss due to illegal activity. The harm can be physical, psychological, or economic.
The legal definition of 'victim' typically includes the following: A person who has suffered direct, or threatened, physical, emotional or pecuniary harm as a result of the commission of a crime; or in the case of a victim being an institutional entity, any of the same harms by an individual or authorized representative of another entity. Group harms are normally covered under civil and constitutional law, with 'hate crime' being an emerging criminal law development, although criminal law tends to treat all cases as individualized. Besides 'primary crime victims', there are also 'secondary crime victims' who experience the harm second hand, such as intimate partners or significant others of rape victims or children of a battered woman. It may also make sense to talk about 'tertiary crime victims' who experience the harm vicariously, such as through media accounts or from watching television. Many victims feel that defining themselves as a 'victim' has negative connotations, and choose instead to define themselves as a 'survivor. ' This is a very personal choice that can only be made by the person victimized.
The term 'survivor' has multiple meanings; e.g. survivor of a crime, 'survivor benefits. ' It remains to be seen whether this terminology for victims of crime will endure. Victim defenses' have recently emerged in cases of parricide (killing one's parents) and homicide of batterers by abused spouses. Advocates for battered women were among the first to recognize the issue, and promote the 'battered woman syndrome' to defend women who killed or seriously injured a spouse or partner after enduring years of physical, emotional and / or sexual abuse. Attorneys have also drawn upon theories of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder to defend their client's behavior. From time to time, media attention to these defenses becomes intense, and certain 'high profile' cases tend to influence public opinion and spread confusion over who is the 'victim' and who is the 'victimizer.
' One of the goals of victim ology as a science is to help end this state of societal confusion. Before we can understand victim ology, we need to appreciate that it is a fairly new subfield or area of specialization within criminology. Criminology is a rather broad field of study that encompasses the study of law making, law breaking, and societal reactions to law breaking. Victimology, much like criminal justice, falls into the third of these areas. Victimology doesn't have any subfields within itself; in fact, there are few theories, and little or no schools of thought.
Going back to criminology, there are four subfields: penology (and the sociology of law); delinquency (sometimes referred to as psychological criminology); comparative (and historical) criminology; and victim ology. Andrew Karmen, who wrote a text on victim ology entitled Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology in 1990, broadly defined victim ology: 'The scientific study of victimization, including the relationships between victims and offenders, the interactions between victims and the criminal justice system -- that is, the police and courts, and corrections officials -- and the connections between victims and other societal groups and institutions, such as the media, businesses, and social movements. ' Victimologists often use surveys of large numbers of people about the crimes that have been committed against them because official police statistics are known to be incomplete. Data derived from victimization surveys are carried out each year by the Census Bureau on behalf of the Department of Justice (the NCV S - National Crime Victimization Survey).
Victimologists then estimate victimization rates and risks, and do a whole lot more. If there is any such thing as a method to victim ology, here it is: First, Define the problem - find the asymmetry, analyze responsibility, explore the kinds of harm, second measure true dimension of the problem - analyze statistics, see what kind of people are involved, accurately gauge extent of harm third investigate how CJ system handles the problem - look at what CJ system ignores, ask what victim wants, analyze effects, chronicle emergence of victim's movement fourth examine societal response to problem - look at issues of constitutional rights, analyze proposed legislation, analyze media reaction, see if anyone is cashing in on the problem. The scientific study of victim ology can be traced back to the 1940's and 1950's. Two criminologists, Mendelsohn and Von Henti g, began to explore the field of victim ology by creating 'typologies'. They are considered the 'fathers of the study of victim ology. ' These new 'victim ologists' began to study the behaviors and vulnerabilities of victims, such as the resistance of rape victims and characteristics of the types of people who were victims of crime, especially murder victims.
Mendelsohn interviewed victims to obtain information, and his analysis led him to believe that most victims had an 'unconscious aptitude for being victimized. ' He created a typology of six types of victims, with only the first type, the innocent, portrayed as just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other five types all contributed somehow to their own injury, and represented victim precipitation. Over the years, ideas about victim precipitation have come to be perceived as a negative thing; 'victim blaming' it is called. Research into ways in which victims 'contribute' to their own victimization is considered by victims and victim advocates as both unacceptable and destructive. Yet a few enduring models and near-theories exist.
