Criminology: The Study of Victimology
Criminology Assignment- CRIM 2724
Miss Molahlegi Monica Mahlangu
[email protected]: Mr Zayne Mintoor
Date: September 28, 2018
Criminology: The Study of Victimology
Criminology Assignment- CRIM 2724
Miss Molahlegi Monica Mahlangu
[email protected]: Mr Zayne Mintoor
Date: September 28, 2018
Table of Contents
Introduction…………………………………………………… page 2
Conceptualisation of Victimology…………………………… page 2
Historical Overview of Victimology………………………… page 2-3
Victimology in South Africa………………………………… page 3-4
Theoretical Approaches to Victimology…………………… page 4-7
Paradoxes and Paradigms in Victimology…………………page 7-8
References…………………………………………………. page 8-9
Imagine you are driving on your way to MacDonald’s after a night out from the club with your friends, and in the parking lot, you witness an altercation taking place between two other customers. Later that day, you decide to watch the news and found out that one of the customers that were involved in last night’s fight sustained serious injuries. The police are looking for any possible witnesses to the crime. You call the police station that was listed in the news feeds and explain on what you saw the previous night at MacDonald’s. The police then communicate to you that the victim was assaulted by the boyfriend of the girl whom he was dancing with in the club and continue to gather any information you might have. This is the first step to victimology.
The following academic read, explores Victimology in South Africa to a great extent as well as exploring the broad overview of the discipline as a whole. The written composition offers the reader an in-depth perspective by elaborating on points such as, the historical overview and evolution of victimology, paradigms and paradoxes of victimology, the main theories found in victimology and everything else that was deemed important by the writer. The writer also provided extract evidence in support of the topics where necessary.
Conceptualisation of Victimology
Victimology can be referred to as the study of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. In order to understand the concept fully, it is important to define the terms victim and perpetrator first. A victim is a person whom has been harmed, injured or killed by the perpetrator as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action( Oxford Dictionary;2013). The perpetrator, also known as an offender, is an individual who carries out a harmful, illegal or immoral act against the victim (Oxford Dictionary; 2013).
Furthermore, it is a branch of criminology that examines the connection between an injured party and an offender through analysing the causes and nature of the subsequent suffering. Moreover, victimology centres on whether the perpetrators were friends or family members, mere acquaintances or complete strangers and how a specific person or place was targeted.
Historical Overview of Victimology
Victimology first developed in the 1940s and ’50s, with several criminologists (mainly, Hans von Hentig, Benjamin Mendelsohn and Henri Ellenberger) analysing victim-offender interactions and strained reciprocal effects and role setbacks. These developers discovered the possibility that certain individuals who sustained injuries and losses might have been responsible alongside the wrongdoers for their own misfortune. For example, as introduced earlier, irresponsible behaviour of the intoxicated customer caused the assault; negligence of some drivers’ makes the task of thieves easier. More controversially, it is said that women portion some responsibility for the misunderstandings involved in sexual assaults. Through examining victim actions, mistakes may occur and risk reduction strategies may be a possibility. Additionally, people who assume the liability of injured parties for their victimisation, such as defence attorneys, argue in support of vindicating the punishment for offenders.
Extract A: In 1947, Mendelsohn presented his article in a scientific conference held in Budapest; in the article, written in French language, he used the neologism “victimology” for the first time. Very much like von Hentig, the focus of Mendelsohn’s attention was the role of victims in the process of “victim precipitation” in a violent crime, as a result of provocation, for example. 18
Victimology in South Africa
As part of the historical aspect of Victimology, it is essential to understand that within the South African context, the study is explained mainly through three disciplines named; African perspective, Western perspective and European perspective. All three are responsible for the critical analysis as well as the present-day knowledge of how victimology has emerged. Within the African Perspective, victimology is based on the philosophy of Ubuntu; “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu; a person is a person through other persons”. It is mainly based on the protection of the victim and compensation of the aggrieved party. The Western Perspective, simply explains that any compensation made to a victim must be done by the offender and if he or she fails to do, the state will be held liable. In Europe, they believed in liberty and individual rights for the victim. Due to this, a classical model was developed and it assumed that they were unable to avenge themselves without the assistance of the State. Enrico Ferri (1856-1929) opposed the ideas proposed by the classical model. Retribution needed to be substituted by positive actions namely crime prevention and compensation of the victim.
Theoretical Approaches of Victimology
5.1 Lifestyle Theory: The Lifestyle/Exposure Theory suggests that the likelihood that an individual may suffer a personal victimisation depends heavily on their lifestyle. The analyses of this theory advises that certain behavioural patterns may produce opportunistic structures for criminals. For example, a person who constantly goes to a nightclub increases their risk of victimisation. Thus, authors Michael R. Gottfredson and James Garofalo (1978) concluded a few views about the nature of patterning of victimisation;
The more time a person spends within public places, the greater the chances of being victimised.
