Robert Reiff once said, the problems of crime always get reduced to “What can be done about criminals?” Nobody asks, what can be about victims?” (Shcmelleger, 1999)
The consequences of crime vary from one individual to another. Crime can involve financial loss, property damage, physical injury, and death. Less obvious but sometimes more devastating are the psychological wounds, left in the wake of victimization, wounds that may never heal.
In an attempt to prevent victimization, individuals may move, restrict their daily activities, or purchase expensive security measures. The government, in apprehending and punishing offenders, is extending billions of money and man-hours. Yet we have only started recently to focus our attention on the victim of crime.
Crime victims could be key actors in the criminal justice process, but more of they are kept at the periphery. Crime victims are the “forgotten person” of the criminal justice system while the criminal is the superstar. Victims are only valued for their capacity to report crimes and to appear in court as witness (Lurigio, 1990).
Victimology, or the study of victimization, is a field of scientific endeavor that took off as a separate discipline round 1970 (Dramkin, Vieno, 1974). Before that, victimology was, inter alia, pioneered by the German criminology Vont Hentig and criminal law scholar Benjamine Mendelsohn.
In 1941 Von Henting published an article with the title Remarks on the Interaction between Perpetrator and Victim” (Von Henting, 1941). Later he published The Criminal and his Victims were classified according to the nature of their involvement in the criminal act. It was thought that a study of the victim’s result in a better prevention of crime.
In 1947, Mendelsohn presented a paper in French at a congress in Butharest in which he counted the term victimology (see Hoffman, 1992). Like Von Hentig he drew attention to the par played by victims in precipitating crimes of violence, for example through provocation. For Mendelson, a defense counsel, victim precipitation was a mitigating circumstance in meting out punishment for the offender.
Of Great significance to the development of victimology as a field of research in its own rights was a book by S. Schafer published in 1968, entitled “the Victim and his Criminal; a study into fictional responsibility”. As the title, which paraphrases the title of Von Hentig’s classical textbook, indicates, the victim is at the heart of this monographic. Schafer presents victimology as the independent study of the relationships and interactions between offender and victim before, during and after the crime. In addition to victim precipitation in the events resulting in the crime act, the obligation of the offender to make good by compensating his victim is now also seen as part of the subject matter. This was shared by the Dutch criminologist Negal in his publications on the “victimological notion” in criminology (Negal, 1959; Negal, 1963). Like the other pioneers, Nagel argued for an integrationist victimology. He was particularly interested in the relationship between offender and victim after the commission of the crime. In his opinion the criminal justice system should aim to satisfy the offender’s need for atonement, the victims need for retribution and their joint need for reconciliation.
Blaming the victim
The most important political criticism leveled against this type of victimology is that it provides arguments for blaming victims for their fate. From the historical perspective, it cannot be denied that Mendelsohn in his early publication draw the attention ti the victim’s involvement with the intention to inculpate the offender and shift part of the blame upon the victim.
In later victimological publication by Mendelsohnand others the involvement of the victim in the commission of the crime is analyzed to explain the dynamic of criminal...
References: * Siegel, Larry J., Criminology, Theories, Patterns and Typologies, 4rth Edition, 1992
* Manwong, Rommel K., “Fundamentals of Criminology, Third Edition” n Wiseman’s Books Trading Inc. 2008
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