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Victimology is the 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 social groups and institutions, such as the media, businesses, and social movements.[1] Victimology is however not restricted to the study of victims of crime alone but may include other forms of human rights violations.


  • Victim of a crime 1
  • Consequences of crimes 2
  • Victim proneness 3
    • Environmental theory 3.1
    • Quantification of victim-proneness 3.2
    • Fundamental attribution error 3.3
  • Victim facilitation 4
  • Victimization rate in United States 5
  • International Crime Victims Survey 6
  • Society as crime victim 7
  • Penal couple 8
  • Rights of victims 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13

Victim of a crime

In criminology and criminal law, a victim of a crime is an identifiable person who has been harmed individually and directly by the perpetrator, rather than by society as a whole. However, this may not always be the case, as with victims of white collar crime, who may not be clearly identifiable or directly linked to crime against a particular individual. Victims of white collar crime are often denied their status as victims by the social construction of the concept (Croall, 2001). The concept also remains a controversial topic within women's studies.

The Supreme Court of the United States first recognized the rights of crime victims to make a victim impact statement during the sentencing phase of a criminal trial in the case of Payne v. Tennessee 501 U.S. 808 (1991).

A victim impact panel is a form of community-based or restorative justice in which the crime victims (or relatives and friends of deceased crime victims) meet with the defendant after conviction to tell the convict about how the criminal activity affected them, in the hope of rehabilitation or deterrence.

Consequences of crimes

Emotional distress as the result of crime is a recurring theme for all victims of crime. The most common problem, affecting three quarters of victims, were psychological problems, including: fear, anxiety, nervousness, self-blame, anger, shame, and difficulty sleeping.[2] These problems often result in the development of chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Post crime distress is also linked to pre-existing emotional problems and sociodemographic variables. This has been known to become a leading case of the elderly to be more adversely affected.(Ferraro, 1995)

Victims may experience the following psychological reactions:

  • Increase in the belief of personal vulnerability.
  • The perception of the world as meaningless and incomprehensible.
  • The view of themselves in a negative light.[2]

The experience of victimization may result in an increasing fear of the victim of the crime, and the spread of fear in the community.

Victim proneness

Environmental theory

The environmental theory posits that the location and context of the crime bring the victim of the crime and its perpetrator together.[3]

Studies in the early 2010s showed that crimes are negatively correlated to trees in urban environments; more trees in an area are congruent with lower victimization rates or violent crime rates.[4][5][6][7][8] This relationship was established by studies in 2010 in Portland, Oregon and in 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.[4][5][7][8] Geoffrey Donovan of the United States Forest Service (USFS), one of the researchers, said, "trees, which provide a range of other benefits, could improve quality of life in Portland by reducing crime..."[5] because "We believe that large street trees can reduce crime by signaling to a potential criminal that a neighborhood is better cared for and, therefore, a criminal is more likely to be caught."[4][7] Note that the presence of large street trees especially indicated a reduction in crime, as opposed to newer, smaller trees.[4][7] In the 2012 Baltimore study, lead by scientists from the University of Vermont and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a "conservative spatially adjusted model indicated that a 10% increase in tree canopy was associated with a roughly 12% decrease in crime.... [and] we found that the inverse relationship continued in both contexts, but the magnitude was 40% greater for public than for private lands."[8]

Quantification of victim-proneness

There have been some studies recently to quantify the real existence of victim-proneness.[9] Contrary to the popular belief that more women are repeat victims, and thus more victim-prone than men, actually men in their prime (24 to 34 year old males) are more likely to be victims of repeated crimes.[10] While each study used different methodology, their results must be taken seriously and further studies are warranted.[11]

In the case of juvenile offenders, the study results also show that people are more likely to be victimized as a result of a serious offense by someone they know; the most frequent crimes committed by adolescents towards someone they know were sexual assault, common assault, and homicide. Adolescents victimizing people they did not know generally committed common assault, forcible confinement, armed robbery, and robbery.[12]

Sex workers are, anecdotally, thought to have an abnormally high incidence of violent crime committed against them, and such crimes go frequently unresolved, but there are few victimological studies of the matter.

