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.
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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.