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A victim of a crime is a person who has experienced some level of
suffering or adversity. In crime context, a victim is considered to be a person
who has submitted a complaint of a crime committed against them. Criminology
has, in the past, only focused on analyzing the criminal accused of a crime.
Scholars in the recent times have put much focus in getting a complete view of
the whole crime by examining the victim, offender and the nature of the crime
committed. Scientific advances and further research have provided a foundation
for theoretical analysis of the victim, the offender and the crime. Different
theoretical outlooks that describe the victim of crime emerged to give a deeper
understanding of the factors that influence the offender to pick a specific
target and the prior actions of the victims that might have caused the crime. Victimization
of a victim refers to the tendency of an offender to pick out a particular
victim. Victimology as a discipline of criminology aims at investigating the
reasons for victimization.

Radical in nature, the theory of victimology emerged in the
mid-20th century and aimed at emphasizing the different influences that result
in an occurrence of crime. Benjamin Mendelsohn is credited with for the
introduction of victimology. Victimology is a sub-discipline of radical
criminology and sociology and connects three different parties associated with
crime and victims. The primary focus of criminology is the criminal while the
primary focus of victimology is the victim. Wilcox and Gialopsos (2015) defined
victimology as a crime-event criminology which specifically focuses on the
events that lead to accidents and crime rather than using the traditional
offender behavior focus adopted by criminology. Daigle, L. E. (2018) defines
victimology as gaining scientific knowledge of the victim and causes of
victimization. The in-depth analysis of victims offers vital information,
especially on the emotional, physical and psychological effects victims face
and how the justice system offers support, how society accommodates victims and
media reactions to victim cases (Hernandezpeterson, 2017). A general
observation of different crimes and their victims has led to the description
victimology as a satisfactory and accomplished, scientific and academic
discipline that studies the victim explicitly and uniquely follows a distinct
research methodology (Daigle, L. E. 2018).

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Benjamin Mendelsohn is famous for his research in victimology. He
is referred to as the father of victimology and his work on victimology was one
of the earliest known to be documented on paper; his work was presented at a
conference in Bucharest, Romania in 1947. Mendelsohn was a practicing attorney,
and his contact and interaction with crime victims led to the observation of a
standard pre-existing connection of crimes and their victims. He discovered
that there was an inevitable trend regarding the method of attack, the reason
for attack and level of attack, when it came to victims who suffered from the
same type of crime. His observation led him to emphasize the need to
interrogate victims and get the real picture of the crime committed. His
approach on victimology is based on human rights and underlines on a complete
investigation to prove the legitimacy of the victims’ claims.

There is also primary focus on the role of the justice system in
creating criminals and victims. An accused criminal who is declared guilty by
the criminal justice system is mostly tagged as a criminal. Some of these
criminals can be victims of poor investigation or extreme manipulation of the
justice system by false victims. Mendelsohn created a topology to classify the
victim by considering the level of guilt related to the victim’s action. This
topology intended to try to classify victims and understand their level of
relation to the crime.

Mendelsohn identified six categories of victims concerning crime.
The first victim was the completely innocent victim who lacked responsibility
in creating a situation that led to the crime. These victims are majorly
targeted because of their nature for example young children or persons who show
weakness in resisting victimization. The second victims are of minor guilt and
whose unintentional actions have led to victimization. These victims are mainly
described as victims of ignorance who unknowingly place themselves in a
vulnerable situation. The third victims are guilty of creating a situation that
leads to their victimization. These crimes mainly fall under intentional self-inflicted
crimes such as suicide. The fourth victims are considered as imaginary or
simulating victims who formulate an offense with ill intentions. They fabricate
events that lead to the victimization of other innocent victims. The fifth
victim is a criminal offender or suspected offender who suffers victimization
as a result of a crime. This can occur when a criminal is caught in the
vicinity of a crime that he might not have committed but is blamed for the
crime. The sixth victim classified represents victims who act in a way that
provokes the offender leading to their victimization. The victims might have in
the past angered or assaulted the offender and in retaliation, the offender
attacks the victim. Mendelsohn developed a victim typology to distinguish
victims who are more responsible for their victimization and those who are
considered guiltless or innocent. The topology mainly focused on the victims of
the crime rather than criminals. Five types of victims are identified in
Mendelsohn’s topology: victims of offenders, victims of one’s self;
self-destructive behaviors like suicide, victims of anti-social behavior
created by their living environment, victims of technology and victims of the
natural environmental disasters. This topology allows extensive classification
of victims and evaluation of their culpability in their own victimization.

