Victimology as a logical field of study focuses on physical, emotional and financial related variables which impact causation of victimization. It also assesses the occasions prompting rates of victimization. In that capacity, victimology involves the investigation of antecedents, vulnerabilities, occasions, effects, recuperations and reactions of individuals, societies and organisations in connection to victimization. Exploitation is related with sufferings, penances and deaths, hence victims have the right to be made entire again by re-establishing their dignity and self-esteem.
Victims can be referred to as people who have individually or collectively suffered harm, physical or mental damage, emotional torment, economical loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights through criminal acts as defined by CITATION Chr97 l 1033 (Corns, 1997). According to CITATION Sam99 l 1033 (Garkawe, 1999) victims are individuals who have experienced assault, murder, rape, robbery and burglary, loss, or hardship subjected to them.
This essay has started off by defining the concepts of victimology and victim to give the reader an idea of what the essay is about. It is also going to focus on the development and history of the concept of “victim” and the study of victimology. The study will go into details on the history of victimology and paradigms, affirm what has been happening over the years and how paradigms were developed. Theories of victimology will also be included, each with the aim of explaining why certain people become victims of crimes, and why others do not. Thereafter, theories and paradigms of victimology will then be applied to victimological case study.
History of victimology.
Early victimological notions were not developed by criminologists or sociologists, but rather by poets, writers, and novelists. Thomas de Quincey, Khalil Gibran, Aldous Huxley, the Marquis de Sade, Franz Werfel, are only a few of those writers who can be described as literary victimologists. The first systematic treatment of victims of crime appeared in 1948 in Hans Von Hentig’s book The Criminal and His Victim. In the fourth part of the book, under the provocative title The Victim’s Contribution to the Genesis of the Crime, Von Hentig criticized the static unidimensional study of the offender that had dominated criminology until then. In its place he suggested a new dynamic and dyadic approach that pays equal attention to the criminal and the victim.
The term victimology was coined in 1949 by an American psychiatrist, Frederick Wertham, who used it for the first time in his book The Show of Violence, in which he stressed the need for a science of VICTIMOLOGY. During the early years of victimology, literature on crime victims remained relatively small when compared to that on criminology. In the 1970s, individual studies of the victims of specific crimes, popular in the early stages of victimology, were overshadowed by large scale victimization surveys which transformed the micro approach into a macro approach. The primary purpose of these surveys was to determine the volume of victimization, to identify the victim population, and to establish the socio-demographic characteristics of crime victims CITATION Fat00 p 17-22 l 7177 (Fattah, 2000, pp. 17-22) . During the 1980s, however, a great wave of important books and articles marked the coming of age of victimology CITATION Roc94 l 1033 (Rock, 1994). At present, it is fair to say that the study of crime victims has become an integral part of criminology.
In the last twenty-five years, victimology has undergone a major transformation. Early victimology was mainly theoretical, concerned almost exclusively with causal explanations of crime and the victim’s role in those explanations. It focused mainly on characteristics of victims, their relationships and interactions with their victimizers, and the analysis of victim behaviour as a situational variable, as a triggering, actualizing or precipitating factor. Concern for the plight of crime victims could be found primarily in the modest state compensation programs to victims of crime that were set up in some countries such as New Zealand, England, Canada and the U.S. The rediscovery of crime victims, spearheaded by the feminist movement, a movement that championed the cause of victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence, generated a great deal of empathy and sympathy for a largely disenfranchised group CITATION Fat4a l 1033 (Fattah, 1976, 1994a).
Theoretical victimology became the object of unwarranted attacks and unfounded ideological criticism. It was portrayed by some (Clark and Lewis, 1977) as the “art of blaming the victim”. A new focus for victimology was taking shape: helping and assisting crime victims, alleviating their plight and affirming their rights. A political movement was born and victimology became increasingly defined and recognized through its applied component. Victimology meetings mirrored the transformation of victimology from an academic discipline into a humanistic movement, the shift from scholarly research to political activism. These meetings were often turned into platforms for advocacy on behalf of victims. This transformation of victimology had serious implications. One of the consequences was to refocus the notion of criminality on conventional crimes that had a direct, immediate, tangible victim. White-collar crime, corporate action causing grievous social harm, whether legally defined as crimes or not, were once again relegated to the background.
