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Chapter 16 Victimology: Exploring the Experience of Victimization

Chapter Summary
Chapter Sixteen is an overview of victimolgy, or the study of victims of crime. The chapter begins with a discussion of who is victimized. This is followed with a discussion of the various theories regarding victimization. The Chapter concludes with a discussion of the role of the criminal justice system in terms of catering to the victim.

Chapter Summary
After reading this chapter, students should be able to: Define victimology Describe victims Explain the theories of victimization Describe the relationship between the criminal justice system and victims Understand policies aimed at helping victims

The Emergence of Victimology

For every criminal act, there is at least one victim. Victimology: A subfield of criminology that specializes in studying the victims of crime.

Who Gets Victimized

Victimization is not a random process; it is a process encompassing a host of systematic environmental, demographic, and personal characteristics. Victim characteristics differ according to the type of crime.

Table 16.1 Victimization Rates of Combined Violent and Personal Theft Crimes by Selected Demographic Characteristics 2004
Gender Male Female $15,000$24,999 Race/Ethnicity White Black Hispanic Other Two or more Age 1215 49.7 21.0 26.0 18.2 2.7 51.6 Marital Status Never married Married Divorced/separate 39.4 9.7 33.0 Rate 25.0 18.1 24.4 $7,500$14,999 $25,000$34,999 $35,000$49,999 $50,000$74,999 $75,000 or more 22.1 21.6 22.1 17.0 Household Income Less than $7,500 Rate 38.4 39.0

2024 2534 3549 5064 65 or older

43.0 23.7 7.9 11.0 2.1

Residence Urban Suburban Rural


29.0 18.0 19.9

Victimization in the Workplace and School

On average, over two million incidents take place in the workplace annually. The three occupations most at risk are: police officers, correction officers, and taxi drivers. Schools are some of the safest places we can be. Teachers get victimized by both theft and violence at school.

Table 16.2 Average Annual Number of Violent Victimizations in the Workplace 1992-1996

Annual Average Homicide Rape/sexual assault Robbery Aggravated assault Simple assault 1,023 50,500 83,700 395,500 1,480,000 2,010,723

% 0.05 2.50 4.20 19.70 73.60 100.00

Source: Workplace violence, 1992-1996. Warchol (1998).

Figure 16.1 Number of Homicides and Suicides of Youth Ages 15-19 at and Away from School: 1999-2000

Source: DeVoe et al., Indicators of school crime and safety: 2003 (2003). U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.

Figure 16.2 Percentage of Students ages 12-18 who Reported being Bullied During Previous Six Months, by Grade: 1999 and 2001

Source: DeVoe et al., Indicators of school crime and safety: 2003 (2003). U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.

Child Molestation: Who gets Victimized?

Child molestation is perhaps the most prevalent crime against the person in the United States. Girls are more likely to be abused within the family, and boys are more likely to be victimized by acquaintances outside of the family and by strangers. The strongest single predictor of victimization for girls is having a stepfather. The strongest predictor for boys is growing up in a father-absent home.

Victimization Theories
Victimization can occur at any time, at any place, and totally without warning. In the majority of cases of victimization, victims are now seen as individuals who in some way, knowingly or unknowingly, passively or actively, influenced their victimization.

Victim Precipitation Theory

Von Hentig (1941)by acting in certain provocative ways, some individuals initiate a chain of events that lead to their victimization. Victim precipitation theory has been most contentious when it is applied to rape.

Figure 16.3 Male Victimization Rates by Number of Risk Factors for Delinquency

Source: Loeber, Kalb, & Huizinga (2001). Juvenile delinquency and serious injury victimization.

Figure 16.4 Four Scenarios Illustrating the Degree of Victim/Offender Responsibility According to Victim Precipitation Theory
Degree of Criminal Intent of the Perpetrator None Some
Equal Responsibility Victim using the services of a prostitute leaves his wallet on the bed stand and leaves. She decides to keep the money in his wallet.


Victim Innocent A sex offender kidnaps a screaming young girl from a playground and molests her.

Victim Provocation A woman who has suffered years of abuse stabs and kills her husband in selfdefense as he is beating her again.

Victim Facilitation Victim leaves keys in his car while he runs into a store. A teenager impulsively steals the car and wrecks it.





Degree of Victim Facilitation or Provocation/Precipitation

Routine Activities/Lifestyle Theory

The basic idea of lifestyle theory is that there are certain lifestyles that disproportionately expose some people to high risk for victimization. Lifestyles are the routine patterned activities that people engage in on a daily basis, both obligatory and optional. Most of the research in routine activities/lifestyle theory has been done on rape victimization.

Is Victimology Blaming the Victim

Some victim advocates strongly reject victimology theories as victim blaming. Victimologists do not blame, they simply remind us that complete innocence and full responsibility lie on a continuum.

The Consequences of Victimization

Overall, financial looses per crime do not appear overly large. The worst consequences are psychological. Rape trauma syndrome: Re-experiencing the event via flashbacks, avoiding anything at all associated with the event, and a general numbness or affect. Violent victimization helps to shape the life course trajectories of victims.

Victimization and the Criminal Justice System

Advocates for victims rights began agitating for some of the same kinds of due process rights for victims that are enjoyed by their victimizers in the late 1960s, but it was not until 1982 that a federal task force was set up to examine the treatment of victims by the criminal justice system. The fair and decent treatment of victims by the system can help them to some extent to get over their victimization.

Figure 16.5 Percentage of Adolescent Victims and Non-victims of Violence Expected to Experience Adult Problem Outcomes

Source: Menard (2002). Short-and long-term consequences of adolescent victimization

Box 16.2 Focus on Victims Opinions Of the Importance of Victims Rights

Source: D. Kilpatrick, Beatty, & Smith-Howley (1998). The Rights of Crime Victims. National Institute of Justice.

Victim Compensation and Restitution

Victims of crime are eligible for partial compensation from the states to cover medical and living expenses incurred as a result of their victimization. Victim compensation in the form of direct payments from the offenders in the form of restitution is increasingly ordered by the courts.

Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs (VORPs)

VORPs are an integral component of restorative justice philosophy. Central to the VORP process is the bringing together of victim and offender in face-to-face meetings mediated by a person trained in mediation theory and practice. VORPs are used most often in the juvenile system but rarely used for personal violent crimes in juvenile or adult systems.