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Victimology as Important Aspect to Criminology

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This essay will define the meaning of victimology and discuss the provisions. Explaining how it is an important aspect to criminology and outlining the definition of a victim and the victim’s characteristics of victimization. It will focus on the historical development of victimology explaining how it has improved over time.

Victimology is a new branch of Biosocial Science. It focuses on the relationship between the victim and the criminal of the crime and is used to describe the study of individuals that are physically harmed by criminals. A key figure in victimology is Benjamin Mendelsohn, he was the first person to use the word ‘victimology’ in 1947 and could see the separate discipline between this and criminology. As well as understanding the relationships between the victim and offender, Mendelsohn looks at why victims were ignored for so long and left to carry the burden of the consequence of the crime. Criminology is the study of criminals and what they do, why they may have done it, and how the criminal justice system works. Whereas victimology is the study of the causes of victimization and studies victims at a deeper level by looking at why that victim was targeted.

Victimology looks at crime in a wider perspective, studying the victim’s actions and backgrounds to understand why they were targeted. This led to the study of Von Hentig describing the ‘characteristics’ of a victim. Christie created a study of the ‘ideal’ victim, explaining the reasons why some victims were ignored. According to Christie an ‘ideal victim’ is “a person or a category of individual who – when hit by a crime – most readily is given the complete and legitimate status of being a victim”. The word ‘victim’ was first used in the 16th century however, it was not used in the English Language until the year 1947. The word was defined as “a living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power”. The research of victims has strengthened criminology which then created victimology being separate from criminology, looking more into the victims of crime.

Criminal victimization was one of the biggest areas in the system to be neglected as victims would not receive the expected support and were not treated as a victim should be treated because they did not reach the victim’s needs. Introducing victimology into criminology has improved the criminal justice system in the way that they view and value victims of crime. The study of victimization is so important to criminology as it has the potential of reshaping the discipline of criminology, this is because it examines criminal activity from a different perspective. Victimology could be the long-awaited paradigm shift that criminology has needed. According to there are two major types of victimology, general victimology, and penal victimology. The difference between these two types starts from the definition of how they describe and identify a victim. General victimology includes individuals who have been harmed by accidents and things such as a natural disasters. This type of victimology focuses on the way the individual is treated after the accident and the consequences of being victimized. Whereas penal victimology focuses on the legal perspective, the rights of a victim after a crime has occurred and through the process of the prosecutions.

Victimology is the shift in recognition. The Victims Code of Practice was launched in April of 2006, it was applied to all police forces and to the Crown Prosecution Service and court services. It was also published in prisons, probation, and parole boards. It was published after it was established by the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004. This act was the reason why the code came into place. The Victims Code of Practice was made to set out each criminal agency and what they must do for victims and the time frame in which they must do it as victims were entitled to immediate emotional support from a trained worker and an in-depth review of their practical, emotional, health, security and housing needs. This code also supports victims and their families or vulnerable victims during a case, each victim will receive the support of a liaison officer who is also assigned to a victim’s family to give them extra support if they need it. This code has given the victims what they need as the needs of a victim are important to a criminal case. An example of a need of a victim is reassurance, guidance, and a chance to express how they feel. This code allows victims to write a victim personal statement which allows them to discuss their side of the story, this is an improvement in the criminal justice system as before, victims were not heard and did not have a say.

There are three main theoretical perspectives that feature in victimology, these are: positivist, radical and critical victimology. Positivist victimology is a social science concept of victimology and it is the scientific study of causation that attempts to measure the extent of victimization. It looks into the causes of things – ‘aetiology’ and victim blaming. This means that victims are looked into more and focused on in this perspective as they are investigated on their lifestyles and how they may have provoked an incident which would have led to their victimization. It has pursued three major concerns being: the identification of factors in individuals or their environment that conduce to a non-random risk of victimization, a concentration on inter-personal crimes of violence, and the identification of victims who may be held to have contributed to their victimization.

According to Miers positivist victimology has concentrated on two different aspects of victimization which are: the identification of characteristics of an individual and what makes them susceptible to victimization and the other being, identification of particular crimes and the relationships between victims and the perpetrators which might suggest responsibility in a victim for their victimization. Early studies focus on victim proneness. An example of this would be Von Hentig’s study of victim characteristics. He explains the social and psychological characteristics of a victim and how they may have provoked an incident themselves.

Hentig describes the reasons why victims were ignored for so long in the typology of victim proneness. He was a criminologist who focused on the victims in crime, he would study the victims to understand crime and criminals rather than looking at how they were impacted. His belief was that by understanding the relationship between the criminals and the victim, it could prevent the crime from reoccurring. He created a study that would question what makes a victim a victim? He explained how victims were characterized and identified twelve different characteristics of a victim. For example, a female would more likely be a victim because they are seen as ‘weak’ and ‘vulnerable’, they ‘lack physical strength’ suggesting that they are not strong enough to fight back with their perpetrator so they would be the ‘ideal victim’ for a certain offense. Another characteristic of Hentig’s study is a mentally defective and deranged person, they lack capacity and are not able to make decisions for themselves, and are not able to see when they are being taken advantage of. Christie’s ‘ideal victim’ study means that individuals are viewed differently if they do not meet the characteristic criteria.

It is said that victims can also bring a crime upon themselves, such as rape for example. If they are wearing revealing clothes and walking alone late at night and they are attacked, that victim shares some of the ‘blame’ for the crime. Wolfgang explains this in his study of the belief that the causation of an individual that has been victimized relies on the relationship between that individual and the offender. It is said that the crimes are not completely random, they are socially patterned. This gives an understanding that will lead to crime prevention. This study also shows that there were 588 homicides in Philadelphia and 26% of those were victims of precipitation – bringing it on themselves, sharing the ‘blame’. This study relates to the other aspect of positivist victimology as this aspect focuses on blaming the victim and them taking responsibility of their actions. However, this can have a lot of critiques as the approaches are now largely discredited. Much of the work was speculative rather than empirically grounded and now positivism remains controversial as it tends to focus on more traditional crimes.

In conclusion, from the evidence above we can evaluate the effectiveness of victimology and the importance of victimology to criminology. It has improved criminology over the years as victimology has created an understanding between the criminal and offender. It has developed a wider perspective into criminology and views crime in a new way. Victims are now noticed more than before and can use the victim’s code of practice to support them in a criminal case. Without the other laws shifting this into place, victims would still be suffering as the Code of Practice has given the victims a say and ensured they are getting the needs they are entitled to.  

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Victimology as Important Aspect to Criminology. (2022, August 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 22, 2022, from
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