Victimology is a relatively new concept that is still developing
regarding relating the victim and offenders in the commission of a crime.
Researchers focus on the character of victims as well as their contact with
offenders. It is assumed that victim-offender interaction leads to the cause of
victimization. Victim interaction with offenders is still a matter under
scrutiny, but the habit of blaming the victims is still prevalent. Victim
blaming occurs when the victim of a crime is held partially or fully responsible
for the events that have led to their victimization, these cases are
commonplace in sexual related cases (Maier, 2015). Individuals who have endured
suffering and hardship due to the crime, more often than not, are faulted for
creating an atmosphere that attracts the crime (Rickard, 2014). The society
expects that individuals should be aware of situations deemed dangerous and
therefore should strictly take necessary precaution to ensure their safety.
Failing to make precautions leads to victim blaming due to the view that an
individual acted carelessly. 

The people who are expected to offer support to the victims are mainly
the ones who are at the forefront of victim blaming (Maier, 2015). Persons who
originate from a particular group or category of people who have a history of
committing a crime also are prone to suffer from victim blaming. In a typical
example, in areas that have associated black people with crime, if a crime is
committed where a white man and black man are present, the black man is likely
facing more suspicion as the guiltier one. The level of support for victims
varies depending on the society’s visual impression and degree of interaction
with the victim or the offender. The negative responses from part of the
professional community that is given the task to support the people affected by
crimes, lead to difficulty in recovering from effects of the crime (Coates L.
et al., 2006).

According to the just world hypotheses, some people view the world
as a just and equally safe place (Kay et al., 2005). The reason for
victimization is blamed on the notion that the victims have negative characters
and deserve whatever crime that comes their way. Just as criminals are punished
for crimes committed, victims should answer for their wrongdoing before the
attack and in the advent of the crime. Mendelsohn notes that such victims are
partially responsible for the crime leveled against them (Idisis et al., 2017).
This means that they are the primary cause of their victimization (Johnson et
al., 2002). This theory, therefore, approves the misfortune of the affected
victims emphasizing the crime is a fair and deserving outcome of their ‘bad
actions or influence’   in the world. The
extent and severity of the harm to the victims increase the level of blame and
leads to people adopting a tendency to avoid individual characters that are
associated with the attraction of such crimes (Idisis et al. 2017).Blaming
victims shows a lack of compassion and victims, who have suffered a great deal
from the crime, have an extra burden of facing the society that imposes more
suffering on them. The result of victim blaming leads to pernicious effects
that involve self-inflicting crimes.

Attribution theory further emphasizes the faults in the victim’s
character as the primary determinant of the crime against them. Situational
contributors are given less concern giving preference to the internal failings.
The victims are partially responsible due to their ways of life and character.
The people, on the contrary, find themselves blaming the environmental
situation for their misfortune and acknowledge personal attribute or
characteristic for their successes (Johnson et al., 2002).Attribution theory is
majorly linked to sexual and gender violence. Sexual assault is a common crime
whose victims face a lot of prejudice due to the mentality created by the
society that the situation they face is a byproduct of their indecent character
or dressing. It, not the case most of the time and victims should get support
from the society and relevant institution to overcome their state of
misfortune. Gender violence can occur in a situation where women are blamed for
the abuse they face from their spouse. Most women are encouraged to change
their behaviors which lead to harm rather than the provision of services that
would help them escape such abusive situations.

Invulnerability theory describes the actions of using victim
blaming as a way to condemn the victim and offer self-protection from personal
insecurities. The actions that associate the victim with the crime are actions
that the society majorly condemns. The victims fit in Mendelsohn’s victim
category for the victims who are directly responsible for their victimization.
In a situation, for example, where a person decides to walk through a street,
very late in the night, which is a notorious hotspot for mugging and rapes and
becomes the victim of expected crimes. The person is directly responsible for
the crime that is leveled against him or her. An example or warning is
portrayed through the victim.

