Victimology definitions

Victimology – Definitions, Examples, Topics, and Origin


There are many victims of crime globally, and victims come from all walks of life. Victims can be a child or an adult, male or female, rich or poor. There are no boundaries for victims.

One thing that victims have in common is that they need support following any victimization. That’s where victimology comes into play – it is defined as “the study of victims.” This post will discuss more about what victimology is, how it came about, some definitions for terms related to victims and their origins, and topics within victimology that you may want to explore!

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Introduction to Victimology-What is Victimology?

Victimology is the study of victims. It looks at victims’ experiences and what happens to them following any type of victimization, including sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking.

The term “victims” can refer not only to those who have been assaulted but also to those living in chronic poverty, child victims of crime, victims of terrorism, and victims who have survived natural disasters. Victims can also be those who have been affected indirectly by crime, such as family members of victims.

Victimology can help victims deal with the effects of victimization and aid them in becoming more ‘well-adjusted.’

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The Importance of Victimology

Victimology has helped shape victim services and policies throughout history due to its focus on victims’ needs. Crime victims need a lot of support following any crime or disaster that they experience, so they need to come forward and speak out.

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What Are Some Key Definitions In Victimology?

Victims of a crime

The crime victims have been directly harmed in some way, shape, or form by the criminal or their actions.

For example, victims may be injured physically or psychologically and robbed of their property (financial assets.)  It is important to note that victims can also be the survivors of crime.

The most common victims have been physically harmed or killed by homicide, assault, and robbery. Their families may feel that they too were crime victims because they lose a loved one in these violent acts – this is what we refer to as tertiary victims who are indirect victims of crime.

In a criminal justice context, crime victims are often given priority to have input into the process and decisions of the court, as well as victims’ services being paramount in rehabilitation and compensation for losses incurred by them.

Victims’ rights

Victims have certain rights in North America that state what they should expect from criminal victims’ services agencies. For crime victims of sexual assault, these rights include being informed about the procedures to follow and what evidence will be collected for a forensic examination and knowing their options in reporting the crime to law enforcement or not doing so.

Civil victims

Civil crime victims can refer to those individuals who experience discrimination on any grounds protected under human rights and equality legislation.

Victims Services

Victims may need to seek safety or support following victimization. The criminal justice system provides services to nonprofit organizations and government agencies to address victims’ needs. These needs may include being informed about their rights as a crime or civil victim, dealing with emotional trauma from an assault or witnessing it, finding a safe place to stay, getting medical attention, and legal guidance.


It is an unlawful act or omission that causes harm, loss, injury, or death.


It is someone who commits a crime against another person. Perpetrators often aim to gain something from their victims (money, sex, etc.), but there would be no victims without victims committing crimes.

Victim service provider

Anyone whose job is to provide services and support for crime victims such as a victim advocate, police officer with a victims specialist role, or social worker in the criminal justice system- they’re essential because it’s tough enough coping with crime alone let trying to manage everything else too. Hence, it’s never ok for victims not to have access to this help when dealing with the aftermath of a crime like how they were treated by law enforcement personnel during an investigation or what happened during the experience itself and so on.

Tertiary victims

These are indirect victims of crime who usually lose a loved one in these violent acts; tertiary victims can be considered victims.


Someone who has an official role in criminal cases, such as a police officer


An academic expert who studies crime and crime victims

Law enforcement

These are public agencies that deal with investigating offences against citizens, enforcing laws, etc. They are responsible for gathering evidence and making arrests. They work closely with victim’s service providers so that victims feel supported by both sides during what might be one of the most traumatic experiences of their lives.

Law enforcement personnel should also keep victims informed about progress or otherwise be involved in investigations to reduce victimization. It’s crucial for victims not to lose sight of how their offender is being dealt with (including when offenders do get arrested) because, without them, there would be no victims.

What’s the Difference Between a Crime Victim or Civil Victim, and How Does This Compare with Criminal Justice Victims?

There are victims of crime and victims in the criminal justice system. Crime victims have been harmed due to another’s behaviour against the law (e.g., robbery). Criminal justice victims include those who were not physically hurt but experienced emotional trauma or distress following a traumatic event, such as being present when someone was assaulted.

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What are Victim’s Services?

Victims may need to seek safety or support following victimization. The criminal justice system provides services to nonprofit organizations and government agencies to address victims’ needs which can include being informed about their rights as a crime or civil victim, dealing with emotional trauma from an assault or witnessing it, finding a safe place to stay, getting medical attention and legal guidance. Services may vary depending on the specific crime and may include:

– Emotional support (e.g., crisis intervention)

– Information and referrals

– Housing assistance

– Medical services

– Legal aid or advocacy services

Victims’ rights- related to victim compensation. Victims should be informed about their rights. For example, victims of violent crimes in Canada are entitled to a forensic exam. Victims of sexual assault are afforded protection from contact with the accused person. Crime victims also have rights concerning restitution (e.g., compensation for stolen property or lost income) at the criminal justice stage, and civil victims can ask for reparations during a lawsuit.