Fundamental attribution error

In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error (also known as correspondence bias or attribution effect) describes the tendency to over-value dispositional or personality-based explanations for the observed behaviors of others while under-valuing situational explanations for those behaviors. The term was coined by Lee Ross[13] some years after a now-classic experiment by Edward E. Jones and Victor Harris (1967).[14]

The fundamental attribution error is most visible when people explain the behavior of others. It does not explain interpretations of one's own behavior—where situational factors are often taken into consideration. This discrepancy is called the actor–observer bias. As a simple example, if Alice saw Bob trip over a rock and fall, Alice might consider Bob to be clumsy or careless (dispositional). If Alice later tripped over the same rock herself, she would be more likely to blame the placement of the rock (situational). Victim proneness or victim blaming can be a form of fundamental attribution error, and more specifically, the just-world phenomenon.

The Just-world phenomenon is the belief that people get what they deserve and deserve what they get, which was first theorized by Melvin Lerner (1977).[15] Attributing failures to dispositional causes rather than situational causes, which are unchangeable and uncontrollable, satisfies our need to believe that the world is fair and we have control over our life. We are motivated to see a just world because this reduces our perceived threats,[16][17] gives us a sense of security, helps us find meaning in difficult and unsettling circumstances, and benefits us psychologically.[18] Unfortunately, the just-world hypothesis also results in a tendency for people to blame and disparage victims of a tragedy or an accident, such as victims of rape[19][20] and domestic abuse[21] to reassure themselves of their insusceptibility to such events. People may even blame the victim's faults in "past lives" to pursue justification for their bad outcome.[22]

In 2014, the National Review instigated controversy when it published an essay that blamed women for falsely accusing men of rape because of feelings of rejection and regret, based on a single anecdote, rather than statistics that show widespread rape in United States.[23]

Victim facilitation

Victim facilitation, another controversial sub-topic, but a more accepted theory than victim proneness, finds its roots in the writings of criminologists such as Marvin Wolfgang. The choice to use victim facilitation as opposed to “victim proneness” or some other term is that victim facilitation is not blaming the victim, but rather the interactions of the victim that make him/her vulnerable to a crime.

The theory of victim facilitation calls for study of the external elements that make a victim more accessible or vulnerable to an attack.[24] In an article that summarizes the major movements in victimology internationally, Schneider expresses victim facilitation as a model that ultimately describes only the misinterpretation by the offender of victim behavior.[25] It is based upon the theory of a symbolic interaction and does not alleviate the offender of his/her exclusive responsibility.[25]

In Eric Hickey’s Serial Murderers and their Victims, a major analysis of 329 serial killers in America is conducted. As part of Hickey’s analysis, he categorized victims as high, low, or mixed regarding the victim’s facilitation of the murder. Categorization was based upon lifestyle risk (example, amount of time spent interacting with strangers), type of employment, and their location at the time of the killing (example, bar, home or place of business). Hickey found that 13–15% of victims had high facilitation, 60–64% of victims had low facilitation and 23–25% of victims had a combination of high and low facilitation.[26] Hickey also noted that among serial killer victims after 1975, one in five victims were at greater risk from hitchhiking, working as a prostitute, or involving themselves in situations in which they often came into contact with strangers.[26]

There is importance in studying and understanding victim facilitation as well as continuing to research it as a sub-topic of victimization. For instance, a study of victim facilitation increases public awareness, leads to more research on victim-offender relationship, and advances theoretical etiologies of violent crime.[27] One of the ultimate purposes of this type of knowledge is to inform the public and increase awareness so fewer people become victims. Another goal of studying victim facilitation, as stated by Maurice Godwin, is to aid in investigations. Godwin discusses the theory of victim social networks as a concept in which one looks at the areas of highest risk for victimization from a serial killer.[28] This can be connected to victim facilitation because the victim social networks are the locations in which the victim is most vulnerable to the serial killer. Using this process, investigators can create a profile of places where the serial killer and victim both frequent.

Victimization rate in United States

The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is a tool to measure the existence of actual, rather than reported, crimes—the victimization rate.[29] The National Crime Victimization Survey is the United States' "primary source of information on crime victimization. Each year, data are obtained from a nationally representative sample of 77,200 households comprising nearly 134,000 persons on the frequency, characteristics and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States. This survey enables the (government) to estimate the likelihood of victimization by rape, sexual assault, robbery, assault, theft, household burglary, and motor vehicle theft for the population as a whole as well as for segments of the population such as women, the elderly, members of various racial groups, city dwellers, or other groups."[29] According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the NCVS reveals that, from 1994 to 2005, violent crime rates declined, reaching the lowest levels ever recorded.[29] Property crimes continue to decline.[29]

International Crime Victims Survey

Many countries have such victimization surveys. They give a much better account for the volume crimes but are less accurate for crimes that occur with a (relative) low frequency such as homicide, or victimless 'crimes' such as drug (ab)use. Attempts to use the data from these national surveys for international comparison have failed. Differences in definitions of crime and other methodological differences are too big for proper comparison.

