Victims of Crime


HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Sarah
  • Created on: 07-06-11 08:55

Positivist Victimology

Miers defines positivist victimology as having three features:

  • It aims to identify the factors that produce patterns in victimisation - especially those that make some individuals or groups more likely to be victims.
  • It focuses on interpersonal crimes of violence
  • It aims to identify victims who have contributed to their own victimisation

The earliest positivist studies focused on the idea of victim proneness. They sought to identify the social and psychological characteristics of victims that make them different from and more vulnerable than non-victims.

Hans Von Hentig identified 13 characteristics of victims, such as that they are likely to be females, elederly or 'mentally subnormal' The implication is that victims in some sense 'invite' victimisation by being the kind of person that they are. This can also include lifestyle factors such as victims who obviously display their wealth.

Example: 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, for instance by being the first to use violence. For example, this was often the case where the victim was male and the perpetrator female.

1 of 5

Evaluation of Postivist Victimology

  • This approach identifies certain patterns of interpersonal victimisation, but ignores wider structural factors, influencing victimisation, such as poverty and patriarchy
  • It can easily tip over into victim blaming.
  • It ignores situations where victims are unaware of their victimisation, as with some crimes against the environment, and where harm is done but no law broken.
2 of 5

Critical Victimology

Critical victimology is based on conflict theories such as Marxism and Feminism and shares the same approach as critical criminology. It focuses on 2 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 in the same way as 'crime' and 'criminal'. Through the criminal justice process, the state applies the label of victim to some but witholds it from others - for example when police decide not to press charges against a man for assaulting his wife, thereby denying her victim status.

 Similarly, Tombs and Whyte show that 'safety crimes' where employers' violations of the law lead to death or injury to the workers are often explained away as the fault of 'accident prone' workers. As with many **** cases, this both denies the victim offical 'victim status' and blames them for their fate.

Tombs and Whyte note the ideological function of this 'failure to label' . By concealing the true extent of victimisation and its real causes, it hides the crimes of the powerful and denies the powerless victims compensation.

EVAL: Critical victimology disregards the role of victims may play bringing victimisation on themselves.

3 of 5

Patterns of Victimisation.


The poorest groups are more likely to be victimised. For example crime rates are typically highest in areas of high unemployment and deprivation.

Marginalised groups are most likely to become victims is borne out by a survey of 300 homeless people. They found that they were 12 times more likely to have experience violence than the general population.


Younger people are at more risk of victimisation. Those most at risk of being murdered are infants under one, while teenagers are more vulnerable than adults to offences including assault, sexual harrassment, theft and abuse at home. The old are also at risk of abuse.


Males are at greater risk than females of becoming victims of violent attacks. However women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, sexual violence etc

Repeat Victimisation: refers to the fact that if you have been a victim once, most likely to be one again.

4 of 5

The Impact of Victimisation

Crime may have serious physical and emotional impacts on its victims. For example, research has found a variety of effects, including disrupted sleep, feelings of helplessness, increased security-consciousness and difficulties in social functioning.

Crime may also create 'indirect' victims, such as friends, relatives and witnesses of crime. Pynoos et al found that child witnesses of sniper attack continued to have grief-related dreams and altered behaviour a year after event.

Similarly hate crimes against minorities may create 'waves of harm' that radiate out to affect others. These are 'message' crimes aimed at intimidating whole communities not just the primary victim. Even more widely, such crimes also challenge the value system of the whole society.

Secondary Victimisation: is the idea that in addition to the impact of crime itself, individuals may suffer further victimisation at the hands of the criminal justice system. Feminists argue that **** victims are often so poorly treated by the police and the courts, it amounts to double violation.

Fear of Victimisation: Crime may create fear of becoming a victim. Some sociologists argue that surveys show this fear to be often irrational.

5 of 5


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Crime and deviance resources »