Discuss the impacts on the victim’s family
Homicide is the illegal killing of a human. Identify and briefly summarize the three classifications of homicide.
Pick ONE of the following:
Single person homicide
Serial killer homicide
Discuss the impacts on the victim’s family, identify the resources available to those families, and explain the role of the criminal justice system in providing assistance to those families.
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Victimology is linked to the field of criminology, which is the scientific study of crime. It began with the works of Cesare Beccaria (1738–1794), who critiqued the way that crimes were punished, and Jeremy Bethman (1748–1832), whose work focused on how social and legal reforms could create a better moral society. Both were highly influential on the future of criminology. Criminologists have focused on the criminal understanding of why crime occurs and how to prevent it, and for good reason. If we want to stop crimes from occurring, we need to focus on the criminals—what motivates them and how to prevent them from engaging in criminal activity. In fact, the history of the legal system is based on the idea of bringing society back into balance.
Often overlooked or marginalized in the conversation are the victims of crime. Victimology is the study of the victims of crime with the goal to create a general theory to help prevent victimization. The field has expanded to examine the following:
• How victims are treated by both society and the criminal justice system • How victims seek help and recover from their victimization • How victims seek compensation
In addition, within the field are conversations about whether victimology should be a movement around victims and victims’ rights in addition to the scientific study of victims (Ben-David, 2000).
Studying victims can evoke strong emotional reactions that can affect how we deal with victims and crime, so the end goal for the field is to study victimization from a scientific approach to ensure objectivity and an unbiased understanding of victimization. In addition, crime is often messy and complex, complicating the study of victimization. Figuring out who the victim and offender is can be difficult, depending on the crime.
The term “victim” comes from the Latin word victime, which were humans and animals that were to be sacrificed to please the gods (Karmen, 2012). For most of the history of Western society, the burden of proving victimization and seeking justice rested on the victim alone. Justice often took the form of retaliation or retribution against the offender. Most societies have felt that the punishment should fit the crime. One example of this is the lex talionis: an eye for an eye. This
is the idea that should punishment be warranted, it should be equal to the amount of harm done. Most retribution came from either the victim themselves, stealing back what was stolen or being compensated for the loss, or their families being compensated. Early criminal codes demonstrate this notion of retribution, such as the Code of Hammurabi (1754 BC).
The idea of the state or government as both the victim and the one who should seek justice began during the industrial revolution (1760–1820). It is government, representing the victim and society, that has both been harmed by the crime and ensures punishment. Victim compensation was not a common part of the punishment process. Fortunately, the focus, at least in terms of research, has swung back around to looking at the plight of victims. Many of the changes in the legal system have occurred because of research around victimization and social movements that focused on the rights of victims.
Early Research on Victimology
Most of the early research into victimization looked at victim precipitation, the role victims played in their own victimization. Researchers had proposed that while some victims were not at all responsible for their victimization, other victims played a significant role in their victimization. It also acknowledged that two parties are involved in the crime: the victim and the offender. Both are acting and reacting to a situation. Victim precipitation varies:
• Victim facilitation is the idea that a victim did something to make him or herself a more likely target for a criminal. This view is similar to victim precipitation. • Example: Someone who left their new cell phone on a table in a coffee shop while going to the restroom made it easier for the criminal to steal the phone. This does not mean that the victim is to blame for the theft, but rather that the victim facilitated the theft by leaving the phone unattended.
• Victim provocation is when the victim did something intentional that led to his/her victimization. • Example: The victim might have started a bar fight but ended up getting seriously hurt because the person he/she chose to fight was a better fighter than the victim. In the end, that person was the victim of an aggravated assault, but had that person never started the fight, they would have not become a victim.
The earliest research on victims was conducted by Beniamin Mendelsohn, Hans von Hentig, Stephen Schafer, and Marvin E. Wolfgang. Most of this research categorized victims by their level of involvement in their victimization rather than the harm or injury caused by their victimization. It’s important to be familiar with this early research because it reflects the social narratives we have about victims today, including how sympathetic we are toward victims and what society thinks victims deserve in terms of assistance and restitution.
Beniamin Mendelsohn’s early work (1937) focused on rape victims. As a lawyer interviewing witnesses and offenders, he noticed that many victims knew their offenders. He began to group victim-offender relationships into six categories
based on the victims’ level of guilt in the victimization. He eventually expanded his view of victims to include all types of victims (such as victims of natural disasters), not just the victims of crime. He considered this broad view a new field and first coined the term victimology as an overlapping but separate field from criminology in 1956. He is considered the “Father of Victimology” (Dussich, 2006).
