Every year, thousands of cases regarding homicide, physical violence and abuse are reported and handled by different governmental agencies. For decades, victims were usually not the focus of investigations since apprehending the criminal was the main concern. Mendelsohn and Von Hentig, who developed the study of victimology, pointed out that an assaulted person not only helps in identifying the criminal but the said victim also provides crucial information about the next targeted individual that the criminal has in mind.
With this information, it might also indicate the next move of the criminal. This important concept has been neglected by the criminal justice system all along. Fortunately, the study of victimology, which is now a sub-field of criminology, sheds some needed understanding to this matter. In addition, issues of physical violence and abuse have been greatly emphasized by movements such as the feminist movement, children rights groups and civil rights movement. Nowadays, there are hotlines that victims can call to assist them with their specific problem.
However, the government has to alter the criminal justice process for victimized people. This is because investigations and trials that take place have to remind these people of the incident that they have been through. Victimology was not seen as essential by the criminal justice system, but victimology can tremendously aid law enforcement agents. This is because victimology, known as the “scientific study of victimization, including the relationships between victims and offenders, the interactions between victims and the criminal justice system….
and the connections between victims and other societal groups and institutions,” tackles a different point of view in looking at a crime (US Dept of Justice, 2007a). Most of the time, victims are chosen by the criminal for a specific reason. For instance, the criminal has a fantasy or desire that can only be satisfied by certain victims. Thus, how the offender chooses his or her victims is a pertinent issue as it provides “an insight into how the offender thinks, which subsequently affects how the perpetrator acts” (Petherick, 2007).
Therefore, Victimology “examin[es] every facet of [a victim’s] lifestyle, background, health, and physical characteristics” to gain a better understanding of the criminal who perpetrated an unacceptable act (Petherick, 2007). Victimology was made possible by two criminologists, namely Mendelsohn and Von Hentig (US Department of Justice, 2007a). In the 1940’s-1950’s, they started to conduct a study on the victims’ behaviors and their vulnerability as victims (US Department of Justice, 2007a). Mendelsohn interviewed victims and soon realized that these people possess an “unconscious aptitude for being victimized” (Stevens, 2003).
Hentig conveys the same sentiment and explains that victims also play a role in provoking the criminal when they create or foster a situation that incites the criminal to commit the crime (Fattah, 2000). These two men are not blaming the victims per say but they are just indicating that among thousands or millions of people in a certain city or even neighborhood, how come certain individuals are most likely to be targeted than other people in the particular community? Due to victimology—which is now a sub-field of criminology—the criminal justice system can easily find out why this is the case.
It is about time that victimology has gained some recognition and support in the field of criminology. The reason why it has been set aside for decades in the field of criminology is that the information that lack the name and nature of the crime, name of the criminals, and criminal justice has been completely ignored (Fattah, 2000). However, victimology still has a long way to go to establish its credibility. This is because there are no fields of study within it. In fact, only a few victimology theories stated so far and there are hardly any schools of thought (Stevens, 2003).
Still, victimology plays a crucial role in enhancing the study of criminology. As traditional paradigms have miserably failed in the quest for the causes of crime, victimology may be the paradigm shifted that criminology has been waiting for (Fattah, 2000). Groups such as the feminist movement have made people aware of the ordeal that victimized women experience. Some of these unfortunate women encounter violence on a daily basis. The sad fact is that “females were more likely to be victimized by a friend, an acquaintance, or an intimate” (US Department of Justice, 2007b).
This societal problem has more to do with [a]ge, race, low socioeconomic status, including unemployment, low educational attainment, low personal and household income, and poverty, and marital disruption are all significantly associated with increased risk of violence…. Victimization and its consequences is likely to have profound effects on attainments and social relationships over the life span (National Criminal Justice Reference Service, n. d). Therefore, society as a whole should come together to address this problem. Thus, the feminist movement has stepped up to assist in this endeavor.
“In the 1970s feminists and activists… established battered women’s shelters as a safe place for those women and children who were victims of domestic violence to come stay” (Morgan, 2006). Hence, “[b]etween 1964 and 1972, Haven House shelters [in Pasadena, California-which was the first shelter to be established-helped] over 1,000 [victimized] women and children” (Minnesota Center, 2005). Similarly, in 1972, the Bay Area and Washington DC founded the “ first rape crisis centers… [which] grew out of the women’s movement….
The goals of [the] centers were to educate society about rape and rape-prevention and to improve the treatment of victims” (Kilpatrick, 2000). In addition, the children’s rights groups have also stressed the importance of the issue they are dealing with. This is because the gravity of the matter is very serious. It is a fact that “over 2 million reports of abuse or neglect are made each year, and 1500 die from their injuries” (Child Abuse Prevention, 2008). Unfortunately, the criminal justice system can only do so much to provide help to agencies such as this.