Individuals have excellent control of events in their lives, they
may have less command in a crime situation, but they are still should be some
capacity for them to avoid crime situations. They should not resign to their
fate without acting. It is the, therefore, the responsibility of individuals to
make sure they review their lifestyle and usual routines to promote personal
safety and security (Karmen A., 2015). Victim blaming cannot always be the sole
responsibility of the victim neither can the victim be completely innocent when
the circumstances leading to the crime are investigated. The notion of the
total innocence of the victim is debatable as situations leading to
victimization can be avoided by understanding the level of criminal activities
in the society. Knowledge of the criminal activities might be helpful, but it
is assurance that an individual will be safe from victimization. No one can,
with complete confidence, be precisely sure no matter what measures are taken,
that they can avoid meeting with dangerous criminals. There is a lack of an
identification system that differentiates what right person or wrong person to
associate with is.

There is a state of sequence whereby victims’ level of the blame
can be found to range from totally blameless on one end to full responsibility
on the other (Karmen, 2015). This ranges mainly lie in Mendelsohn topology of
victims of one’s self. At one end of the range, for example, a company can
invest heavily in the security of its business premises by installing the
latest CCTV cameras, hiring highly qualified security personnel and installing
electric fences. Well organized criminals might raid the company of its
valuables and sensitive information. The company, therefore, will fall under
the blameless victim of crimes. On the other end of the range lies a company
that did not take any measures to secure its company premises but faced similar
demise. They are fully accountable for the loss of their valuables or for any
harm they have encountered.

The focus of victimology has in recent years focused on identifying
typologies to give a classification of victims. Focusing on the victims offers
an in-depth look at the real situation of the crime. This is especially
important in the case where the crime is committed by a victim of one’s self,
categorized by Mendelsohn as imaginary victims who formulate crimes with hidden
intentions. The victims are therefore described as offenders hiding in the
pretense of a victim (Karmen, 2015). An assumed victim might have arranged for
his or her assault aiming to blame an innocent individual. Focusing on the
suspected criminal might lead to wrong conclusions. Topological classification
of the victim cases is essential to allow rational and just findings to any
crimes committed.

Opportunity theory is as a result of the combination of lifestyle
and routine activities theory which explain the relation of income, race, and
age to victimization. The lifestyle of victims dramatically affects their level
of vulnerability. For example, individuals who love partying and getting drunk
find themselves more prone to victimization. Some individuals also like to
flaunt their wealth to the public, therefore, exposing them to criminals.
Opportunistic theory aims to identify the possible reasons that would cause an
offender to victimize a particular target and avoid another specifically. The
model theory explores five factors that result to victimization: proximity, the
attractiveness of targets, exposure, guardianship and definitions of specific
crimes (Cohen et al., 1981). Social inequality is a major contributing factor
for criminal victimization. Researchers have found that crime is associated
with poverty and race. The level of illegal activities in an area is affected
by the type of individuals who reside in an area or the failure of the people
in an area to cooperate in preventing crime. Eck and Madensen (2018) do not
believe that social disorganization as a major factor but as a minor factor
that results in crime and victimization. Cohen (1981) does not blame persons
for being victims. Instead, his approach to the study of crime and
victimization is from the perspective that some factors lead to crime, not just
the victim. It is very crucial to review all aspect that creating crime,
therefore, combining Mendelsohn theory of victimization that seeks to analyze
the victim, and the opportunistic approach that examines factors that connect
the victim and the offender is useful in generating a model that can be used to
control and strategies on crime prevention.

Proximity to crime means nearness to crime areas or the closeness
of potential crime victims to areas where there are large populations of
potential criminals. Proximity mainly puts emphasis on physical distance. The
likelihood of contact between the victims and offenders increases the risks of
victimization (McShane M. D., 2015). Offenders have the opportunity to analyze
their targets and plan an attack. In highly populated areas there are places
considered safe zones while some other labeled as hot spots of crime. Regions
populated with people who have something of value to criminal offenders are
more likely to have high crime rates. Research has shown that chances of
committing a crime in one’s neighborhood are less. Offenders tend to attack
different neighborhood that is close in proximity (Gibson et al., 2014). The
offenders’ target areas with a suitable supply of potential targets such as
drugs, prostitution markets and retail markets (Bernasco W & Block R.,
2011).