Victimology today is very different from victimology in the 1950s or the 1960s. Scientific disciplines undergo constant evolution, though the pace of change may vary from one discipline to another. Victimology has undergone not only a rapid but also a rather fundamental evolution in the last two decades. The decades of the 1980s and 1990s could easily be described as a period of consolidation, data gathering and theorization, with new legislation, victim compensation, redress and mediation, help, assistance and support to enable victims to recover from the negative effects of victimization.
The Positivist ideology is largely based upon conservative criminology, of which the roots go back to well before the 1970s. However, it is probably true to say that the positivist ideological influence on crime victim policies really commenced around the time when the victims’ ‘movement’ started to make an impact on criminal justice policies in the USA in the early 1970s. The conservative tendency within Victimology is the logical paradigm to start with as it preceded the others and has had the greatest impact on criminal justice policy. The proposals for change and the interventions in the criminal justice system allegedly in favour of crime victims have, to date, been largely dominated by this paradigm. In Australia, and sometimes in the USA, it is commonly referred to as the ‘law and order’ paradigm. This terminology is used because its main concern is to reduce criminal victimisation by adopting an approach which emphasis a ‘lawful’ and an ‘orderly’ society. It is also referred to by a number of other labels, such as ‘Conservative Victimology’ CITATION Fat94 p 82-103 l 7177 (Fattah, 1994, pp. 82-103).
In positivist paradigm, victims are represented as totally ‘good’, whereas offenders are totally ‘evil’ – this enhances the appeal made by law and order advocates to the emotions of the public. Supporters of the conservative paradigm are normally strong advocates of victims having formal rights in the criminal justice system, including the right of victims to make victim impact statements.
Despite the many criticisms of the law and order ideology as referred to above, it is an important paradigm for victimologists to understand as its influence has been so pervasive in crime victim policy making. Furthermore, there is no doubt that retribution in some cases and the need to ensure safety for the public, are legitimate policy objectives and will continue to have considerable influence over policies relating to crime victims and to criminal justice policy in generalCITATION Fat94 p 82-103 l 7177 (Fattah, 1994, pp. 82-103).
Until the 1980s, the response to law and order ideology and conservative Criminology by progressive forces was largely dominated by what was often labelled as the ‘left idealist’ or ‘radical idealist’ position. However, the label of ‘idealism’ is contested by advocates of this paradigm as it is seen as a negative value judgement in itself, implying that there is something overly academic or unrealistic about what it advocates. The paradigm was broadly founded upon the radical Criminology paradigm, which evolved during the 1950s and was based mainly on Marxist theories. Radical criminology now is a multifaceted paradigm informed and refined by more recent theoretical perspectives, such as critical legal theory, post-modernism, post-colonialism and various forms of feminist thought. Perhaps a better label today is ‘critical Criminology’ CITATION Mat92 p 5-9 l 7177 (Mawby ; Walklate, 1994, pp. 5-9).
In broad and simplistic terms, the critical paradigm views crime not as a product of pathological individuals, as does conservative Criminology, but largely a result of social inequalities. The major tenets of this paradigm are diametrically opposed to those of conservative criminology or a victimology based upon the law and order ideology. The critical paradigm takes a somewhat critical stance toward right realism. It endorses less harsh, more social approaches to crime policy. It views victim assistance as a matter of entitlement, and questions the ‘labelling’ process that conventional criminal justice uses to inappropriately focus more attention on some victimisations than on others CITATION Mie90 l 7177 (Miers, 1989,1990).
In most Anglo-Saxon countries between the late 1960s and early 1980s conservative forces often used the victim rhetoric to conveniently advance their positions and ideology. Given that during this period progressive criminologists did not effectively challenge the approach; it was not surprising that a new paradigm arose to oppose both the prevailing criminological paradigms. In England this became known as ‘radical left realism’, and many victimologists also refer to the paradigm as ‘radical’ victimology. While the roots of left realism can be traced back to the 1970s and perhaps even earlier, it gathered strength mainly as a result of the writings and activities of a number of prominent criminology academics from the United Kingdom, such as Jock Young, John Lea and Roger Matthews.
