What is Victimology?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2020
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Victimology is a field of study which focuses on the study of victims. This includes the victims of violent crimes and white collar crimes along with people who have been subjected to human rights abuse. Understanding victims is of interest to a number of people, ranging from psychologists to criminal investigators. The field of victimology really exploded in the 1970s, with the advent of a number of leading figures who posited a variety of theories about victims, some of which continue to be used today.

Victimologists can study a wide variety of topics. Some are interested in the psychological impacts of being a victim, using their studies to advance treatment techniques in the field of psychotherapy for victims. Others are interested in the interactions between victims and criminals, victims and society, and victims and the legal system. For example, some researchers are very interested about the treatment of rape survivors by the media, while others might study topics such as the treatment of victims of robberies in the courts.

In criminal investigations, victimology can be an important part of investigating and solving a crime. Investigators can explore why particular people might have been chosen as victims, to learn more about the criminal who perpetrated the acts. For example, an investigator might realize that victims are being chosen purely as a matter of convenience, or that a criminal is pursuing people who look or behave in a certain way.


Understanding why some people become victims and studying the demographic patterns of victimization can be controversial, at times. Victimology is not intended to support or promote victim blaming, but it can sometimes seem like it. For example, the statement “prostitutes are high risk targets for crime” could be considered loaded by some people who suggest that the statement is actually suggesting that sex workers deserve to be victims, when in fact it is doing nothing of the kind. Identifying high risk groups and studying groups which are more prone to be victims does not condone criminal behavior.

As with many other fields of academic interest, victimology is very diverse. There are competing theories and ways of thinking at work which can come into conflict now and then. Many members of this field belong to professional organizations which give them opportunities to network with others and to hear about the latest research. People in this field work as researchers, college professors, psychologists, criminal investigators, lawyers, and in many other areas of work involving victims, criminals, and the justice system.


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Post 3

@Sneakers41- What I find interesting is the study of victims in the media. For example, if a woman is raped by a famous celebrity it is amazing how the focus of the crime is shifted to the woman’s behavior.

The media will analyze what the women wore and what her sexual past was and by doing this they are indirectly giving a pass to the celebrity. However, if the crime were committed by an average citizen it may or may not make the news. Also the victim of the celebrity also has her motives questioned.

This causes reasonable doubt in the average person’s mind because the average person forgets that a crime was even committed. It is really

amazing to think that how you are treated as a victim of a crime depends on who the aggressor was.

Sometimes if the victim had a checkered past we somehow discount the crime because they were involved in risky behavior. Consider a prostitute that gets murdered or a woman that gets drunk at a party and gets raped. While both of these types of people were engaged in dangerous activities because they chose to do this most people would have less sympathy for them even though they were both victims of a crime that they did not deserve.

Post 2

@Mutsy - You know you make a really good point. Profiling what the average victim looks like might offer information that could prevent others from becoming a victim.

The researchers might also be able to offer suggestions based on their findings involving what additional steps people can make in order to reduce the chances to become a victim. For example, if researchers studied the victims of home invasions and realized that the majority of the cases the homeowners did not have an alarm system installed in their home, the researcher can suggest that people go out and get an alarm system in order to prevent a home invasion.

I think that the harder we can make it for us to be victimized the less likely that we will be.

Post 1

I think that those theories of victimology are important to understand because it can be applied to many circumstances in a school. This can help us understand why some kids become the aggressors of this bullying behavior and how they choose their victims.

This problem often escalates to violence which is really something that as a society we should do our best to reduce because if these young aggressors are not stopped their criminal behavior will get worse. Any information that researchers could offer to shed light on this problem is a great step forward.

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