Mendelsohn had six victimization categories:
• Completely innocent victim – no provocative behavior • Victim with minor guilt – the victim unintentionally places him or herself in a compromising situation
• Victim as guilty as offender – the victim engages in a crime and was hurt • Victim more guilty than offender – the victim promotes or initiates the act • Most guilty victim – the victim starts off as offender and is hurt in return • Imaginary victim – someone who pretends to be a victim (Mendelsohn, 1956)
Hans von Hentig
In 1941, Hans von Hentig began to ask about the victims of crime: Were these people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time or do certain characteristics make a person more likely to be a victim? What made a victim a victim? These types of questions were central to the development of the field of victimology.
The answer for von Hentig was the victim-criminal dyad:Who the victim is initially is not always clear when you just look at the outcome of the crime. He contended that when you look closely at the criminal-victim relationship, you can see that the victim played a significant role in the end result of the crime. Von Hentig proposed characteristics that were associated with victims, including either being young or old, female, immigrate, minority, being lonely and depressed, and mental disabilities. His work, as well as that of Mendelsohn, continues to influence the field today.
Schafer also created a victim typology in his book The Victim and His Criminal: A Study in Functional Responsibility (1968). His work examined the level of responsibility that a victim played in his/her victimization. According to Schafer, victims have a responsibility to not act in ways that might provoke their victimization (such as threatening people) as well as doing their best to prevent their own victimization. His 7-point scale ranged from no responsibility at all to complete responsibility.
1. Unrelated: The victims have no responsibility in their own victimization. 2. Provocative: There is shared responsibility by the victims. 3. Precipitative: The victims have responsibility for their victimization because they place themselves in situations that might lead to victimization.
4. Biologically weak: There is no responsibility, but the victims are easy targets because they are perceived as weak, such as the elderly.
5. Socially weak: No responsibility but victims are easy targets because they are not well integrated into society, such as immigrants.
6. Self-victimizing: Total responsibility. An example would be prostitution. 7. Political: No responsibility. They were victimized because they were opposing those in power.
Marvin E. Wolfgang Patterns of Criminal Homicide
Wolfgang was the first to offer significant empirical evidence to support the role victims might play in their victimization. Wolfgang was particularly interested in asking what role homicide victims play in their own deaths. Wolfgang (1958)
analyzed Philadelphia’s police homicide records from 1948 through 1952 and found three factors common to victim-precipitated homicides:
1. The victim and offender had some prior interpersonal relationship. 2. There was a series of escalating disagreements between the parties. 3. The victim had consumed alcohol.
His results show that around 26 percent of victims had precipitated their own victimization, doing something that had directly led to their own death, such as threatening someone with a weapon or initiating physical violence.
Important research was also conducted by other researchers:
• Wolfgang and Singer (1978) expanded the discussion of victim types to look at a variety of crimes and victim recidivism and acknowledged that the process of becoming a victim was a complex one that would take time in order to truly understand. Their work outlined potential areas of future research.
• Timmer and Norman (1984) pointed out that the behavioral patterns that can lead to victimization differ across gender, race, and involvement in criminal activities. Their research showed the utility of distinguishing victims’ acts that can lead to victimization, and highlighted the complexity of victim precipitation.
Criticism of Victim Typologies
All of these victim typologies figure out some way to quantify or categorize the victims’ responsibility in their own victimization, with some criticism.
1. Victim’s level of responsibility is important because it influences both the response of the criminal justice system and society. However, the issue with the concept of victim responsibility is that it results in victim blaming, drawing attention away from the role of the offender in the crime.
2. Eigenberg and Garland (2008) point out that most victim typologies rely on victims and do not account for all those who were not victimized in the general population, which creates a circular logic. It makes it impossible to research whether there are differences between victims and the general population that truly lead to victimization.
3. Victim typologies assume there was more that victims could have done to ensure they were not victimized (Eigenberg & Garland, 2008), which ignores the risks people face in society and that it is impossible to fully protect oneself from victimization. It also puts an unwarranted level of responsibility on victims to change their lifestyles to prevent their victimization. Furthermore, it ignores that fact that many people are victims within their home or workplace. People are often not in a position to change where they live or work to reduce their risk. It creates a false impression that individuals can and should be doing more to prevent their own victimization.
4. Blaming victims for even some of their victimization creates a social narrative around victims being somehow different from non-victims, thus warranting different treatment by society. This can lead to secondary victimization, or the experience of being punished by society for being a victim, which is one of the more common reasons why people do not seek help when they are victimized: Their silence ensures that they are not socially punished.