Victims’ Advocate

A victims’ advocate is someone who advocates for crime victims, their relatives or family members, and other justice system participants. They work with the criminal justice process to ensure that their needs are met (usually through victim services).

What Does Victims Witness Do in the Criminal Trial Phase?

The witness testifies as an eye-witness of a court case against another defendant. This helps provide evidence and information about events relating to the crime being tried to prove guilty on behalf of the state. Victim witnesses may take part by giving testimony at trial if police have interviewed them about reported crimes that have resulted in an arrest.

The role of the victim’s witness is to do anything necessary to help the prosecutor prove that the defendant committed a crime – this may be through giving evidence or by providing information about events related to the case for them to help convict.

Victim Blaming

Victim blaming refers to when victims are criticized and held responsible for crimes against themselves. It’s usually done intentionally with negative intentions such as protecting oneself (think of “she was asking for it”), so they can feel better about their actions/actions of others, reduce guilt or fear of being victimized again because people think “that could never happen” etc. Victim-blaming has been problematic throughout history. Crime victims have had little power over what happens after a crime occurs, and victims have always been blamed for their victimization.

What is the Victimology Theory?

Victimology theory is a theory that explains the cause and effects of victimization. Some common examples of this field are social learning theory, labelling theory, labelling perspective, and power-control theory.

Social learning theory is a behaviour modification that looks at both nature (biology) and nurture (environment) to explain criminal behaviour.

Labelling theory explains how society and the media construct our view of crime and criminals. Labelling theory is also known as Stigma Effect.

The labelling perspective in victimology is a social psychological perspective that explains criminal behaviour by analyzing crime and justice, the impact on victims and their families, and the impact on criminals themselves.

Power control theory suggests that the increase in the rates of violence against women is due to an increased tolerance for violence in society.

What Are the Theories Explain Patterns of Crime in Society

Four core theories explain crime patterns in society: anomie theory, social disorganization and strain theories, social learning theory, and differential association theory.

Anomie Theory

Anomie’s theory suggests that group values change if the society in which they exist becomes too complex. This causes crime as lower-class individuals have no means to achieve or maintain values.

Social Disorganization and Strain Theory

Social Disorganization Theory explains crime patterns due to neighbourhood factors such as community social ties or different age groups living in one area. Strain Theory explains crime patterns as people commit these crimes due to their inability to find a socially acceptable way to meet material needs.

Social Learning Theory

Social Learning Theory explores how individuals learn to commit crimes through learning, exposure, and reinforcement.

Differential Association Theory

Differential Association Theory examines how patterns of criminal behaviour are learned within a group. Strong bonds with other criminal members increase the chances of individuals adopting criminal conduct.”

Who is the Founder of Victimology?

Two prominent people would be identified as the founders of victimology. The first is Ivan De Fleur, who introduced the term “victimology” in 1943 and was co-founder of the International Society for Victimology with Erling Bern.

The second would be Gerbert van der Kol, the father of Dutch victimology. He established the Association for Victimology and Criminology (V&VN) in the Netherlands in 1969.

Dean G. Kilpatrick (b. 1945) is characterized as a founding father of modern victimology for establishing the first academic center devoted to studying victims in 1974 and establishing the Journal of Victimization in 1978.

What is the History of Victimology?

Victimology was officially born in 1962 when Ivan De Fleur suggested that there should be a science of victims and victimization.

It wasn’t until the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s that academic interest in victimology rapidly increased with the emergence of labelling theory.

Labelling theory suggested that ‘individuals could be labelled as victims by others and that this would have detrimental impacts, resulting in victimology.

The term ‘victimological paradigm’ was first used by John Zeisel in his book “Victimology: A Study of Victimization and Its Consequences” in 1964.

Since the 1960s, De Fleur has been accepted as the father of victimology by many scholars. Victimology entered mainstream consciousness in the 1970s with a wave of violent crimes, which contributed to an interest in victimization and its consequences to society.

In 1978 Dean G. Kilpatrick started the Journal of Victims, which served as the official publication of the International Society for the Study of Victimization. Many ideas proposed in this area have been driven by general theories about human behaviour, such as social learning theory which suggests that individuals learn through observing and interacting with others.

Many organizations have advocated for victims’ rights in recent years, including the Victims’ Rights Law in the USA and the European Victims’ Directive.

In 2000 there was a conference entitled ‘Victimology: Victims, Crime and Social Justice where scholars could discuss victimization from all over the world. They also established a clear definition of victimology as well as formed an association for victims of crime.

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What Are Types of Victimology?

Victimology has three main branches, each with its focus. They include victimization analysis, victim assistance, and policy studies.