The Luckenbill's Situated Transaction Model: This one is commonly found in sociology of deviance textbooks. The idea is that at the interpersonal level, crime and victimization is a contest of character. The stages go like this: (1) insult - 'Your Momma'; (2) clarification - 'Whaddya say about my Mother'; (3) retaliation - 'I said your Momma and you too'; (4) counter retaliation - 'Well, you " re worse than my Momma'; (5) presence of weapon - or search for a weapon or clenching of fists; (6) onlookers - presence of audience helps escalate the situation. Next is the Benjamin & Master's Threefold Model - This one is found in a variety of criminological studies, from prison riots to strain theories. The idea is that conditions that support crime can be classified into three general categories: precipitating factors - time, space, being in the wrong place at the wrong time; attracting factors - choices, options; predisposing factors - all the demographic characteristics of victims, being male, being young, being poor, being a minority, living in squalor, being single, being unemployed. The Cohen & Felson's (1979) Routine Activities Theory.
This one is quite popular among victim ologists today who are anxious to test the theory. It says that crime occurs whenever three conditions come together: suitable targets, motivated offenders, and absence of guardians. The phenomena that criminals and victims often have the same demographic b characteristics is known as the propinquity hypothesis; and that criminals and victims often live in physical proximity to one another is called the proximity hypothesis. America's 'law-and-order' movement has continued to overlap with the movement to enhance the legal standing and improve treatment of crime victims. Criminal justice reformers seeking greater accountability for offenders through tougher sentencing have found allies in outspoken violent crime victims and politicians who recognized the public's concern about crime and its impact.
The combination has brought greater political support for crime victims' rights legislation and increased funding for crime victim services... Some so-called victim's rights (such as denial of bail, anti-suppression of evidence, and victim-initiated appeals) clearly are anti-defendant and pro-prosecutor to the extent that they undermine cherished principles that an accused person is considered innocent until proven guilty, and that the burden of proof falls on the state. Until recently, there was little appreciation of the extent to which many people are victims of crime not just once, but several times during their lifetime. There was sufficient understanding of how repeated victimization increases the risk for and complexity of crime-related psychological trauma.
Nor did we understand the extent to which victimization increases the risk of further victimization and / or of violent behavior by the victim. Several studies show that a substantial proportion of crime victims has been victimized more than once and that a history of victimization increases the risk of subsequent violent assault. Other research suggests that the risk of developing PTSD and substance use / abuse problems is higher among repeat victims of violent assault than among those who have experienced only one violent assault. Still other evidence suggests that youth victimization history increases risk of involvement with delinquent peers and of subsequent delinquent behavior. Some research shows that involvement with delinquent or deviant peers increases the risk of victimization. Another line of research has found that a history of child abuse and neglect increases risk of delinquent behavior during childhood and adolescence and of being arrested for violent assault as an adult.
This new knowledge about repeat victimization and the cycle of violence has several implications for appropriate mental health counseling for crime victims: Mental health professionals should include crime prevention and substance abuse prevention in their work with victims to decrease the risk that new victimization or substance abuse problems will. Mental health professionals should not assume that the crime they are treating is the only one the victim has experienced. This requires taking a careful crime victimization history. Providing effective mental health counseling to victims may well be an effective way to reduce the risk of future victimization, substance use / abuse, delinquency and violent behavior.
No violent assault can occur unless an assailant has access to a potential victim. Someone could have every previously discussed risk factor for violent assault and be completely safe from assault unless approached by an assailant. A prominent theory attempting to predict risk of criminal victimization is the routine activities theory. As described by Lab (1990), the risk of victimization is related to a person's lifestyle, behavior, and routine activities.
In turn, lifestyles and routine activities are generally related to demographic characteristics and other personal characteristics. If a person's lifestyle or routine activities places him or her in frequent contact with potential assailants, then they are more likely to be assaulted than if their routine activities and lifestyle do not bring them into as frequent contact with predatory individuals. For example, a study done by Reiss and Roth in 1993, showed that young men have higher rates of assaultive behavior than any other age-gender group. Thus, those whose routine activities or lifestyles involve considerable contact with young men should have higher rates of victimization. Likewise, people who are married, who never leave their houses after dark, and who never take public transportation should have limited contact with young men, and therefore have reduced risk of assault. Being a young discipline, many areas of victim ology remain uncharted territory and have yet to be explored by inquisitive and adventurous researchers.
It is said that the coming years will witness a growing realization that action not backed by research is a mere ideological exercise, and that practice not grounded in theory is dangerous and potentially harmful. An obvious need for solid empirical research will make itself felt, and such research will be helpful in the reduction of error.
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