Despite the origins of left realism being firmly placed within Criminology (the main concern of the realists was the need for democratic and accountable policing), realist Criminology potentially is an important development for Victimology. This is because it is probably the first ‘progressive’ criminological paradigm that attempts to place concern for victims of crime at its centre. The basic criticism of left realism from a radical Criminology or critical Victimology perspective is that left realism is characterised as not challenging the present system enough. It is pointed out that left realists still basically support social control and the present criminal justice system, including the police and the prisons. In this sense, many writers hardly regard this paradigm as being ‘radical’ CITATION Wal96 l 7177 (Walklate ; Elias, 1996).
Defining the victimology theories and applying them both with the paradigms to the victimology article.
Victim precipitation theory – Victim precipitation theories seek to explain what actions or characteristics of victims increase risk for harm. Applications of this framework include both broad and narrow conceptualizations such as the victim’s legal culpability, engagement in criminal lifestyles, direct confrontation, and careless behaviour known as facilitation. Put simply, the victim is believed to play either an active or passive role in causing his or her own harm. Criminologists recognized a range of vulnerable characteristics that made some victims more attractive to offenders and distinguished between innocent, partially responsible and guilty victims CITATION von41 p 453-454 l 1033 (von Hentig, 1941, pp. 453-454).
Application – The victim participated passively in her victimization because she went into the house of a 35-year old man, without her parents knowing and without her being aware of what might happen because she is young and might have trusted and respected the man who raped her, especially if they are from the same area.
Lifestyle-Exposure theory – One of the first systematic theories of criminal victimization was the lifestyle-exposure approach developed by Hindelang, Gottfredson, and Garofalo (1978) less than twenty years ago. The basic premise underlying the lifestyle-exposure theory is that demographic differences in the likelihood of victimization are attributed to differences in the personal lifestyles of victims. Variations in lifestyles are important because they are related to the differential exposure to dangerous places, times, and situations in which there are high risks of victimization. Social characteristics (e.g. age, gender, race, etc.) are important correlates of predatory crime.
Application – The message of Captain Patrick Ngwane to parents to always be vigilant and ensure that they know the whereabouts of their children proves that in this case the girl was raped because the parents were not aware of their child’s whereabouts. As the rapist succeeded in luring the victim into his house.
Routine Activity theory – The routine activity developed by Cohen and Felson (1979) has many similarities with the lifestyle-exposure theory. Both highlight how patterns of routine activities or lifestyles in conservative society provide an opportunity structure for crime. Structural changes in routine activity patterns impact crime rates by affecting the conjunction in time and space of three elements of direct-contact predatory crimes: motivated offenders, suitable targets, and the absence of capable guardians against a violation. As necessary elements, the lack of any of these conditions is adequate to avert criminal activity.
Application – The crime was motivated as the girl was young, she was a suitable target because the accused managed to lure the girl into his house. This shows that there was no capable guardian.
Positivist Victimology – As it is largely subjugated by law and order, positivist victimology will require the accused to receive harsher penalties and longer prison sentence.
Radical Victimology – This paradigm is acknowledged for placing apprehensions of victims of crime at its centre. Since in this case the victim is a 14-year-old girl, this paradigm will be more concerned as if focuses also on fundamental change.
Critical Victimology – This paradigm views victim assistance as a matter of entitlement, thus the victim of crime will be given a chance to make a victim impact statement or tell the court how she was victimized.
In conclusion, victimology is still developing to this day and most scholars are still arguing about what constitutes a victim. Until this day, there is no agreed definition of victim. Rather, scholars keep coming up of new definitions. Victimological theories and paradigms are discussed in this essay with the intention of explaining the victim through their perspectives and each of the three major paradigms discussed in this essay signifies a certain sight of society in relation to questions applicable to victimology. On the other hand, a victimological ‘theory’ typically refers to accounts as to why criminal victimisation transpires.