Victimization Analysis

Victimization analysis is the study of victims and victimization. It seeks to answer questions such as “what makes people become a victim of crime,” “how do people view the role of a victim,” and “how do different groups perceive the roles of victims?”

A key focus in this branch is developing an understanding of what it feels like to be a victim, which is empathy.

Victimization analysis aims to understand the different roles of victims, including social, legal, psychological, criminal, and identity functions.

It also investigates things like self-blame in victim-blaming, which will be discussed later on in the article.

Victim Assistance

Victim assistance focuses on helping victims of crime recover and allows them to return to everyday life. It aims to empower victims and improve their quality of life. This is achieved through preventative methods, intervention programs, new ways of coping and providing assistance both mentally and physically, and improving the criminal justice process for victims.

Policy Studies

Policy studies explore laws that are made for victim protection and the effectiveness of these legal systems. This branch is also concerned with how victims are affected by the criminal justice system regarding crime, entitlements, and support. Criminal justice policies aim to achieve rehabilitation for victims as well as prevention and protection from future victimization.

Victimology is a multidisciplinary field involving both social and humanistic sciences. It includes aspects of psychology, criminology, sociology, legal studies, and medicine.

It is an extensive area of study which encompasses theoretical perspectives such as psychological (rights of victims), sociological (victim-blaming), cultural (the impact on women), and biological (genetic), all of which look at the victim from their unique point of view.

Importantly, victimology is about being victims as individuals and collective group identities connected through victimization such as minorities, ethnic groups, and sexual orientation.

What Are Key Concepts of Victimology?

Victimology examines what victims are entitled to. The critical concept of victimology is the ‘right to protection, which aims to ensure that every individual has a right to be protected from crime. This right is contained in Article 3, Protocol 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The European Victims’ Directive (VD) states that victims have a right to assistance from the criminal justice system and must be consulted during any legal proceedings as experts in their case. Victims also have rights such as access to information about how their case is being managed and a right to compensation for their economic loss.

The VD also grants victims the right to compensation for their non-pecuniary (in other words, a loss which cannot be measured in financial terms) losses such as pain and suffering endured.

Victimology is not just confined to forensic psychology – it is also used in forensic science and forensic medicine. It aims to answer questions such as “Why did the victim suffer” and “What is forensic evidence.” Forensic evidence is any physical, biological, or chemical substance that may provide insight into an event. For example, DNA collected from a scene might be used to determine if there was a weapon involved in a violent crime.

Other areas in forensic psychology that uses victimology include forensic risk assessment, forensic mental health assessments, and forensic reports.

Some forensic psychologists also specialize in victim advocacy as well. This is the term used to refer to the process of giving a voice to victims who are deemed unable to do so themselves, such as children or those with severe psychiatric illnesses.

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What is the Importance of Victimology in Criminology?

The importance of victimology in criminology is that it provides a vital link between criminals and crime. Victims are a pivotal part of the study of criminology because there would be no criminals and no crimes without them.

If victimology didn’t exist, we wouldn’t view victims as individuals with their own needs who others had hurt in society.

Without victimology, victims would not have a voice in the criminal justice system and wouldn’t be part of this process. Victimology is a fundamental forensic science to forensic psychology.

What is the Purpose of Victimology?

The purpose of victimology is to ensure that victims have a voice in the criminal justice system and get fair treatment. E.g., officers are being taught skills to help them understand the crime from a victim’s point of view and sympathize with the individual they are trying to help. Victimology also promotes understanding of the impact on victims of crime and aims to provide support for them.

Victimology is also interested in explaining why victims are targeted by offenders, the impact on individual victims, and the broader social effects of victimization. We also find out what can be done to reduce victimization, such as education programs, information campaigns, and training for police officers to prevent crime.

The theory also aims to challenge the myths and stereotypes of victimization. The word ‘victim’ tends to conjure up images of weakness, vulnerability, and passivity, but this isn’t always true. Victims can be strong people fighting back against crime which challenges the stereotypical image that the media often feed society.

Societal benefits result from the study of victimology. In particular, it aims to reduce crime by informing criminal justice responses to victims. If we understand why victims are chosen, what helps them recover, and if there is anything society can do about it, this knowledge may help prevent future victimization.

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What is the Purpose of Victim Services?

Victim services assist people who have been harmed, injured, or killed due to a crime. These organizations support these victims and their families in several ways, including legal assistance, counselling, and financial aid. The aim is to ensure that victims get justice in the criminal justice system and achieve a sense of emotional closure.

Victim services also aim to prevent future crimes from occurring by educating society about victims’ rights, changing crime patterns, and reducing public fear.

Victim services are essential for ensuring that victims get the help they need during their recovery process following a crime—victim services liaison between victims and criminal justice agencies, such as providing advice about court proceedings.

