Victims of crime

One definition of victims is those who have suffered harm through acts that violate the laws of the state. However, Christie argues that ‘victim’ is socially constructed. The stereotype of an ‘ideal victim’ is weak, blameless and a target. There are 2 approaches to victimology;

Positivist victimology

Focuses on interpersonal crimes of violence. It seeks patterns in victimisation and aims to identify the characteristics of victims that contribute to their victimisation;

Victim proneness; the characteristic that make victims different from and more vulnerable than non-victims e.g. being less intelligent.

Victim precipitation; Wolfgangs study of 588 homicides found that 26% involved the victim triggering the events leading to the murder e.g. the first to use violence.

Critical victimology

Structural factors, e.g. patriarchy and poverty, place powerless groups such as women and the poor at greater risk of victimisation. Through the CJS process, the state applies the label of victim to some but withholds it from others e.g. when police fail to press charges against a man for assaulting its wife, she is denied victim status. Tombs and Whyte show that employers’ violations of the law leading to death or injury to workers are often explained away as the fault of ‘accident prone’ workers.

Patterns of victimisation

  • Repeat victimisation a mere 4% of the population are victims of 44% of all crimes. Less powerful groups are more likely to be repeat victims.
  • Class the poor are more likely to be victims
  • Age the young are more vulnerable to assault
  • Ethnicity EM are at greater risk than whites of being victims of crime
  • Gender males are at greater risk of violent attacks; females more likely ot be victims of domestic or sexual violence.

The impact of victimisation

  • Crime may have a serious physical or emotional impact on its victim; e.g. feelings of helplessness, increases security consciousness and difficulties in social functioning.
  • Crime may also create indirect victims, e.g. friends, relatives, witnesses
  • Hate crimes against minorities may create waves of harm that radiate out to intimidate whole communities, not just the primary victim
  • Secondary victimisation; in addition to the impact of the crime itself, individuals may duffer further victimisation in the CJS e.g. rape victims
  • Crime may create fear of becoming a victim even if such fears are irrational; women are more afraid of going out for fear of attack, yet young men are more likely to be victims of violence. Feminists attack the emphasis of fear of crime for focusing on women’s passivity when we should focus on their safety- the structural threat of patriarchal violence that they may face.