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 At the end of each module, you will reflect on what you learned in the module. Write 1–2 paragraphs in which you discuss what you found most interesting and explain. Describe how what you learned has changed how you think about victims of crime. 


Overview of Victimology

Jailya Wooden

Ph.D in Forensic Psychology, Walden University

CRJS 6203: Victimology

Gregory Koehle

September 5, 2020

Victimology is a subcategory of criminology that places its focus entirely on the victim. Victimology studies the complex relationships that exist between victims and criminal offenders. In a more specific way, it is concerned with the causes of victimization, consequences of being a victim, the way that criminal justice dispensers (police and courts) handle and accommodate victims, and how the victims are assisted. Victimology is also concerned with the relationship between victims and social elements like business, politics, and media.

History of Victimology

In the olden days where there was no existent of formal justice systems like courts, the punishment was mainly based on the crime being done. Lex Talionis principle is what formed the foundation of justice in those days. This was a form of retribution where; punishments were mainly dispensed based on the crime level or harm done to the victim (Daigle, 2017). During these days, the victim was at the center of determining punishment or justice. Also, during these days, the crime done was considered a harm to the individual victim and not the state.

After the industrial revolution, the crime done by a criminal was considered harm against the state. The state was therefore compensated in the form of fines and other monies. Although this created wealth for the states, it was a disadvantage to the victims. Victims slowly moved from being the primary focus to the secondary focus (Daigle, 2017). Victims of crimes were excluded from the formal justice systems because of this change in focus.

In the mid-1900s, around the 1940s, scholars, and researchers began to focus on victims again. However, this time, the focus on the victims was not on a perspective of innocence but rather on their role in making crimes happen. The studies being conducted aimed to find how these victims contributed to their victimization. The harm caused to the victim was rarely considered in this case. Studies by different scholars at this time showed the possibility of victims having some responsibility in the crimes done against them. Notable scholars in those days, like Benjamin Mendelson, aimed to determine how victims were equally responsible for the crimes against them.

By the time it was getting to 1970, victims’ concerns had overshadowed the obsession with victims’ role in the crimes committed against them. Studies emerged that were concerned with the welfare of the victims. These studies’ main focus was on how the victims were being accommodated by police and courts to ensure their fastidious recovery from the crimes committed against them. These studies seemed to have born fruits as different legislations followed.

In 1963, a court based in New Zealand introduced Victim compensation. This was a big breakthrough for the victimology scholars who were concerned for the victims. Shortly after this, in 1965, California’s state also introduced victim compensations, and New York followed suit. By the time it was getting to 1979, 28 different states had already established frameworks in their legal and justice systems to compensate victims of crimes where need be.

With the studies in place, there also began a revolution on victim activism. The women’s rights movement was a pioneer in this activism. Most of the rape victims have difficulties in recovering.

As a result, an establishment of this organization, the women’s rights movement, helped the rape victims cope up and recover from the trauma and any other harm done to them. In 1974, another organization, Family and Friends of Missing persons, was established to help those who had lost their family members. There followed the establishment of many other victim rights organizations like Parents of Murdered Children (1978) and Mothers against Drunk Driving (1980). These organizations came together, and a National Organization for Victim Assistance was formed in 1975. Currently, Victimology has become an essential part of the criminal justice system. Victim Rights is also a partner in the community of social and criminal justice system of any Nation.

Role of the Victim

As initially stated, the early studies on Victimology mainly focused on the role of victims in the crimes leveled against them. Early victimology experts believed that victims had a role to play in their own fates. As a result, some terms came up to explain the roles that victims played in becoming victimized in crimes. Victim precipitation was a term coined to explain the extent to which a victim was responsible for the crimes that they are victims of (Dhanani, Main & Pueschel, 2019). The scholars believed that criminals and victims have action and reaction before, during, and after the crime incidence. The level to which a victim was responsible for their crime was used to determine the level of the innocence of the criminal.

Victim facilitation is another term that was used to explain the role of victims in their victimization. Victim facilitation refers to the case where a victim unintentionally aides the criminal in committing the crime. In this case, the victim has a role to play because they catalyze committing criminal activity. For example, if a motorcycle owner left their motorcycle key in the bike and went in for a quick snack, they unintentionally aided the thief in stealing the bike. Therefore, they have a role to play in the criminal act.

Victim provocation was coined to explain a scenario where the victim’s action prompted the criminal’s criminal act. For example, if a robber tried to mug a person and out of self-defense, the person stabbed them with a penknife. The victim provoked the criminal by trying to mug them. In fact, the criminal is more innocent because the role played by the victim necessitated the criminal’s action.

Notable contributors to Victimology

Hans von Hentig (1948)

Hans von Hentig wrote a book The Criminal and His Victim: Studies in the Sociobiology of crime (1948). From the insights gained from this book, the basic foundations of Victimology basing on the relationship between criminals and their victims were considered. In this book, von Hentig explains that it is not enough in the criminal justice system to consider the criminal and the victim as two separate entities but rather together. The book explained complex relationships that existed between the two parties. In his book, he goes ahead to give 13 categories of victims basing on the level of involvement and the role they played in becoming victims (Kacher, 2020).

Benjamin Mendelson

Benjamin Mendelson can be considered as the father of Victimology. The attorney coined the term in the 1940s to explain a scientific study into victims. While in his duties, he observed that there was a prior relationship that existed between the criminals and the victims. He, therefore, decided to explore this relationship that existed and how it led to the crimes. He categorizes victims as completely innocent victims, victims with minor guilt, voluntary victims, victims with more guilt than offenders, most guilty victims, and imaginary victims. Using the categories, he was able to explain the innocence or guilt of victims and the extent of the role they had to play in the crimes against them.

Stephen Schafer (1968)

Through his book The Victim and His Criminal: A study in Functional Responsibility (1968) provided insights on the role played by victims in the crimes against them and contributed tremendously to the development of Victimology in the 1900s. e, like the previous scholars, categorized the victims based on their level of responsibility in the crime against them. The categories he made include unrelated victims, provocative victims, biologically weak victims, socially weak victims, self-victimizing victims, and political victims.


Daigle, L. E. (2017). Victimology: the essentials. Sage Publications.

Dhanani, L. Y., Main, A. M., & Pueschel, A. (2019). Do you only have yourself to blame? A meta‐analytic test of the victim precipitation model. Journal of Organizational Behavior. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/job.2413

Kacher, V. (2020). Victimology and Its Evolution. Studies in Indian Place Names, 40(3), 7530- 7539.