These early victim researchers, regardless of the flaws in their work, led to the academic study of victimization. The field has branched into both academic studies as well as activism and advocacy work, which inform each other to craft the current field. The next section in this module looks at how social movements have played a role in crafting narratives around victimization as well as creating legal and social changes to help victims.
Social Movements and Victims
In addition to an academic field, victimology movements ensure that victims’ rights are protected and that victims have clear advocacy to help them recover from their victimization. This section discusses several of the social movements that have led to social changes around victimization. While the Civil Rights Movement is not discussed here, it is critical to acknowledge the importance of the movement in creation of laws and social norms around victimization.
The Women’s Movement
The women’s movement, also known as the feminist movement, started with the suffrage movement (centered on women as legal people with voting and property rights). The movement has had several phases, outlined next:
• First-wave feminism’s (1860s to 1920s) goal was to see that women had legal personhood to ensure that women’s voices were heard. Early feminists in the United States, such as like Susan B. Anthony, advocated against the sexual harassment of workers and the issues around domestic violence (Derene, Walker, & Stein, 2007). Through their work, first-wave feminists, the suffragettes, were able to secure women the right to vote (1920) and allow women to hold federal office, bringing women’s issues and women’s voices into the national conversation.
• Second-wave feminism (1960s to 1980s) focused on sexuality, family, the workplace, reproductive rights, and official legal inequalities. It also focused on victimization, domestic violence and marital rape, and advocated for changes in custody and divorce law. Their work helped victim advocacy and victim’s rights become a significant issue in the public discourse. As Miller (2016) points out, every sexual harassment law, rape crisis center, women’s health clinic, and all reproductive choices available to men and women was due to second-wave feminism. It also had a profound impact on victim theory, especially in terms of violence against women. • Note: First and second-wave feminism is critiqued because they focused on issues that were important to mostly white, middle-class women (Blackwell, 2011). The inclusion of diverse groups in the conversation is critical to understanding the social complexity that leads to victimization.
• Third-wave feminism (1990s to mid-2000s) explored the social construction of gender and sexuality, as opposed to being biological characteristics, and are therefore flexible and malleable (Adams St. Pierre, 2000). This changed the dialogue around what it means to be masculine/male and feminine/female, beginning the discussions around multiple gender identities that we see today. It promoted conversations around sexuality and other identities and how those identities intersect to create how we identify ourselves and how society reacts to these identities. A central focus to third-wave feminism was violence against women in all of its forms, for example derogatory language or sexual harassment.
The starting point of third-wave feminism was Anita Hill’s testimony against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, regarding how he allegedly sexually harassed her when he was her boss at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Her testimony stands as one of the first times that sexual harassment was brought up as an issue for a public appointment. Image: Anita Hill. Authored by: Tim Pierce. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File %3A2014_Charles_Ogletree_and_Anita_Hill_(cropped_to_Hill).jpg. License: CC-BY 2.0
Third-wave feminism also began discussing violence against marginalized people such as minority women, the LGBT community, single mothers, and the differently abled. Intersectionality is when you look at how multiple social identities (race, class, gender socioeconomic status, etc.) come together to impact a person’s life, including their victimization. This era also saw growth in the fields of Black, Latino, Native, and Queer studies, bring to light their issues around victimization, violence, access to health care, and issues of equality through multiple lenses.
• Fourth-wave feminism is just beginning (2008 to today). It focuses on social justice and civil rights, including sexual harassment, street harassment, the role of social media and technology in creating equality, and everyday sexism. The impacts of this wave are becoming clear in the changes we are seeing in discussing violence toward women.
The #MeToo movement was a watershed moment in terms of sexual harassment, demonstrating the power that social media can have. Combined with the exposure of several well-known celebrities, such as Louis C.K., and powerful men who lost their jobs and reputations, even without legal actions, the social media campaign led to the realization of the vast extent of sexual harassment. Image: #MeToo Hashtag. Authored by: Lum3n.com from Pexels.
Source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/art-awareness-campaign-concrete-622135/. License: CC-0
Some of the earliest advocates for children and child welfare issues in the United States centered around the use of child labor. The work of Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones) and the March of the Mill Children in 1903, along with the broader children’s movement, were effective in helping to reduce the exploitation of children. Image: Mother Jones. Authored by: Bertha Howell. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File %3AMother_jones_no_2.tif. License: CC-0