Victims of crime

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Victims of crime
The definition of victims
In the 1980s the UN put forward what it saw as a universal commonsense definition of
who can be considered a victim `persons who individually or collectively suffered harm
including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial
impairment of fundamental rights through acts or omissions that are in violation of criminal
laws'. Watts et al (2008) however claim that one problem with this definition is that it is
indeed too clear cut and as such it fails to take into account differences in individual
incidences such as the fact that with regard to many violent crimes there is often some level
of violence on both sides which the UN definition does not take into account but which
researchers should. Such considerations point to the possibilities of the lines between victim
and offender becoming blurred because it is not clear which was acting in selfdefence and
which was acting out of unwarranted aggression. Furthermore there are some situations,
such as the smacking of children where the child may not be considered to be a victim as
there is no report of the crime because in the family or household such violence is
considered to be legitimate. While on the street the victim of a random assault or mugging
can be clearly identified as can the offender when we enter the private sphere boundaries
become far more subjective and blurred. A wife who kills her abusive partner may in some
cases be regarded as a victim and at others as the perpetrator depending on both who
judges and the circumstances which led to her killing him (i.e. did she plan to do it or was it
a moment when she just snapped following yet another beating).
Victim, offender and criminality
Von Hintig was among the first theorists who came to realise that to be able to have a full
understanding of crime within a society and to be able to understand how to tackle the issue
that led to it we must also look at who victims are and what leads to them becoming victims,
and he started his approach with the assumption that the offences was triggered by
something that the victim had done or some way that they had behaved which had led to the
offender committing the offence against them.
Marvin E Wolfgang (1962) built on the work of Von Hintig in victimology in his analysis of a
concept that he termed `victim precipitated homicide', the defining features of which
included a situation in which the victim was the first to use physical force and thus
exacerbated the situation which led to their death, and he included in his illustrations of this
theory the idea of a wife murdering her abusive husband. Wolfgang further supported his
hypothesis by reviewing 588 homicide files in Philadelphia and declared that 26% of them
had been victim precipitated.
Tim Newburn claims that developments in the field of criminology have seen that Von
Hintig's arguments have largely been discredited because they are seen to be based on
victim blaming and many have taken the position that such an idea is both unjust is laying the
responsibility for the crime on the victim and inapplicable to certain types of crime, for

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One of the most common forms
of victim blaming both in the criminal justice system and wider society is regarding rape
victims who have often been said to feel as though themselves are on trial and can be seen
as responsible for the assaults that they suffer because they dress inappropriately or a
known to `like a drink'.…read more

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Other gender differences that are brought to light by positivist victimology
which shows that men are far more likely to be the victims of street violence or violence by
strangers whereas women are almost twice as likely to be victims of domestic violence or
spousal abuse. With regards to ethnicity African Caribbeans and British Asians are both
more e commonly the victims of street robbery and racially motivated crimes than their white
counterparts.…read more

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Feminists have drawn heavily on critical victimology in their attempts to explain due to its
tendency to highlight the lack of victimisation of less powerful social groups such as women
and ethnic minorities. The only way that the state can be made to take issues that are
primarily faced by less powerful groups more seriously is through the active struggle and
pressure from citizens, and there has been at least some success when this has come to
issues such as domestic violence.…read more


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