The chance of an individual becoming a victim if victim and offenders belong to same lifestyle category.
Maintaining certain lifestyles makes individuals frequent in public places.
Differences in lifestyles impact the desirability, convenience and ease of victimising individuals.
The time spent with non-family members creates a chance for an individual to become victim to a crime.
The interactions among individuals is restricted to persons who share a similar lifestyle
Differences in lifestyles allows for individuals to separate themselves from people with offender characteristics.
Analysis: The Lifestyle theory concludes that patterning our daily lives so much so that a routine is created, increases the risk of being victimized. Furthermore, according to the study of the authors it has been found that a high alcohol consumption increases victimisation to a great extent. Also due to the fact that, most victimisations are committed by non-family members, it can be determined that increased public activity and contact with persons who are not family generates a greater chance of victimisation.
Criticism: Firstly, the theory emphasises on a specific lifestyle pattern and disregards the victimisation of those who are not regular to a certain lifestyle and persons with more than one lifestyle. Secondly, alcohol consumption is heightened and ignores societies in which no individual consumes alcohol, therefore, from this viewpoint the theory is not global. Thirdly, most victimisations are committed by non- family members therefore suggesting that when a person is in the public and associating with non-family members, the greater their risk of victimisation which rules against crimes carried out by family members. Lastly, it fails to explain the difference in victimisation patterns between men and women.
Extract B: basic premise underlying the lifestyle-exposure theory is that demographic differences in the likelihood of victimization are attributed to differences in the lifestyles are personal lifestyles of victims. Variations in important because they are related to the differential exposure to dangerous places, times, and others-that is, situations in which there are high risks of victimization.
5.2 Opportunity Model Theory: Also known as the Crime Opportunity Theory which suggests that offenders rationally make decisions on targets that offer high rewards based on very little risk and effort. The occurrence of a crime is twofold; firstly, the presence of at least one offender who readily and willing wants to participate in a crime and secondly, the conditions of the environment in which the offender finds himself in, in order to complete the criminal activity. All crimes need an opportunity but not every opportunity is followed by a crime. Just as, an encouraged offender is necessary for a crime to take place but not sufficient. Mostly, this theory concentrates on how variations within routine activity influence crime opportunity as this plays a role in the causation of a crime. The theory also explores crime opportunity to a great extent because crime opportunity is influenced by space and time as well as everyday daily movements. Following, is the two aspects of the opportunity model;
Environmental Criminology: This is an analysis of criminality, victimization and crime as they relate, firstly, to certain places and secondly, to the manner in which organisations and individuals form their activities spatially, and thus influenced by space-based and spatial factors. It emphasises on the environmental factors that impact criminal activity. These factors being, target or victim, offender, time, law and space geography; each component is necessary, for without one, the remaining factors will not constitute a criminal activity.
Rational Choice Perspective: It emerged from Roland Clarke and strives to explain the motivation of the offender and decision-making process. Crime results from the sensible thinking of the offender’s mind. The phenomenon does not mean that the choices of the offender are rational but rather that victimising behaviour is the process of realisation in which an offender is motivated towards committing a crime. According to this, victims are presented as targets to be taken advantage of, therefore, assuming that all people are rational and not just those whom are potential offenders. For example, an offender may walk into a mall in search of a victim who does not pose much of a threat, maybe an individual smaller than him in physical appearance. Similarly, a potential victim evaluates the risk of being in public and makes decisions on their activities and behaviour. Therefore, the decisions of both parties may not be rational but are a result of the rational choice process.
5.3 Routine Activity Approach: According to Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson (1979), there are three elements necessary for the occurrence of a criminal activity; (i) an encouraged offender, (ii) a potential target and (iii) the absence of a guardian. Therefore, if one or more of the elements are not present, the crime will not take place. It is concluded by this theory that people need to be educated on how offenders’ operate or take active steps against victimisation.
Extract C: According to Cohen and Felson (1979, in routine activity patterns p.589), structural changes influence crime rates by affecting the convergence in time and space predatory crimes: motivated of three elements of direct-contact offenders, suitable targets and the absence of capable guardians against a violation.
