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Typology of victim-victimizer relationship is a profound analysis of how one can become a victim and levels of responsibility that a victim contributes to the crime that was imposed on them, which first came into existence by Benjamin Mendelson. There are six levels to this analysis from innocent victim, the victim with minor guilt, the guilty victim, guilty offender, the guilty offender, guilty victim, guilty victim, and imaginary victim. Setting aside imaginary victim, each of the listed five increases the magnitude of responsibility that victim shares during crime in a chronological order. Imaginary victim is a good example of false reporting as an individual can knowingly pretend to be the victim, which leads to confusion (Sanchez). The other five levels of this typology can easily be discerned with example. The innocent victim is someone who suffered the consequences of the crime committed by another party when he or she had nothing to do with the imposer like the case of mass shootings (Sanchez). The victim with minor guilt explains an individual that takes the risk of knowingly or unknowingly participate in the victimization process like entering high-crime area during night that result in robbery, which will be an important aspect of criminal cases in university campuses. The guilty victim, guilty offender explains someone that participates in the crime while being victimized (Sanchez). The guilty offender, guilty victim explains the situation whereas the victim initiated an assault on offender and suffered the consequences as a result of offender’s retaliation, like when an offender attempts robbery but was countered by the original victim. The last tier, the guilty victim is someone that instigated the conflict before being killed, like women facing sexual violence by her spouse, retaliates to murder her abusive husband. The one major problem of this victim-victimizer model is that social relationship of victim and the offender is ignored, which makes it difficult to analyse each criminal case critically. When an individual face consequence of a crime, responsibility may be shared unevenly amongst the offender and the victim, like innocent victim may be treated as victim with minor guilt just because of the situational evidence. This phenomenon often leads to university administrator committing the victim-blaming, which does not move the conversation forward.
One of the cases shown by the documentary, “The Hunting Ground” reports on a Harvard student, Kamilah Willingham and her friend being sexually assaulted. The two went out to drink in a bar, where a male companion bought them drink repeatedly, and as they arrived back into their dorm room, both were sexually assaulted while unconscious (influenced by alcohol) (The Hunting Ground, 2015). Cases like this one will often cause confusion when placing them at a victim-victimizer model as some may consider these women to be an innocent victim because they were simply going out with their friends and there was no reason for them to be harmed, while others may suggest that they could be classified as victim with minor guilt, when they decided to go drink during night allowing someone else to continue buying them to drink which resulted them to lose consciousness, leaving them vulnerable to potential harm. To distinguish which level this case, fall into, it may be effective to look deeply into their social relationship to verify if the victim were wrongfully harmed. Kamilah and her friend were young female adults, while the male companion happened to be a tall individual that could overwhelm them by strength, especially when the two women were influenced by alcohol. This clearly had large role in the crime as the lack of strength to retaliate allowed the male individual to take advantage of the situation. Although the situational evidence may suggest that the two women shouldn’t have gone to the club, the crime would not have occurred if the male companion actively offered a large amount of alcohol to the two.
Andrea Pino from University of North Carolina experienced sexual assault as she was pulled into bathroom of a night club, having her head smacked to the wall (The Hunting Ground, 2015). Similarly, this situation may put her on a level of victim with minor guilt because she was assaulted in a nightclub where people will consume alcohol and an environment where some may act out of control and harm others knowingly or unknowingly. However, considering her social status as young female student in university campus may have played part in being targeted for the crime as the criminal (often male) can overpower her with strength. These examples often allow administrator to be relieved from the responsibility as in their perspective, they could participate in victim-blaming and shift responsibility to students that took the risk of being harmed within the university campuses. Therefore, simply viewing criminal cases through the lens of Benjamin Mendelson’s victim-victimizer model would impede from critically assessing the situation.
As one can see, these simplified (referring to victim-victimizer relationship) levels of victimization often creates confusion from the third party, making the process of attempting to resolve the conflict or make an accurate verdict difficult. The situation in University campus and countless victimization of sexual assault of students represents this confusion as suggested by the film, there are discrepancies of ideas between student victims and the administration. The magnitude of the problem is extremely deep as most rape cases in the campuses go unreported, as film depicted the lack of willingness by the administration to act on this problem which often discouraged the victims. Victims that appeared in the documentary have expressed the concern or anger towards the administration as they have shared their experience of administration avoiding to assist students or rather, indirectly blamed the victims by asking questions like “How would you act differently if this was a football game?” and “did you try to retaliate the attacker?”. This discrepancy in the understanding of the situation is evident that sexual assault in the campus is treated on a different scale between the administration and the victim. The victim clearly considered themselves to be the innocent victim and for the majority of cases, and rightfully so. However, administration may consider this to be on a lower level victim-victimizer like victim with minor guilt as they may claim that it was student’s choice to enter a club during midnight where assault may occur. Moreover, they may apply to other theory like the Von Hentig’s typology that presents how certain demographics can be victimized. Following Hentig’s typology, victim of sexual assault in the campus (young female individuals) could suffer due to a lack of maturity, lack of physical and emotional strength to recognize the victimization. This also fits well with the reasoning why they are victimized in the university campuses, although it doesn’t change the fact that they are indeed the victim of a crime.
Moreover, the idea that a victim may consider themselves to be playing an active role in their victimization process restricts them from speaking out or report the incident. Annie Clark along with her friend did not even consider reporting their incident at first as they weren’t even informed about how they can do so. Furthermore, when they did report the incident, administrator asked them questions like “if this was a football game, what would you do differently?’ which shows the lack of understand or willingness to help their students (The Hunting Ground, 2015). This is a clear sign administration believes that her victim status, according to victim-victimizer relationship is victim with minor guilt.
Although victim-victimizer relationship model explains the level of responsibility shared by the victim of a crime, it does not sufficiently help explain each criminal case as there are many other factors that caused the victim to be harmed. Social relationship between the victim and the offender is obviously one factor that must be explored to identify the clear cause of crimes like sexual assault, which is prevalent in university campuses. Additionally, it is also ideal to apply Hertig’s typology that focuses on how a certain demographic can fall into victimhood which aides the analysis of victim-offender social relationship. Movements have already commenced in different universities to fight victimization of students in university campuses, which will likely force the administration to take more active role in preventing future crimes from being committed. Therefore, university administrations will have to develop clear guideline that assist their decision making, especially sexual assault cases against women, which should include social relation analysis that identify causes of victimization.
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