Victimology Definitions and Paradigms

The increased incidences of criminal offences in nations are a global menace. They not only affect the victims but also have adverse effects on criminal offenders. The act of crime is a consequence of breaking a law which has been enforced through legal constructs. Most countries are guided by constitutions which incorporate various provisions meant to protect the wellbeing of citizens. In addition to these provisions there are outlined implications for those who opt to break the law and commit crimes. Victimology is a category within the field of criminology which is inclusive of such aspects like juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, assault, murder, rape, robbery and burglary. The potentials of being a victim are present in all individuals even though there are indications of an increased vulnerability for some of them. Unlike criminology which focuses on the reasons behind criminal acts and behaviors, victimology is concerned on how and why individuals are victimized.
There is an observable characteristic of modern perspectives on victimization which involves the notion that victims prompt the act of victimization. The modern society fails to see the victim as such and label them as catalysts of crime. It is therefore imperative that individuals understand the concept of victimology to further dissuade such claims. Indeed, the term victimology must be well explained for optimum comprehension on the subject. This will underlie forming an understanding of who victims are and what circumstances lead them there. Gaining knowledge on this subject will also provide insights into the formulation of strategies for preventing victimization. It is vital that individuals are harnessed with the capacity to detect their vulnerability to victimization and take precautions for avoiding the same. In addition, the study of victimology will pave way for the creation of a fundamental framework for understanding victims. In doing so, it will be possible to develop rehabilitative programs which suit all kinds of victims.

Victimology as a scientific field of study focuses on physical, emotional and financial factors which influence causation of victimization. It also evaluates the events leading to incidences of victimization. As such, victimology entails the study of precursors, vulnerabilities, events, impacts, recoveries and responses of people, cultures and organization in relation to victimization. Sparks (1981) and Whitrod (1991) assert that victimization can also be a process as it affects different individuals under different circumstances on an everyday basis. Victimization is associated with sufferings, sacrifices and deaths hence victims deserve to be made whole again by restoring their dignity and self-esteem as suggested by Smith and Hillenbrand (1997). From the following discussion it will be evident that even criminal offenders can be victimized. The case studies illustrating Matthew Stuarts experiences will be critical in cementing this discussion.

Victims can be referred to as people who have single handedly or collectively suffered harm, physical or mental damage, emotional torment, economical loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights through criminal acts as defined by Corns (1997). According to Garkawe (2000) victims are individuals who have experienced assault, murder, rape, robbery and burglary, loss, or hardship subjected to them. Victimization is a process in which individuals become victims of several circumstances either induced by individuals themselves or their surroundings and can be measured by several factors as depicted by Australian Bureau of Statistics (2002).

Matthew Stuart Pearce in Hunt (2009, p.3), became a general victim due to the natural catastrophes which occurred during his childhood. These incidences had been beyond human control and had been executed randomly.  This illustrates the aspect of victimization circumstances which are present in peoples lives. General victimization is further described as physical suffering, financial or emotional damages and experiences in which properties are taken, occurrences of terrifying events and natural calamities. One can become a victim through own acts as the case was with Matthew Stuart Pearce (28) who involved himself in juvenile delinquency by abusing  drugs in hope of running away from the harsh circumstances he was going through. The process of victimization was further aggravated by his association with people who were not in a capacity to help in resolving the problem. It is also important to point out that most victims find themselves as such by circumstance. Even though he resulted to committing crime Matthew Stuart Pierce (Insight, 2009, p.74) had also been victimized as it is illustrated this happened after the killings of his mother and siblings. Left to fend for himself, Matthew resulted into his own mechanisms for coping which led to his criminal life.

Another form of victimization is child abuse which is characterized by sexual harassment, physical, emotional and psychological injury as a result of neglect by parents or guardians care in which physical protection is absent thus children become more vulnerable to abuse. Kelly Richards (2009) report shows that child complainants in the criminal justice system experience more difficulties compared to other complainants. Children who are victims of sexual assault make up a substantial majority of complainants. The cases in the judicial process are very traumatizing especially when dealing with sexual offences where children are involved. This becomes heightened when the children are required to give evidence against family members as they are undoubtedly exposed to the public.

