A victim. Victimology, as a discipline of criminology,

A victim of a crime is a person who
has experienced some level of suffering or adversity. In crime context, a
victim is considered to be a person who has submitted a complaint of a crime
committed against them. Criminology has, in the past, only focused on analyzing
the criminal accused of a crime (Robertson, 2017). Scholars in the recent times
have put much focus in getting a complete view of the whole crime by examining
the victim, offender and the nature of the crime committed. Scientific advances
and further research have provided a foundation for theoretical analysis of the
victim, the offender and the crime. Different theoretical outlooks that
describe the victim of crime emerged to give a deeper understanding of the
factors that influence the offender to pick a specific target, and the prior
actions of the victims that might have caused the crime. Victimization of a
victim refers to the tendency of an offender to pick out a particular victim.
Victimology, as a discipline of criminology, aims at investigating the reasons
for victimization (Robertson, 2017).

Radical in nature, the theory of
victimology emerged in the mid-20th century and aimed at emphasizing the
different influences that result in an occurrence of crime. Benjamin Mendelsohn
is credited with the introduction of victimology. Victimology is a
sub-discipline of radical criminology and sociology, and connects three
different parties associated with crime and victims. The primary focus of
criminology is the criminal, while the primary focus of victimology is the
victim (Robertson, 2017). Wilcox and Gialopsos (2015) defined victimology as a
crime-event criminology, which specifically focuses on the events that lead to
accidents and crime rather than using the traditional offender behavior focus
adopted by criminology. Daigle, L. E. (2018) defines victimology as gaining
scientific knowledge of the victim and causes of victimization. The in-depth
analysis of victims offers vital information, especially on the emotional, physical
and psychological effects victims face; how the justice system offers support;
and how society accommodates victims and media reactions to victim cases
(Hernandezpeterson, 2017). A general observation of different crimes and their
victims has led to the description victimology as a satisfactory and
accomplished, scientific and academic, discipline that studies the victim
explicitly and uniquely follows a distinct research methodology (Daigle, L. E.
2018).

Benjamin Mendelsohn is famous for
his research in victimology. He is referred to as the father of victimology and
his work was one of the earliest known to be documented on paper; his work was
presented at a conference in Bucharest, Romania in 1947. Mendelsohn was a
practicing attorney, and his contact and interaction with crime victims led to
the observation of a standard pre-existing connection of crimes and their
victims. He discovered that there was an inevitable trend regarding the method
of attack, the reason for attack and level of attack when it came to victims
who suffered from the same type of crime. His observation led him to emphasize
the need to interrogate victims and get the real picture of the crime
committed. His approach on victimology is based on human rights, and underlines
on a complete investigation to prove the legitimacy of the victims’ claims. There
is also primary focus on the role of the justice system in creating criminals
and victims. An accused criminal who is declared guilty by the criminal justice
system is mostly tagged as a criminal. Some of these criminals can be victims
of poor investigation or extreme manipulation of the justice system by false
victims. Mendelsohn created a topology to classify the victim by considering
the level of guilt related to the victim’s action. This topology intended to
try to classify victims and understand their level of relation to the crime.

Mendelsohn’s typology identified six
categories of victims concerning crime. This topology allowed extensive classification of victims and
evaluation of their culpability in their own victimization (Robertson, 2017).
The first victim was the completely innocent victim who lacked responsibility
in creating a situation that led to the crime also referred to as victim of the
offender. These victims are majorly targeted because of their nature. For
example, young children or persons who show weakness in resisting
victimization. The second victims are of minor guilt, and whose unintentional
actions have led to victimization. These victims are mainly described as
victims of ignorance who unknowingly place themselves in a vulnerable
situation. The third victims are guilty of creating a situation that leads to
their victimization. These crimes mainly fall under intentional self-inflicted
crimes, such as suicide. The fourth victims are considered as imaginary or
simulating victims who formulate an offense with ill intentions. They fabricate
events that lead to the victimization of other innocent victims. The fifth
victim is a criminal offender or suspected offender who suffers victimization
as a result of a crime. This can occur when a criminal is caught in the
vicinity of a crime that he might not have committed but is blamed for the
crime. The sixth victim classified represents victims who act in a way that
provokes the offender leading to their victimization. The victims might have,
in the past, angered or assaulted the offender and in retaliation, the offender
attacks the victim. Mendelsohn developed a victim typology to distinguish
victims who are more responsible for their victimization and those who are
considered guiltless or innocent. The topology mainly focused on the victims of
the crime rather than criminals.