A dedicated survey for international comparison: A group of European criminologists started an international victimization study with the sole purpose to generate international comparative crime and victimization data. The project is now known as the International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS). After the first round in 1989, the surveys were repeated in 1992, 1996, and 2000 and 2004/2005.

Society as crime victim

One train of thought supposes society itself is the victim of many crimes, especially felonies as murder, homicide and manslaughter. Many lawyers, judges, and academics have espoused this sentiment. Some district attorneys feel they represent all of society, while others feel they represent the victims of the crime.

Penal couple

The penal couple is defined as the relationship between perpetrator and victim of a crime. That is, both are involved in the event.[30] A sociologist invented the term in 1963.[31] The term is now accepted by many sociologists.[31][32][33] The concept is, essentially, that "when a crime takes place, it has two partners, one the offender and second the victim, who is providing opportunity to the criminal in committing the crime."[32] The victim, in this view, is "a participant in the penal couple and should bear some 'functional responsibility' for the crime."[34] The very idea is rejected by some other victimologists as blaming the victim.[33]

Rights of victims

Anna Baldry (left) senior researcher at the International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT), watches as participants conduct role-play scenarios during domestic and gender-based violence training at the Central Training Center. Afghan National Police (ANP)

In 1985, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.[35] Also, the International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT)[36] and the World Society of Victimology developed a UN Convention for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.[37]

The term victimology, in fact, denotes to the subject, which studies about the harms caused to victim in commission of crime and the relative scope for compensation to the victim as a means of redressal. In criminal jurisprudence, mere punishing of offender is not sufficient to redress the grievance of victim; there is need to compensate the loss or harms suffered by the victim. In Criminal Procedure Code, though provisions have been made in Section 357 to provide compensation to victims, who have suffered loss or harms in consequence to commission of offence. But, what has been provided in Indian Law, as a compensatory measure to victims of crimes, is not enough and this aspect needs to be reviewed by the legislature to frame or enact necessary law, so as to sufficiently compensate to victims of crimes and to provide safeguards to victims of crimes, besides compensating him in monetary terms. [S.P. Sharma, Advocate, Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur, December, 2010].

