From the beginning of time there have always been crimes against persons. People went by the saying “An eye for an eye”. You stole from your neighbor, they stole from you. You hurt someone, they hurt you. It wasn’t until the 1940’s people started taking a closer look into these crimes against person, which they later called victimology. This paper will look into victimology and their theories as we go back into the past and how victimology is now.
Victimology: A Look into the Past
The study of victimology dates back to the early 1940’s. Marvin Wolfgang was one of the first victimologists. To fully understand victimology is to understand what a victim is. A victim is a person that has suffered physical or emotional harm from the hands of another person. Examples of this might be: rape, domestic abuse, homicide, and theft. Wolfgang was one of the first people to believe that crimes are not randomly committed by strangers.
They were two main victimologists who began the study of victimology after Marvin Wolfgang, Benjamin Mendelsohn and Hans von Hentig. They were considered “the fathers of victimology”. Benjamin Mendelsohn conducted a rape study in 1940, where he interviewed victims to obtain information. From that information he concluded that most victims had an “unconscious aptitude for being victimized”. Mendelsohn also created a typology of six types of victims. Only the first type which is called the innocent type doesn’t put the blame on the victim, they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other five types represent the victim precipitation (which we will discuss later).
Hans von Hentig focused mainly on homicides and also came up with his own typology of four types of homicide victims. These types were: the depressive type, the greedy type, the wonton type, and the tormentor type. The depressive type is an easy target, careless and unsuspecting; this type is the most likely type of the four according to Hentig. The greedy type is easily tricked because his/her motivation for easy gain lowers his/her natural tendency to be suspicious. These are the get rich quick people, the ones who always looking an opportunity to make a quick buck. The wonton type is ones who are vulnerable to stresses that occur at a given period of time. The tormentor type is the victim of attack from the target of his or her abuse. This is mainly seen in battered women. They are pushed to the edge and when they finally snap it unfortunately ends in murder. Von Hentig findings provided the blueprint for the victim precipitation theory. Victimology has a four part method. First define the problem, second measure true dimension of the problem, third see how the criminal justice system handles the problem and lastly examine society’s response to the problem.
Victimology includes the study of: victimization, victim-offender relationships, victim-criminal justice system relationships, victims and the media, victims and the cost of crime, and victims and social movements. The first study we are going to talk about is victimization. Victimization is the act of making someone a victim. There are five major theories associated with victimization. These theories are: victim precipitation, lifestyle, equivalent group hypothesis, proximity hypothesis and routine activities. Victim Precipitation is states that the victims somehow play a role in their victimization. They may be dressed in a provocative way; they may have been drunk and flirting with the offender but later denied him which infuriates him which in turns you into a victim. Lifestyle say’s the victim puts themselves in harm’s way; that they knowingly put themselves in danger. They may go into a neighborhood that they are bad and known for high crime rates. Or maybe they walk around in scantily clad clothing around a recent sex offender. There are three risk types of victims: high risk, medium risk and low risk victims. High risk victims are...
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