Victimology is a relatively new
concept that is still developing regarding relating the victim and offenders in
the commission of a crime (Robertson, 2017). Researchers focus on the character
of victims as well as their contact with offenders. It is assumed that
victim-offender interaction leads to the cause of victimization. Victim
interaction with offenders is still a matter under scrutiny, but the habit of
blaming the victims is still prevalent. Victim blaming occurs when the victim
of a crime is held partially or fully responsible for the events that have led
to their victimization, these cases are commonplace in sexual related cases
(Maier, 2015). Individuals who have endured suffering and hardship due to the
crime, more often than not, are faulted for creating an atmosphere that
attracts the crime (Rickard, 2014). The society expects that individuals should
be aware of situations deemed dangerous and therefore should strictly take
necessary precaution to ensure their safety. Failing to make precautions leads
to victim blaming due to the view that an individual acted carelessly. 

The people who are expected to offer
support to the victims are mainly the ones who are at the forefront of victim
blaming (Maier, 2015). Persons who originate from a particular group or
category of people who have a history of committing a crime also are prone to
suffer from victim blaming. In a typical example, in areas that have associated
black people with crime, if a crime is committed where a white man and black
man are present, the black man is likely facing more suspicion as the guiltier
one. The level of support for victims varies depending on the society’s visual
impression and degree of interaction with the victim or the offender. The
negative responses from part of the professional community that is given the
task to support the people affected by crimes, lead to difficulty in recovering
from effects of the crime (Coates L. et al., 2006).

According to the just world
hypotheses, some people view the world as a just and an equally safe place (Kay
et al., 2005). The reason for victimization is blamed on the notion that the
victims have negative characters and deserve whatever crime that comes their
way. Just as criminals are punished for crimes committed, victims should answer
for their wrongdoing before the attack and in the advent of the crime.
Mendelsohn notes that such victims are partially responsible for the crime
leveled against them (Idisis et al., 2017). This means that they are the
primary cause of their victimization (Johnson et al., 2002). This theory,
therefore, approves the misfortune of the affected victims emphasizing the
crime is a fair and deserving outcome of their ‘bad actions or influence’ in
the world. The extent and severity of the harm to the victims increase the
level of blame and leads to people adopting a tendency to avoid individual
characters that are associated with the attraction of such crimes (Idisis et al.
2017). Blaming victims shows a lack of compassion and victims, who have
suffered a great deal from the crime, have an extra burden of facing the
society that imposes more suffering on them. The result of victim blaming leads
to pernicious effects that involve self-inflicting crimes.

Attribution theory further
emphasizes the faults in the victim’s character as the primary determinant of
the crime against them. Situational contributors are given less concern giving
preference to the internal failings. The victims are partially responsible due
to their ways of life and character. The people, on the contrary, find
themselves blaming the environmental situation for their misfortune and
acknowledge personal attribute or characteristic for their successes (Johnson
et al., 2002). Attribution theory is majorly linked to sexual and gender
violence. Sexual assault is a common crime whose victims face a lot of
prejudice due to the mentality created by the society that the situation they
face is a byproduct of their indecent character or dressing. This, however, is not
the case most of the time and victims should get support from the society and
relevant institution to overcome their state of misfortune. Gender violence can
occur in a situation where women are blamed for the abuse they face from their
spouse. Most women are encouraged to change their behaviors which lead to harm
rather than the provision of services that would help them escape such abusive
situations.

Invulnerability theory describes the
actions of using victim blaming as a way to condemn the victim and offer
self-protection from personal insecurities. The actions that associate the
victim with the crime are actions that the society majorly condemns. The
victims fit in Mendelsohn’s victim category for the victims who are directly
responsible for their victimization. In a situation, for example, where a
person decides to walk through a street, very late in the night, which happens
to be a notorious hotspot for mugging and rapes, then becomes the victim of
expected crimes. In other words, the person is directly responsible for the
crime that is leveled against him or her – an example or warning is portrayed
through the victim.