Fisher and Schreck (2004) report that family and peer contexts influence victimization through routine activities, social structures and demographic features which motivate offenders.  After such incidences they become distraught and experience what is commonly referred to as victim trauma. Victim trauma is a result of painful and physical experiences which have a long term effect on a persons life .The death of parents and siblings through fights and murder exposes individuals to traumatic situations which naturally harms ones emotional stability. Furthermore, this form of trauma especially for child victims can be excruciating and failure to reverse it results in dire consequences. Matthew Stuart Pierce (Hunt, 2009, p.3) never recovered from the trauma of losing his mother and siblings under such horrifying circumstances and this made him a juvenile delinquent.

Mouzos and Venditto (2006) reported that there is a victimization of tourists who are prone to homicide. This results from the fact that for crime to occur there is a factor motivating offenders, suitable targets, opportunity, convenience and lack of effective protection. It further suggests that tourists display personal and behavioral features increasing the risk of being targeted with crimes such as robbery as suggested by Walklate (1997) on risks of victimization. Tourists are targeted following the assumption that they are in possession of large sums of money and valuable items, they increase the risk of being attacked due to frequent visits to night clubs and bars, travelling to dangerous places and poor communication between tourists and natives.

The Concept of Conservative Victimology
Garkawe (2000), Wormer (2009) and Gavrielides(2008) suggest that Restoration of Justice is a systematic formal legal response to crime victimization that emphasizes on healing the injuries that result from the crime that had effect on victims offended, offenders and communities. This process is derived from the traditional form of justice dealing with criminals and victims who traditionally have perpetuated crime. It is supported by law and this encourages offenders responsibility by involving victims in the system of justice thus cutting down government expenses. This is limited to petty offences in which the proceedings from the criminal court do not result to imprisonment. This may result to double punishments when misconceptions and disagreements occur by forcing offenders obligations.

Conservatism has great effects on the criminal justice policy. Suggestions for change and interventions in criminal justice are often in favor of crime victims. It is also dominated by law and order with the objective of lowering criminal victimization by emphasizing a lawful and orderly society. The failure to reform the policies leads to the decline of criminal support. This increases police power and resources they also have great influence in favor of conservative governments. They invoke victims in order to bargain for more powers and resources though penal policy is dictated by protecting the community the process denies victims the opportunity to participate in the process of justice as they believe criminal justice is complete, consistent, independent and  have powers to stand alone.

The abovementioned statement also depicts that there is a belief that individuals need to take responsibility for their actions. Social factors are considered not important to criminals offenders take all blame for criminal acts. Individuals are perceived to take initiatives in prevention, avoidance, resistance and recovery from victimization. This is important as crime rates are predicted to be on the decline. Traditionalists emphasize on the concept of self- reliance by putting stress on victims and the societal oriented crime prevention measures. They believe criminal acts are beyond government powers hence it is the responsibility of individuals, families, institutions and religions to reduce crime.

Specific victim policies as suggested by law and order are limited to personal crimes of violence against property mainly by strangers resulting from assaults, murder, rape and robbery with violence. This instills fear of crime thus, law advocates manipulate public emotions. Victims are perceived to be virtuous while offenders are evil doers the advocates take advantage by appealing to emotions of the public. This is more so relevant to conservative supporters specifically the victims advocates who understand the system and make the victims statements most effective. Consequently, this empowers the victims by enhancing the success of prosecutions with strong penalties achieved through minimal expenditure of government resources.  This is the main goal of lawyers compared to more elaborate measures for better treatment of victims within the criminal justice system. Conservatism fosters specialized treatment for victims and fails to acknowledge the circumstances of the criminal offenders. This was the case for Matthew Stuart Spencer (Insight, 2009, p.74) as described by his lawyer that the society failed him by not acknowledging that he was also a victim of crime. His prior victimization had left him utterly vulnerable and it is evident that this conservatism if not checked will contribute to the aggravation of his situation.

