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The United Nations defines victims as those who have suffered harm through acts or
omissions (errors) that violate the laws of the state.
Nils Christie takes a different approach, highlighting the notion that the `victim' is socially
constructed. The stereotype of the `ideal victim' favoured by the media, public and criminal
justice system is a weak, innocent and blameless individual such as a child or old woman.
Miers defines positivist victomology as having three features:
1. It aims to identify the factors that produce patterns in victimisation (what makes
someone more likely of being a victim)
2. It focuses on interpersonal crimes of violence
3. It aims to identify victims who have contributed to their own victimisation.
The earliest positivist studies focussed on the idea of victim proneness. They sought to
identify the social and psychological characteristics of victims that make them more
vulnerable than non-victims.
Hans Von Hentig identified 13 characteristics of victims such as they are more likely to be
female, elderly or mentally subnormal. These characteristics invite victimisation by being the
kind of person that they are.
An example of a positivists victomology:
o Marvin Wolfgang's study of 588 homicides in Philadelphia, he found that 26%
involved victim precipitation-the victim triggered the events leading to the
homicide, by using violence first.
o Fiona Brookman notes, Wolfgang shows the importance of victim-offender
o This approach identifies certain patterns of interpersonal victimisation, but ignores
wider structural factors influencing victimisation such as poverty and patriarchy.
o It sometimes blames the victim, suggesting they provoked the offender.
o It ignores situations where victims are unaware of their victimisation (green crime),
and where harm is done but no laws is broken.
Critical Victomology: based on conflict theories and focusses on two elements:
Structural factors: such as patriarchy and poverty, which place powerless groups such as
women and the poor at greater risk of victimisation? As Mawby and Walklate argue
victimisation is a form of structural powerlessness.
The State's power to apply or deny the label of victim: Victim is a social construct. Through
the criminal justice system the state applies the label of victim to some but withholds it from
others (eg not charging a husband of rape, denying the women of the title victim)
Tombs and Whyte: Often victims are blamed for their fate, they are placed at fault. (e.g.
with victims of environmental/ workers injury)
By failing to label a victim and concealing the true extent of victimisation and its real causes, it
hides the crime of the powerful and denies the powerless victims any compensation.
In the Hierarchy of victimisation therefore the powerless are most likely to be victimised yet
least likely to have this acknowledged by the state.
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Critical victomology disregards the role victims may plain in bringing victimisation on
themselves through their own choices (eg not making their homes secure)
It is valuable in drawing attention to the way `victim; status is constructed by power and how
this benefits the powerful at the expense of the powerless.
Patterns of victomology
Class: The poorest marginalised groups are more likely to be victimised, as crime rates
are highest in areas of high unemployment and deprivation.…read more