Although individuals have excellent
control of events in their lives, they may have less command in a crime
situation, but there should still be some capacity for them to avoid crime
situations. They should not resign to their fate without acting. It is then,
therefore, the responsibility of individuals to make sure they review their
lifestyle and usual routines to promote personal safety and security (Karmen
A., 2015). Victim blaming cannot always be the sole responsibility of the
victim neither can the victim be completely innocent when the circumstances
leading to the crime are investigated. The notion of the total innocence of the
victim is debatable as situations leading to victimization can be avoided by
understanding the level of criminal activities in the society. Knowledge of the
criminal activities might be helpful, but it is assurance that an individual
will be safe from victimization. No one can, with complete confidence, be
precisely sure no matter what measures are taken, that they can avoid meeting
with dangerous criminals. There is a lack of an identification system that
differentiates the right person from the wrong person to associate with.

There is a state of sequence whereby
victims’ level of blame can be found to range from totally blameless on one end,
to full responsibility on the other (Karmen, 2015). These ranges mainly lie in
Mendelsohn topology of victims of one’s self. At one end of the range, for
example, a company can invest heavily in the security of its business premises
by installing the latest CCTV cameras, hiring highly qualified security
personnel and installing electric fences. Well organized criminals might raid
the company of its valuables and sensitive information. The company, therefore,
will fall under the blameless victim of crimes. On the other end of the range
lies a company that did not take any measures to secure its company premises
but faced similar demise. They are fully accountable for the loss of their
valuables or for any harm they have encountered.

The focus of victimology has, in
recent years, focused on identifying typologies to give a classification of
victims. Focusing on the victims offers an in-depth look at the real situation
of the crime. This is especially important in the case where the crime is
committed by a victim of one’s self, categorized by Mendelsohn as imaginary
victims who formulate crimes with hidden intentions. The victims are therefore
described as offenders hiding in the pretense of a victim (Karmen, 2015). An
assumed victim might have arranged for his or her assault aiming to blame an
innocent individual. Focusing on the suspected criminal might lead to wrong
conclusions. Topological classification of the victim cases is essential to
allow rational and just findings to any crimes committed.

Opportunity theory is a result of
the combination of the lifestyle and routine activities theory which explain
the relation of income, race, and age to victimization. The lifestyle of
victims dramatically affects their level of vulnerability. For example,
individuals who love partying and getting drunk find themselves more prone to
victimization. Some individuals also like to flaunt their wealth to the public,
therefore, exposing them to criminals. Opportunistic theory aims to identify
the possible reasons that would cause an offender to victimize a particular target
and avoid another specifically. The model theory explores five factors that
result to victimization: proximity, the attractiveness of targets, exposure,
guardianship and definitions of specific crimes (Robertson, 2017; Cohen et al.,
1981). Social inequality is a major contributing factor for criminal
victimization. Researchers have found that crime is associated with poverty and
race. The level of illegal activities in an area is affected by the type of
individuals who reside in an area or the failure of the people in an area to
cooperate in preventing crime. Eck and Madensen (2018) do not believe that
social disorganization is a major factor but a minor factor that results in
crime and victimization. Cohen (1981) does not blame persons for being victims.
Instead, his approach to the study of crime and victimization is from the
perspective that some factors lead to crime, not just the victim. It is very
crucial to review all aspects that create crime, therefore, combining
Mendelsohn theory of victimization that seeks to analyze the victim, and the
opportunistic approach that examines factors that connect the victim and the
offender is useful in generating a model that can be used to control and
strategies on crime prevention.

Proximity to crime means nearness to
crime areas or the closeness of potential crime victims to areas where there
are large populations of potential criminals. Proximity mainly puts emphasis on
physical distance. The likelihood of contact between the victims and offenders
increases the risks of victimization (McShane M. D., 2015). Offenders have the
opportunity to analyze their targets and plan an attack. In highly populated
areas, there are places considered safe zones while some others are labeled as
hot spots of crime. Regions populated with people who have something of value
to criminal offenders are more likely to have high crime rates. Research has
shown that chances of committing a crime in one’s neighborhood are less.
Offenders tend to attack different neighborhoods that are close in proximity
(Gibson et al., 2014). The offenders’ target areas usually consist of a
suitable supply of potential targets such as drugs, prostitution markets and
retail markets (Bernasco W & Block R., 2011).