Cohen et al. (1981) observed that the more visible or publicized
objects or persons are, the more susceptible the object and persons face victimization.
Exposure is measured by activities that lead to persons to get out of their and
venture into public locations. This activity makes potential targets have a
higher risk of victimization by increasing the probability of contact with
likely offenders. Studies have shown that increase in exposure leads to
increased property and violent attacks, especially when engaging in leisure
activities outside one’s homes (Gibson et al., 2014). Further research done,
after examination of specific activities, has also shown that some activities
have provide protection against victimization (Henson et al., 2010). Delinquent
and criminal lifestyles lead to increased interaction with criminals. Criminals
can efficiently target people living such lifestyle, and this factor increasing
the risk of victimization (Gibson et al., 2014).

Cohen et al. (1981) described target attractiveness as selection
based on the symbolic and financial importance of the victim or target to the
offender. Target assumed to be easy to attack due to their physical
vulnerabilities, or lack of resistance are most preferred by offenders (McShane
M. D., 2015; Cohen et al., 1981).The common factors that have been found to
lead to targeting in an individual level are ownership of expensive consumer (especially
portable goods), carrying precious jewelry and cash publicly, level of family
income and social class. Family social class and income are the most favorable
factor for the offenders due to the easiness of assessing. The target level of
victimization is divided into three components target antagonism, target
usefulness, and target vulnerability. Antagonism is as a result of the victim
arousing negative feelings towards the offender. Target usefulness arises when
the victim or target has characteristics or qualities that are attractive and
useful to the offender. Target vulnerability displays the victim’s attributes
of lacking resistance to prevent victimization.

Guardianship represents security measures adopted by a target to
avoid experiencing victimization. This is achieved through having company,
availability during a specific action or installing security apparatus.
Scholars have in the recent year’s defined guardianship as the actions and
presence of individuals in matters that involve the provision of protection.
Individuals who adopt high-level safety precautions such as advanced door
locking mechanisms, burglar alarms owning weapons, are less likely to be
victimized by burglars. Sex offenders find it hard to attack a target that has
self-protection tools like pepper sprays, guns or other weapons (Fisher et al.,
2010). The capacity for guardianship is limited by the level of self-control of
the target. Lower self-control is a negative characteristic of an individual
and leads to target proneness to victimization. Motivated offenders are highly
attracted to any form of vulnerability. Studies show that target with lower
self-esteem end up suffering from repeat victimization (Pratt et al., 2014).

Some crimes are more frequent than others due to the complexity of
initiating the offense. Offenders sometimes opt to go for the easy targets that
have quick results or success, in their context, rather than crimes that are
considered riskier. Time plays a significant factor in deciding what crimes an
offender can get involved in. Extensive knowledge of the victim’s activities is
required, in some cases, to understand the level of approach the offender will
adopt. In other instances, it requires less input and time to identify and
attack a target. Cohen et al. (1981) argued that the frequency at which crimes
associated with exposure, guardianship, target attractiveness and proximity,
were based on tangible valuables was higher compared to those crimes which were
as a result of offender’s expressive motives such as assault. Offenders are
known to take risks where they estimate the reward will be worthwhile but will
frequently commit less risky crimes when the level of restraint by targets is
low.

Finally, in a world advancing in understanding the concept of crime,
it is primal to achieve reliable results from crime analysis. Results that
accomplish a complete review of crime and its connected parties help a lot in
reducing ignorance and victim blaming by the society, justice system and
related institutions. Victims of a crime, whether guilty or partially
responsible or innocent, suffer a great deal due to blaming and some may end up
committing crimes against themselves or others. It is significant to understand
victim blaming and identify limiting factors that associate with it. A platform
or system of offering support to victims is essential in every society.
Equally, the culpability of victims should be given much scrutiny by relevant
crime investigators to verify who the real victim of crime is. Mendelsohn’s typology
classifies victims according to their culpability. Some victims are classified
as innocent while others are false victims who are liable for their
victimization. The science in identifying victims needs more advance due to the
complexity of understanding modern age crime.

It is imperative for individuals in a society, community or
specific area to be cognizant of their environment. Awareness is a primal
factor that may prevent prevalent crimes that are known to occur at particular
places. Taking security measures may help avoid specific crime situation but
may not always guarantee safety from crime. Crime can predictable to the
community but the time and place at which it occurs are sometimes
unpredictable. Offenders are becoming more aware of their victims, and advanced
technology is only easing the chances of victimization. The internet has become
a famous avenue where victims interact with offenders unknowingly and where
victims find themselves exposed and attacked by society for their responsibility
for their victimization.  More research
is needed to identify new avenues and methods that offenders and victims are
likely to interact, and the level of opportunity that arises from developing
societies.

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