Other factors associated with conservatism are government initiatives of compensating victims, which is viewed with ambivalence by advocates of law and order. Most of them will not want the government to get involved in funding but prefer settlements be done by offenders. Some conservative jurisdiction governments have significantly lowered the pay of victims compensation. Restitution order is part of conservatism in favor of victims and offenders criminal sanction. Law enforcers are in agreement that restitution should be encouraged to save governments costs for victims compensation to enhance the accountability of offenders. Victim support services are encouraged to enhance successful prosecution so long as government expenditures are not involved this is further suggested by Frank and Joe (2009).

Mediation between offenders and victims is a formal meeting between the offenders and victims in the presence of mediators to dialogue with objectives of developing solutions to offences. This is done with the aim of reconciliation by creating a mutual acceptance plan to repair harms and damages that occurred during crime offences. This allows room for eliminating conflicts between the parties involved in disagreements as indicated by Dussich et al (2009).

Concept of Critical and Radical Themes in Victimology
McShane and Williams III (1992) suggestions state that traditional victimology has not tapped radical victimology to assist in explaining social reactions to crime and crime victims. It is an outcome of unequal social factors like unemployment, poverty, patriarch and racism causing crimes. The need for great resources to be devoted to law enforcement agencies and prisons are agents of social control. Some suggest termination whereas others want it to be replaced with an informal justice system and that society should take responsibility for crimes as a whole but not as individuals. In Insight (2009, p.74), Matthew Stuart Pearces lawyer called for collective societal responsibilities for the circumstances his client found himself in. He argued that if it were not for the societys neglect of Matthew leaving him completely vulnerable, his crimes would have been nonexistent. It is asserted that there is no division between victims and offenders, all groups of people in society are victims.

Victim compensation expands social control by insisting that victims reporting of matters to the police is reinforced by restricted eligibility. State sponsored victim programs are agents of supporting social control with guided influence. This involves not being compassionate to victims and programs are predicated on the needs of prosecution furthering interests of police and prosecution firms. It is opposed that crime victims having formal rights in the criminal justice system and the concept of victim participation in court proceedings includes the effects of a victims statement. Involvement of victims in justice systems aids government in conviction of defendants and advocates higher penalties increasing the likelihood of incarceration. In turn there is an increase of social control though the victims testifying and giving true testimonials to, accusers and prosecutors no longer exist to bring offenders to justice. The restitution order against offenders is often unrealistic and lengthens an offenders involvement with the criminal justice system in cases of serious crimes. This seems a genuine alternative and paradigm shift from existing retributive criminal justice systems. The concept supports mediation as explained Garkawe (2000) and McShane and Williams III (1992). Thus, the radical paradigm concludes that crime is seen as a significant problem affecting peoples lives.

The reality of crime should be analyzed beyond immediate appearances and control of crimes must be taken seriously. Circumstances of offenders and victims should be put into consideration when making decisions on criminal policies. A criminals offending circumstances and factors leading to their acts should be clearly analyzed. This is so as to ensure proper rehabilitative measures as was the case for Matthew Stuart Pearce (Hunt, 2009, p.3) who required counseling for his traumatic childhood experiences. Crime must be tackled by being alert to present situations in the society. Criminal justice systems, prisons departments and police forces should not be terminated but reforms be made to put social control in place.

According to Friedrichs (1983) radical victimology is defined as oppressing conditions which cause crimes and the same is explained by South Australian Consolidated Acts (2001). Victims of crime are subjected to brutal policies in the name of maintaining law and order. Exploitation is experienced in unjust societies where workers are deprived of their rights by the system of capitalism. Also the failure to deter complex crimes subjects individuals to victimization. Victimization is caused by deliberate and intentional violation of law by modifying the role of victims to persons who provide credible emotions for persecution. This leads to actual harm being ignored and focus directed to offenders denying victims their right to justice. Wemmers (2008) and McShane and Williams III (1992) point of view states that victims in the past were actively involved in the criminal justice process and were in charge of initiating and prosecutions of offenders. They have been banished from their role by being sidelined and their roles reduced to that of witnesses.

The law should include services for victims, restitution from offenders, information about the criminal justice system and the right to formal participation in the criminal justice process. The field of victimology should have professional people with specialized training in dealing with criminal acts, offences, and victims well being to help victims to fully recover. Formal victim assistance programs should be established by social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors should team up to help in counseling the victims as suggested by Corns (1997).


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