Cohen et al. (1981) observed that the
more visible or publicized objects or persons are, the more susceptible the
object and persons face victimization. Exposure is measured by activities that
lead to persons to get out of their home and venture into public locations.
This activity makes potential targets have a higher risk of victimization by increasing
the probability of contact with likely offenders. Studies have shown that
increase in exposure leads to increased property and violent attacks,
especially when engaging in leisure activities outside one’s homes (Gibson et
al., 2014). Further research done, after examination of specific activities,
has also shown that some activities have provided protection against
victimization (Henson et al., 2010). Delinquent and criminal lifestyles lead to
increased interaction with criminals. Criminals can efficiently target people
living such lifestyle, and this factor increases the risk of victimization
(Gibson et al., 2014).

Cohen et al. (1981) described target
attractiveness as selection based on the symbolic and financial importance of
the victim or target to the offender. Targets assumed to be easy to attack due
to their physical vulnerabilities, or lack of resistance are most preferred by
offenders (McShane M. D., 2015; Cohen et al., 1981). The common factors that
have been found to lead to targeting on an individual level are ownership of
expensive consumer goods (especially portable goods), carrying precious jewelry
and cash publicly, and level of family income and social class. Family social
class and income are the most favorable factor for the offenders due to the
easiness of assessing. The target level of victimization is divided into three
components target antagonism, target usefulness, and target vulnerability.
Antagonism is as a result of the victim arousing negative feelings towards the
offender. Target usefulness arises when the victim or target has characteristics
or qualities that are attractive and useful to the offender. Target
vulnerability displays the victim’s attributes of lacking resistance to prevent
victimization.

Guardianship represents security
measures adopted by a target to avoid experiencing victimization. This is
achieved through having company availability during a specific action or
installing security apparatus. Scholars have, in the recent years, defined
guardianship as the actions and presence of individuals in matters that involve
the provision of protection. Individuals who adopt high-level safety
precautions such as advanced door locking mechanisms, burglar alarms, or owning
weapons, are less likely to be victimized by burglars. Sex offenders find it
hard to attack a target that has self-protection tools like pepper sprays, guns
or other weapons (Fisher et al., 2010). The capacity for guardianship is
limited by the level of self-control of the target. Lower self-control is a
negative characteristic of an individual and leads to target proneness to
victimization. Motivated offenders are highly attracted to any form of
vulnerability. Studies show that targets with lower self-esteem end up
suffering from repeat victimization (Pratt et al., 2014).

Some crimes are more frequent than
others due to the complexity of initiating the offense. Offenders sometimes opt
to go for the easy targets that have quick results or success, in their
context, rather than crimes that are considered riskier. Time plays a
significant factor in deciding what crimes an offender can get involved in.
Extensive knowledge of the victim’s activities is required, in some cases, to
understand the level of approach the offender will adopt. In other instances,
it requires less input and time to identify and attack a target. Cohen et al.
(1981) argued that the frequency at which crimes associated with exposure,
guardianship, target attractiveness and proximity, were based on tangible
valuables and was higher compared to those crimes which were a result of
offenders’ expressive motives such as assault. Offenders are known to take
risks where they estimate the reward will be worthwhile, but will frequently
commit less risky crimes when the level of restraint by targets is low.

Finally, in a world advancing in
understanding the concept of crime, it is primal to achieve reliable results
from crime analysis. Results that accomplish a complete review of crime and its
connected parties help a lot in reducing ignorance and victim blaming by the
society, justice system and related institutions. Victims of a crime, whether
guilty or partially responsible or innocent, suffer a great deal due to blaming
and some may end up committing crimes against themselves or others. It is
significant to understand victim blaming and identify limiting factors that
associate with it. A platform or system of offering support to victims is
essential in every society. Equally, the culpability of victims should be given
much scrutiny by relevant crime investigators to verify who the real victim of crime
is. Mendelsohn’s typology classifies victims according to their culpability.
Some victims are classified as innocent while others are false victims who are
liable for their victimization. The science in identifying victims needs more
advance due to the complexity of understanding modern age crime.

It is imperative for individuals in
a society, community or specific area to be cognizant of their environment.
Awareness is a primal factor that may prevent prevalent crimes that are known
to occur at particular places. Taking security measures may help avoid specific
crime situation but may not always guarantee safety from crime. Crime can be
predictable to the community, but the time and place at which it occurs are
sometimes unpredictable. Offenders are becoming more aware of their victims,
and advanced technology is only easing the chances of victimization. The
internet has become a famous avenue where victims interact with offenders
unknowingly and where victims find themselves exposed and attacked by society
for their responsibility for their victimization.  More research is needed to identify new
avenues and methods that offenders and victims are likely to interact, and the
level of opportunity that arises from developing societies.