See also


  1. ^ Andrew Karmen, 2003, Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology, Wadsworth Publishing ,ISBN 978-0-534-61632-8.
  2. ^ a b Sebba, L., (1996). Third Parties, Victims and the Criminal Justice System. Ohio State University Press, Columbus.
  3. ^ Harrison on the environmental theory, at Theory
  4. ^ a b c d Davies, Alex (June 19, 2012). "More Trees (Equals) Less Crime in Baltimore, Study Shows". Retrieved June 19, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Messenger, Stephen (November 1, 2010). "Big Trees May Make Communities Safer, Says Study". Retrieved June 19, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Some City Trees May Discourage 'Shady' Behavior; Study Explores Relationship Between Urban Trees and Crime". ScienceDaily. November 1, 2010. Retrieved June 19, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c d G. H. Donovan, J. P. Prestemon. The Effect of Trees on Crime in Portland, Oregon. Environment and Behavior, 2010; DOI: 10.1177/0013916510383238. Abstract at SagePub, accessed June 19, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Austin Troya, J. Morgan Groveb, and Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne. The relationship between tree canopy and crime rates across an urban–rural gradient in the greater Baltimore region. Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 106, Issue 3, 15 June 2012, Pages 262–270; DOI: Abstract at Science Direct website, accessed June 19, 2012.
  9. ^ David Thissen (The  
  10. ^ Kingma, Johannes. "Repeat Victimization of Victims of Violence: A Retrospective Study From a Hospital Emergency Department for the Period 1971–1995". Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 14, No. 1, 79–90 (1999). 
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Richard Lusignan, "Risk Assessment and Offender–Victim relationship in Juvenile Offenders" International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol 51, No. 4, 433–443 (2007)
  13. ^ Ross, L. (1977). The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings: Distortions in the attribution process. 'In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (vol. 10, pp. 173–220). New York: Academic Press.
  14. ^ Jones, E.E. & Harris, V.A. (1967). The attribution of attitudes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 3, 1–24.
  15. ^ Lerner, M.J. & Miller, D.T. (1977). Just-world research and the attribution process: Looking back and ahead. Psychological Bulletin, 85, 1030–1051.
  16. ^ Burger, J.M. (1981). Motivational biases in the attribution of responsibility for an accident: A meta-analysis of the defensive-attribution hypothesis. Psychological Bulletin, 90, 496–12.
  17. ^ Walster, E. (1966). Assignment of responsibility for an accident. Journal of Personality and Social, 31, 73–79.
  18. ^ Gilbert, D.T., & Malone, P.S. (1995). The correspondence bias. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 21–38. PDF
  19. ^ Abrams, D., Viki, G.T., Masser, B., & Bohner, G. (2003). Perceptions of stranger and acquaintance rape: The role of benevolent and hostile sexism in victim blame and rape proclivity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 111–125.
  20. ^ Bell, S.T., Kuriloff, P.J., & Lottes, I. (1994). Understanding attributions of blame in stranger-rape and date-rape situations: An examinations of gender, race, identification, and students' social perceptions of rape victims. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 1719–1734.
  21. ^ Summers, G., & Feldman, N.S. (1984). Blaming the victim versus blaming the perpetrator: An attributional analysis of spouse abuse. Journal of Applied Social and Clinical Psychology, 2, 339–347.
  22. ^ Woogler, R.J. (1988). Other lives, other selves: A Jungian psychotherapist discovers past lives. New York: Bantam.
  23. ^ Waldman, Kay (May 20, 2014). """National Review Story on the "Rape Epidemic" Accuses Women of "Crying Rape. Retrieved May 21, 2014. 
  24. ^ Hickey, Eric W. (2006). The Male serial murderer. In Serial murderers and their victims (4th ed., pp. 152–159). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Group
  25. ^ a b Schneider, H. J. (2001). Victimological developments in the world during the past three decades (I): A Study of comparative victimology. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 45, 449–468
  26. ^ a b Hickey, Eric W. (2006). Victims. In Serial murderers and their victims (4th ed., pp. 260–262). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Group
  27. ^ Miethe, Terance D. (1985). The Myth or reality of victim involvement in crime: A Review and comment on victim-precipitation research. Sociological focus, 18(3), 209–220
  28. ^ Godwin, Maurice (1998). Victim target networks as solvability factors in serial murder. Social behavioral and personality, 26(1), 75–84
  29. ^ a b c d National Crime Victimization Survey Official web site
  30. ^ "Criminology Today" (4th ed. Prentice Hall), found at Criminal Justice Glossary at the Prentice Hall website. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  31. ^ a b Robert Harris, Crime, criminal justice, and the probation service, (Routledge, 1992) ISBN 978-0-415-05034-0, at 56 (citing Mendelsohn 1963), found at Google Books. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  32. ^ a b Pawanjit, "Hiring Domestic Help Without Verification," Premier Shield Newsletter, found at Premier Shield Newsletter (pdf). Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  33. ^ a b Daniel W. Van Ness, Crime and its victims: what we can do, (InterVarsity Press, 1986) ISBN 978-0-87784-512-6 at 29, found at Google Books. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  34. ^ M. C. Sengstock & J. Liang, "Elderly Victims of Crime – A Refinement of Theory in Victimology," (AARP study 1979), found at National Criminal Justice Reference service (NCJRS) Abstracts – a United States government website. Retrieved April 1, 2009.
  35. ^ "A/RES/40/34. Declaration of basic principles of justice for victims of crime and abuse of power". 1985-11-29. Retrieved 2014-05-05. 
  36. ^
  37. ^

Further reading

  • Acker, James R., and Karp, Daniel R., Wounds that do not bind: victim-based perspectives on the death penalty, found at Google books
  • Croall, H. (2001) Understanding White Collar Crime (Open University Press). Croall, H. (2001) The Victims of White Collar Crime in Lindgren, S. (ed) White Collar Crime Research. Old Views and Future Potentials National Council for Crime Prevention, Sweden. Both noted at Glasgow Caledonian University website page for Hazel Croall, Professor of Criminology, School of Law & Social Sciences
  • Lisak, David, Understanding the Predatory Nature of Sexual Violence, found at the Middlebury College website
  • Ruhs, Florian: Foreign Workers in the Second World War. The Ordeal of Slovenians in Germany., in: aventinus nova Nr. 32 [29.05.2011]
  • Wilson, Janet K. (August 25, 2009). The Praeger Handbook of Victimology. Praeger.  

External links

  • World Society of Victimology
  • International Victimology Website
  • Tokiwa International Victimology Institute
  • TIVI Bibliography of Victimology
  • International Victimology Institute Tilburg (INTERVICT)
  • American Society of Victimology
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