Victim Precipitation Theory: Also known as the Victim Facilitation or Victim Blaming which explains the responsibility shared between the victim and offender in an incident of victimisation. The behaviours that contribute to victim precipitation are those in which the victim, whether actively or passively, contribute to his or her own victimisation. Therefore, it is assumed that the process of victimisation results as an interaction between more than one person; meaning that a criminal activity is a social event which influences people. Most importantly, victim precipitation assigns the victim an active role rather than a passive role as opposed to handing this over to offenders. Evidence of victim precipitation is evident in the Wolfgang’s study of homicides:
Extract D: Work that has incorporated victim research on homicide and perspectives, such as especially Amir’s political difficulty because it Wolfgang’s (1958-1971) related work on rape, encountered appeared that the victim bore some responsibility for the crime. This was an idea that smacked of “blaming the victim,”
5.4 Urbanisation Theory: Also referred to as Hot Spot of Crime, explains areas or environmental conditions that produce an increased crime intensity. They help analysist and researchers study geographical areas in relation to crime. Urbanologists examine the reason of hotspots in certain areas and how they happen and analysist assess the techniques used for such research. Crime theories view crime at a large extent and to a larger extent what type of conditions are produced by urban and rural settlements. Urban features affect the organisation of daily activities and the pace in which offenders and victims will cross paths.
6. Paradoxes and Paradigms in Victimology
6.1 Positivist Victimology: According to Miers, there are three components to positivist victimology; (i) its main goal is to identify factors that produce victimisation patterns, (ii) focuses on interactive crimes of violence, and (iii) analyses victims whom contributed to their own victimisation. Early developments focus on the ideology of victim proneness in which they identify the psychological and social characteristics of victims in comparison to those of non-victims. For example, Marvin Wolfgang’s Philadelphia study of 588 homicides. Wolfgang discovered that approximately 26% involved in victim precipitation- the events which led to the homicide was because of the victim, for example, by being the first to use force. This is analysed as blaming the victim, as it is assumed that one in ten rapes result as victim precipitated- which is not different from saying the victim “asked for it”. Not Ever (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h95-IL3C-Z8)
6.2 Critical Victimology: It is founded on conflicting theories like feminism and Marxism and focuses on two branches. Firstly, structural factors like poverty and patriarchy, which assumes that powerless crowds and poor groups of people have an increased chance of being victimized. As Walklate and Mawby (1994) claim: “victimisation is a form of structural powerlessness.”
Secondly, the power of a country to allow or deny the victim label; meaning the term ‘victim’ is a social construct like ‘crime’ and/or ‘criminal’. Therefore, the criminal justice process applies the label to certain people but does not apply it to others – for example, the police will not press charges against a husband that assaults his wife, therefore withholding the status for her to be a victim. According to Whyte and Tombs (2015), the ideological ‘failure to label’ conceals the true degree of victimisation, thus, hiding the crimes of powerful people and denying powerless victims any reform.
6.3 Radical Victimology: It analyses the victim-offender relationship and explains the reactions towards a crime. It makes visible who is regarded as a victim and how society would respond to such a person as well as which conduct is regarded as a crime. For example, prisoners of conscience (Peter Benenson; 1961) are identify by this paradigm because of their crimes against human rights violations. Two other sub-branches emerge known as pathetic victimology; a study used by feminists whom are subjected to violence by men and heroic victimology; a study in which an individual fights for freedom and human rights within their country.
Extract E: Definition of Prisoner of Conscience-a person who has been put in prison for holding political or religious views that are not tolerated in the state in which they live.
Within the contents of this essay, a coherent understanding of victimology has been discussed to the best of the writer’s ability and understanding. The main and most relevant information was elaborated and evidentiary sources are attached to support the written content of Victimology in South Africa as well as on an international bases.
McShane, M. and Williams, F. (1997). Victims of crime and the victimization process. New York: Garland Pub.
Mawby, R. and Walklate, S. (2002). Critical victimology. London: SAGE Publ.
Tombs, S. and Whyte, D. (2015). The corporate criminal. London: Routledge.
Peacock, R. (2013). Victimology in South Africa. Pretoria: Van Schaik.
Aic.gov.au. (2018). Online Available at: https://aic.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/proceedings/downloads/27-elias.pdf Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.
Tandfonline.com. (2018). Online Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10511253.2014.965410?src=recsys;journalCode=rcje20 Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.
Elsevier.com. (2018). Forensic Criminology – 1st Edition. Online Available at: https://www.elsevier.com/books/forensic-criminology/petherick/978-0-12-375071-6 Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.
3. Journal Articles:
Robert F Miers. Understanding Theories of Criminal Victimisation. Crime and Justice, Vol. 17 (1993), pp. 459-499.
Ezzat A. Fattah. The Vital Role of Victimology in the Rehabilitation of Offenders and Their Integration Back Into Society.
N P. Dastile (2004). University of Pretoria ETD.
4. E-books or PDF:
Anon, (2018). EBook Available at: https://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10413/13191/Cinini_Samuel_Fikiri_2015.pdf?sequence=1;isAllowed=y Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.
Anon, (2018). EBook Available at: https://pure.uvt.nl/ws/files/709308/INTPROT_.PDF Accessed 28 Sep. 2018.