With lack of funds and authorities who do not really implement needed change, efforts have to be doubled to meet the demands of these people that have become marginalized in our society. Thus, the criminal justice system needs to enforce necessary changes in order to provide medical, emotional, and legal support to these children and youth, [as well as additional agencies for] child protection, victim assistance, mental health centers, medical facilities runaway shelters, drop-in centers, outreach projects, independent or transitional living programs, youth services program (Education Development Center, 1995).
By enacting these changes, the physical and mental health of the victims would be ensured. These changes would also result in improved capacity to apprehend and prosecute criminals. They can also “interrupt a destructive spiral and offer young victims a chance to rebuild their lives” (Education Development Center, 1995). Also, unjust treatment can also extend to a group of people. Thus, people involved in the civil rights movement noticed that “racism is unjust because it treats differently persons who ‘are in all relevant respects the same’ ” (Civil Rights, 2007).
Another argument posed for by this group is [t]he defining characteristics of a race ‘are strictly superficial and properly irrelevant to all, or almost all, questions of social status and employability. ‘… [Therefore,] those who act on race-based grounds are using inaccurate stereotypes instead of treating a person ‘as an individual’ (Civil Rights, 2007). However, awareness of such an inappropriate attitude and mentality is not enough to totally eradicate the problem. Presently, this situation might have been aggravated because the FBI has lessened the number of authorities who deal with hate crimes.
This is because the Bush administration has decided to enhance counterterrorism measures causing the FBI to pull agents out of civil rights cases and cut down the criminal investigations being made nationwide (Shukovsky, Johnson, & Lathrop, 2008). This might be a potential problem because as David Rudovsky, “a prominent civil rights lawyer and senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School [says] ‘If [people] don’t think anybody is watching or investigating… it’s likely you’re going to have more misconduct’” (Shukovsky, Johnson, & Lathrop, 2008).
Fortunately, victimized people who experience abuse or violence can call national hotlines such as Rape Crisis 1. 800. 656. HOPE (4673) and Domestic Violence 1. 800. 799. SAFE (7233) (Kilpatrick, 2000) as well as 1- 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453) (National Criminal Justice, 2007). In the Miami area, the Center for Abuse and Rape Emergency of Charlotte County can be contacted at 813-627-6000 (Sexual Assault, n. d). Another one that offers service in regards to sexual abuse is the South Florida Sexual Abuse and Assault Victims Program, which has a 24-hour hotline (305-663-6540) (Sexual Assault, n. d).
More information can be obtained online by searching for specific agencies in a particular city and state. Aside from this, the government has to do more regarding the criminal justice system. Concerns about the criminal justice system’s process in dealing with victimized people should be addressed. This is because investigations and trials that take place have to remind these people of the incident that they have been through. Thus, it is crucial for law enforcement agents to identify and understand the processes of the current criminal justice system which cause victims unwanted stress (Fattah, 2000).
This will make the criminal justice system an effective measure to reduce crime (Fattah, 2000). Furthermore, it will also show that the services for the victims do not actually “serve official needs” even though that is the case right now (Fattah, 2000). Overall, the study of victimology should be further developed and incorporated into the criminal justice system. Not only does victimology assist law enforcement agents in apprehending the criminal, but it also allows them to find out the motivations that drive the criminal to commit the act.
It also shows the kind of people that the criminal will most likely target or take advantage of. Moreover, the criminal justice system should be more sensitive in dealing with victimized people. They should definitely find other means to obtain vital information without having to constantly remind the victim of the unfortunate incident that took place. Fortunately for these victims, movements such as the feminist movement, children rights groups and civil rights movement have made it possible for them to receive further help regarding their circumstance.
Child Abuse Prevention Association. (2008). Our Mission. Retrieved February 27, 2008, from http://www. childabuseprevention. org/ Civil Rights. (2007, December 11). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy February 28, 2008, from http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/civil-rights/#IdeDis Education Development Center, Inc. (1995, January). Child sexual exploitation: improving investigations and protecting victims. Retrieved February 27, 2008, from http://www. ncjrs. gov/txtfiles/exploit. txt Fattah, E.
(2000) Victimology: past, present, and future. Criminilogie, 33(1). Retrieved February 28, 2008, from www. erudit. org/revue/crimino/2000/v33/n1/004720ar. pdf Morgan, P. A. (2006, August 8). Intimate partner violence. Northern Arizona University. Retrieved February 28, 2008 from http://jan. ucc. nau. edu/~pms/cj360/m-vaw/battered%20women. htm Kilpatrick, D. (2000). Rape and sexual assault. National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center. February 28, 2008, from http://www. musc. edu/vawprevention/research/sa. shtml
Minnesota Center Against Violence and Abuse. (2005). History of Domestic Violence. Retrieved February 28, 2008, from http://www. mincava. umn. edu/documents/herstory/herstory. html National Criminal Justice Reference Service. (2007, December 19). Search questions & answers. Retrieved February 27, 2008, from http://www. ncjrs. gov/App/QA/Detail. aspx id=1119&context=5 National Criminal Justice Reference Service. (n. d. ) Patterns of violence against women: risk Factors and Consequences. Retrieved February 27, 2008, from