The Victim: To blame or not to blame? That is the question.

The field of victimology (Cochrane, Melville & Marsh, 2004) seeks to determine why exactly crimes occur as they do. Victomologists (Cochrane, Melville & Marsh, 2004) see crime as an interaction between two individuals: the criminal and the victim. In the field of victimology, the individual who suffers from the crime is just as responsible, or possibly even more accountable for the actions and consequences that befall them.

This theory, in which the victim allegedly operates in ways that draw criminal’s attention, is called victim precipitation (Wolfgang 1958; Cochrane, Melville & Marsh, 2004). The theory suggests that if victims did not present themselves in the ways they do, crimes would not befall them. The victim precipitation theory obviously contains a good deal of controversial issues which include blaming the victim, relieving the criminal from fault and possibly encouraging criminals and perpetrators to continue acting out their aggression.

While victim precipitation itself remains hard to prove as a theory, other similar research branching from its study has proven a valuable indicator on how some victim’s daily routines put them at higher risks for crime. Victim precipitation contains several aspects of controversy; particularly in the manner that such a theory seeks to blame the victim, relieve the criminal from fault, as well as encourage criminals to continue their aggressive behavior.

Victim precipitation relays that the victims subliminally ask to be assaulted (Cochrane, Melville & Marsh, 2004). Some examples would include ideas that women who dress provocatively intentionally look for sexual attention even to the extent of rape. Another example would suggest that individuals who leave their cars unlocked subliminally invite their theft. In relation, such a viewpoint diverts the blame of situations away from perpetrators onto victims. Extreme evidence of this illustrates itself in the following example.

A woman who kills her husband out of self defense because he abuses her is still seen as a cold blooded killer and her abusive husband becomes the victim (see Browne, 1987; Ewing, 1986; Karmen, 1991, p. 403). If the laws cannot protect the woman and no one listens to her pleas for help, should she kill herself then rather than defend her life? Of course there exist alternative options for her, however this hypothetical example shows the extreme cases where in the victim will receive all the blame while her husband, the aggressor looks innocent.

Less extreme versions, such as the previously mentioned promiscuously dressed women being raped, still takes the blame away from the rapist in the victim precipitation theory. The rapist merely acted in the way they did because the women dress sexually and must therefore want sex in the viewpoint of victim precipitation theories. Lastly, victim precipitation theory contains a great deal of controversy because it seemingly encourages aggressive behavior from perpetrators, by telling them they are not entirely at fault.

Victim precipitation allows them to believe that they as aggressors only react to others behavior. They only steal because others are not cautious of their possessions, etc. Also, when victim precipitation shifts the blame for the crime back to the victim, it emboldens criminals to think that their actions will not be seen as their fault in the public eye, thus they can continue on with their actions without fear of harsh reprisal (Ben-David & Schneider, 2005).

No conclusive studies show that victims ever want to experience crime in their lives. However, some individuals place themselves in daily situations in which they have more risk of being affronted. Just as a police officer takes on daily routines that put them at greater risk of injury or harm, individuals such as women who work on a constant basis with young men may be at greater risk for rape. Perhaps we might consider a woman patrol officer at an all male juvenile detention center for example.

This does not mean that the woman desires sexual assault of any kind; she simply works on a daily basis in a population where rapists might have greater prevalence. Overall, the victim precipitation viewpoint contains a great deal of controversy because it seeks to blame the victim, remove fault from the criminal and encourages criminal behavior. No evidence exists that victims actively seek to encourage crime upon themselves. However some person’s daily routines do put them at higher risk for experiencing crimes than others (Laub 1990; Cochrane, Melville & Marsh, 2004).

Victim precipitation as a philosophy has logical conclusions that appear flawed once a deeper understanding of crime transpires. While it is important to view both the victim’s and the criminal’s experience, society must remember that criminals are the only ones who ultimately control their own actions and decisions, and it is not the victim who does this.


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