Victimology is primarily concerned with helping victims of crime during the recovery process from the emotional impact it has had on their life. The benefits of accessing victim services include an increased sense of belonging in society, a feeling that people are looking out for them, and having somebody to talk to.

The services also help victims learn how to avoid the same situation in the future. This can involve self-defence training, e.g., martial arts or other forms of crime prevention education programs.

What is the Classification of Victimology?

While there are many different types of victimology, the study is usually based on the type of crime and the characteristics of the victims.

Victimology is also broken down into three main areas:

(1) Criminal victimization studies involve studying offenders who commit crimes and how to prevent them from doing it again. This is part of the field of criminal justice.

(2) Victim Services. This is a branch of social work that assists victims in recovery and helps them move on from their experiences. Victim services focus more on the needs of individual victims, societal effects, and preventing future crime.

An excellent example of victim services can be seen in rape crisis centers where trained counsellors or therapists provide emotional support for victims and legal assistance. Victim services are essential in helping victims get closure following a crime because of their support and how they work to help with the recovery process.

(3) Victimization studies involve studying how specific types of crimes affect individuals, society, and the wider community. This branch of victimology is primarily concerned with the impact of crime on victims and their recovery process. E.g., studying how different crimes affect society, such as rape, domestic violence, or child abuse.

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Why is Victim Blaming Right?

Blame is the responsibility for wrongdoing or a bad situation. Blaming people for certain events makes us feel better about ourselves because we think it’s their fault, so they deserve to be punished. It also helps us maintain that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Of course, it is not right!

What is Mendelsohn Theory of Victimization?

The Mendelsohn theory of victimization is named after John Mendelsohn, a criminologist, and criminal justice theorist. He believed that there are two different categories of victims. People either have primary or secondary status as victims.

Victimhood or ‘victimhood status is the process that allows people to pass from being a victim of crime to gaining the status of ‘victim.’ It’s a process shared by those who suffer injury or loss and are just witnesses to crimes.

Mendelsohn thought that the successful movement from victimhood to victim status was due to how we define victims. Victims are often characterized by how they react to their victimization and the amount of sympathy that people have for them, e.g., if a victim is brave during the crime or displays emotional suffering when recounting it. Victim blaming can occur in both primary and secondary victim status.

For those viewed as having primary status as victims, there is a common assumption that they will be blamed for their victimization. It means that the survivor is expected to have done something wrong, which led to them being hurt. For example, in cases of sexual assault, the victim may have dressed inappropriately or been drinking underage.

Victim blaming is wrong because it denies the victim any sympathy or empathy that they deserve and often stops them from seeking help for their problems. Victim blaming is also bad because it tries to make people feel responsible for what has happened, which does not consider the offender’s responsibility.

What is the Theory of Victimization?

Victimization is a relatively recent concept. It was first coined in 1974, when “crime victim” replaced the term “victim of crime.” The modern definition of victimization is: “The threatened or actual violation of a person’s physical or psychological integrity through the use of force, coercion, deceit, or abuse of power.”

Whether or not violence is perpetrated against a person and what qualifies as victimization depends on the “theory of victimization.”  The different theories are:

  1. The Biological Theory of Victimization

The belief is that there are innate biological factors that result in a crime. Proponents claim that certain people may be genetically predisposed to criminal behaviour, making them more likely to be victimized.

  • The Classical Theory of Victimization

A person becomes a victim because they can’t defend themselves against the perpetrator. If the victim had been stronger/bigger/faster/more capable of fighting back, then they would not have been victimized.

Victimization is a result of social power dynamics. The idea that rape, for example, occurs because of the perpetrator’s desire to exert their domination over the victim. Thus men are inherently more likely to be victimized than women (because men have more social power).

  • Psychoanalytic Theory of Victimization Syndrome

A person’s physical, psychological and sex life is usually the most intimate part of their life. In the same way we can get to know someone by getting a glimpse of what they are reading on a bus or in a coffee shop, we can also guess what their deepest thoughts are. That being said, it should come as no surprise that criminals tend to gravitate toward reading material that is reminiscent of their heinous actions.

This is not to say that everyone who enjoys horror movies is a budding serial killer or that anyone who listens to techno music must want to rape their neighbour’s dog and then cut off all its legs.

However, it should make us pause for a moment and reflect on what our entertainment choices are trying to tell us about ourselves. What we watch and what we play reflects the culture in which we live, a mirror for our values.

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There are so many victims of crime globally, and there is no one way to define a victim. Victims come from all walks of life – rich or poor, male or female, child or adult. The only thing that they have in common is the need for support following any victimization. That’s where victimology comes into play – it is defined as “the study of victims.”

Victimology has helped shape our understanding of what crimes and disasters do to people and how we can better provide services and policies in the future because this field focuses on the needs survivors experience post-victimization.

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