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Victimology is the study of victimization, including the relationships between victims and offenders, the interactions between victims and the criminal justice system -- that is, the police and courts, and corrections officials -- and the connections between victims and other societal groups and institutions, such as the media, businesses, and social movements. [1]

Six main areas of victimization

There are six main areas of victimization, discrimination and harassment:

Victim of a crime

A victim of a crime, or crime victim, is in criminology and criminal law, the identifiable person who has been harmed individually and directly by the perpetrator or defendant, rather than merely society as a whole. However, this may not always be the case, as with victims of white collar crime, who may not be clearly identifiable or directly linked to the crime, and are often denied their status as victims by the social construction of the concept. (Croall, 2001). Not all criminologists even accept the concept of victimization or victimology. [How to reference and link to summary or text] It also remains a controversial topic within women's studies. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

The United States Supreme Court first recognized the rights of crime victims to make a victim impact statement in the sentencing phase of a criminal trial in the case of Payne v. Tennessee 501 U.S. 808 (1991) .

A victim impact panel is a form of community-based or restorative justice in which the crime victims (or relatives and friends of deceased crime victims) meet with the defendant after conviction to tell the convict about how the criminal activity affected them, in the hope of rehabilitation or deterrence.

Consequences of crimes

Emotional distress as the result of crime is a recurring theme for all victims of crime. The most common problem, affecting three quarters of victims, were psychological problems, including: fear, anxiety, nervousness, self-blame, anger, shame, and difficulty sleeping.[2] These problems often result in the development of chronic PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Post crime distress is also linked to pre-existing emotional problems and sociodemographic variables. This has known to become a leading case of the elderly to be more adversely affected. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

Victims may experience the following psychological reactions:

  • Increase in the belief of personal vulnerability.
  • The perception of the world as meaningless and incomprehensible.
  • The view of themselves in a negative light.[2]

The experience of victimization may result in an increasing fear of the victim of the crime, and the spread of fear in the community.


One of the most controversial sub-topics within the broader topic is victimization [3] The concept of "victim-proneness" is a "highly moralistic way of assigning guilt" to the victim of a crime, also known as victim-blaming. [4] One theory, the environmental theory, posits that the location and context of the crime gets the victim of the crime and the perpetrator of that crime together. [5] That may just be an academic way of stating that the victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There have been some studies recently to quantify the real existence of victim-proneness.[6] Contrary to the urban legend that more women are repeat victims, and thus more victim-prone than men, actually men in their prime (24 to 34 year old males) are more likely to be victims of repeated crimes. [7] While each study used different methodology, their results must be taken seriously and further studies are warranted. [8]

The study of victimology may also include the "culture of victimhood," wherein the victim of a crime revels in his status, proclaiming that self-created victimhood throughout a community by winning the sympathy of professionals and peers. [9]

In the case of juvenile offenders, the study results also show that people are more likely to be victimized as a result of a serious offense by someone they know; the most frequent crimes committed by adolescents towards someone they know were sexual assault, common assault, and homicide. Adolescents victimizing people they did not know generally committed common assault, forcible confinement, armed robbery, and robbery [10]


One particularly well known example of a class at increased risk to varying forms of attacks is the prostitute. These people have been known anecdotally to have an abnormally high incidence of violent crime, and such crimes go unresolved frequently. Victimological studies of the matter might investigate current societal mores (expectations, roles, social status), legal status of prostitutes, typical working/living conditions, statistical analysis of the actual increased risk and secondary risk factors, and the economic activity of a prostitute. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

Another example is when the victim actively precipitates or initiates the crime scene, for example, by starting a fight or baiting another individual. [11]

A sexual assault or rape is a poor example; in fact, such ideas about provocation are "gut-level and irrational." [12]


The study of victims is multidisciplinary. It does not just cover victims of crime, but also victims of (traffic) accidents, natural disasters, war crimes and abuse of power. The professionals involved in victimology may be scientists, practitioners and policy makers. Studying victims can be done from the perspective of the individual victim but also from an epidemiological point of view.

National Crime Victimization Survey - United States

The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is a tool to measure the existence of actual, rather than reported crimes -- the victimization rate.[13] The National Crime Victimization Survey is the United States': "primary source of information on crime victimization. Each year, data are obtained from a nationally represented sample of 77,200 households comprising nearly 134,000 persons on the frequency, characteristics and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States. This survey enables the (government) to estimate the likelihood of victimization by rape, sexual assault, robbery, assault, theft, household burglary, and motor vehicle theft for the population as a whole as well as for segments of the population such as women, the elderly, members of various racial groups, city dwellers, or other groups."[13] According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the NCVS reveals that, from 1994 to 2005, violent crime rates have declined, reaching the lowest levels ever recorded.[13] Property crimes continue to decline.[13]

International Crime Victims Survey

Many countries have such victimization surveys. They give a much better account for the volume crimes but are less accurate for crimes that occur with a (relative) low frequency such as homicide, or victimless 'crimes' such as drug (ab)use. Attempts to use the data from these national surveys for international comparison have failed. Differences in definitions of crime and other methodological differences are too big for proper comparison.

A dedicated survey for international comparison: A group of European criminologists started an international victimization study with the sole purpose to generate international comparative crime and victimization data. The project is now known as the International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS). After the first round in 1989, the surveys were repeated in 1992, 1996, and 2000 and 2004/2005.

Society as crime victim

There is one strain of thought that society itself is the victim of many crimes, especially such homicide felonies as murder and manslaughter. This sentiment has been espoused by many lawyers, judges, and academics. [How to reference and link to summary or text] Some district attorneys feel they represent all of society, while some feel they are the lawyer for the crime victim. [How to reference and link to summary or text] John Donne wrote that when one hears a funeral bell, one should not wonder "for whom the bell tolls," because "it tolls for thee," meaning that a part of everyone dies when one person in society dies. In other words, crime is a harm to society.


  1. Andrew Karman, 2003, Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology, Wadsworth Publishing ,ISBN 9780534616328.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sebba, L., (1996). Third Parties, Victims and the Criminal Justice System. Ohio State University Press, Columbus.
  3. Or victim-proneness. For an overview of victimization, see Lucia Zedner's article at [1]
  4. Id., see [2]
  5. Harrison on the environmental theory, at Theory
  6. David Thissen (The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas) and Howard Wainer (Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey), Toward the Measurement and Prediction of Victim Proneness, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 20, No. 2, 243-261 (1983), abstract retrieved at [3]
  7. Johannes Kingma, Repeat Victimization of Victims of Violence: A Retrospective Study From a Hospital Emergency Department for the Period 1971-1995 Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 14, No. 1, 79-90 (1999), abstract retrieved at [4]
  8. See, e.g., [5]
  9. See [6], [7], [8].
  10. Richard Lusignan, "Risk Assessment and Offender-Victim relationship in Juvenile Offenders" International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Vol 51, No. 4, 433-443 (2007)
  11. One quarter or 25 % of all homicides have been historically victim-precipitated. Id., see [9]
  12. See, David O. Friedrichs, University of Scranton, The problem of reconciling divergent perspectives on urban crime: Personal experience, social ideology and scholarly research, Qualitative Sociology, Volume 4, Number 3 (September, 1981), at pp. 217-228, abstract retrieved at [10]
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 National Crime Victimization Survey Official web site

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