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Victimization Theories

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There are five major theories of victimization. These theories discuss how victims and victimization are major focuses in the study of crime. They all share many of the same assumptions and strengths dealing with crime and its victims. The five major theories are Victim precipitation, Lifestyle, Equivalent group hypothesis, Proximity hypothesis, and Routine activities.

Victim Precipitation assumes that “victims provoke criminals” and that “victims trigger criminal acts by their provocative behavior” (106). According to our text, this theory states that the victim initiates the confrontation that might eventually lead to the crime. In victim precipitation, it can be either passive or active. Active precipitation occurs when the victim is the first to attack or encourages the criminal by their actions. Passive precipitation can either occur due to personal conflict or when the victim unknowingly threatens or provokes the attacker (95). The strengths that the text point out for this particular theory is that it “explains multiple victimizations. If people precipitate crime, it follows that they will become repeat victims if their behavior persists over time” (106).

The theories that are more common are the “Lifestyle theories that suggest that victims put themselves in danger by engaging in high-risk activities” (106). “Victimization risk is increased when people have a high-risk lifestyle. Placing oneself at risk by going out to dangerous places results in increased victimization” (106). This theory “explains victimization patterns in the social structure. Males, young people, and the poor have high victimization rates because they have a higher-risk lifestyle than females, the elderly, and the affluent” (106). The lifestyle theories assume that the victim participates in high-risk activities which make them suitable targets for crime. The Deviant place theory discusses the fact that crime flourishes in certain places and the odds of victimization increase when people live in the high-crime areas. A person’s lifestyle increases the exposure to criminal victimization as well as their behavior. These theories state that “crime is not a random occurrence but rather a function of the victim’s lifestyle. High-risk lifestyle crimes occur because the potential victim’s life style places them in jeopardy” (97). “Engaging in delinquent behavior face a greater risk of victimization” (98).

Equivalent group hypothesis theory discusses how “Criminals and victims are one and the same. Both crime and victimization are part of a high-risk lifestyle” (106). “The equivalent group hypothesis holds that the characteristics of criminals and victims are remarkably similar because in reality the two groups are the same” (97). This hypothesis “shows that the conditions that create criminality also produce high victimization risk. Victims may commit crime out of a need for revenge or frustration” (106).

In the text it discusses the Proximity hypothesis, which assumes that if one lives in a deviant place that they are subjecting themselves to becoming a victim. “Victims do not encourage crime, they are in the wrong place at the wrong time” (98). This theory states that the behavior of the victim has very little influence over the criminal act (106). This “places the focus of crime on deviant places. It shows why people with conventional lifestyles become crime victims” (106).

The Routine activities theory reflects on three different variables. The first is the availability of suitable targets, the absence of guardians, and the presence of motivated offenders (106). “The routine activities theory maintains that a pool of motivated offenders exists and that these offenders will take advantage of unguarded, suitable targets” (106). Due to routine activities the victim is making one’s self available for the criminal act. “Crime rates can be explained by the availability of suitable targets, the absence of capable guardians, and the presence of motivated offenders” (106). The strengths of this theory “can explain crime rates and trends. It shows how victim behavior can influence criminal opportunity” (106).

These theories all confer that the victim places themselves in the life of crime. Whether it is the place the are living, the activities they are partaking in, or the peers that they associate with, it is the victim that seeks out the attacker. It is clear that in these major theories it is assumed that it is not the criminal that initiates the crime it is the victim. There are a number of circumstances within each theory that portray the victim as encouraging the crime by their behavior. All of the theories presume that a persons living arrangement or daily activities can impinge on victim risk, and that if a person’s lifestyle is to be altered they can reduce their likelihood of victimization.

Each of the theories that I have discussed in the previous paragraphs have their own assumptions on victimization. Victim Precipitation assumes that the victim triggers the criminal acts by their behavior. The Lifestyle theories discuss how a high-risk lifestyle can enhance ones odds for becoming a victim. Equivalent group hypothesis affirm that both crime and its victim are equal, they are both part of a high-risk lifestyle. The Proximity hypothesis assumes that it depends on the place one lives not the behavior of the victim. It states that they are “in the wrong place at the wrong time” (98). Routine activities “show how victim behavior can influence criminal opportunity” (106). The theories of victimization all differ in some aspect, although they still all implement the point that it is the victim that seeks the criminal.

In my opinion I believe that the victimization theories oppress the fact that it is the criminal that is responsible the crime. I do not believe that a person’s behavior is the direct result for becoming a victim of crime. I feel that when one commits a crime they have an alternative, and if they choose to participate in a criminal act, I don’t feel it is the fault of the victim. Victims can take many pre-cautions in life and their actions; nevertheless crime is so often an unavoidable act.

If I was to encounter the headline: ‘Criminal Researchers Discover the Criminal Gene’, I would have many questions and doubts about the legitimacy of the discovery. If there is a gene that causes one to be criminal, how has society defined criminality? The law decides what is considered a criminal act, as well as morality. If society defines what crime is, then how can crime be passed through a gene? If crime was passed through a gene then society could not define what crime is. “Criminologists use a wide variety of research techniques to measure the nature and extent of criminal behavior” (20). This holds the idea that crime is the result of ones behavior. I do believe that personality traits, morals and values may be passed on through the gene pool; however I do feel that crime is a choice that one makes. Crime is the result of ones behavior, and I do not believe that behavior is genetic. In regards that crime is a choice, then a gene can not cause criminality. The definition of crime states that crime is a violation of societal rules of behavior” (20), this states that crime is solely formed on societal beliefs and values, which are in no way inherited. “Criminologists believe in one of three perspectives: the consensus view, the conflict view, or the interactionist view.

The consensus view holds that crime is illegal behavior defined by existing criminal law, which reflects the values and morals of a majority of citizens. The conflict view states that crime is behavior defined so that economically powerful individuals can retain their control over society. The interactionist view portrays criminal behavior as a relativistic, constantly changing concept that reflects society’s current moral values” (24). The three perspectives all support the questions that I hold regarding crime being a result of ones behavior. Behavior is labeled as criminal, determining what criminality is. If crime is determined then it cannot be genetic. The other questions that I would withhold would be pertaining to the rehabilitation of a criminal. How can a criminal be rehabilitated if criminality is in their genes? Criminologists have researched criminals, and criminal behavior, and the outcome defines crime as to what is acceptable within society.

Crime is a direct result of ones actions and choices. The headline would pose a good argument, but contradict the way crime has been determined through society all along. The law is who decides what crime is, and if crime was never defined, then there would be no criminals.

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