Crime and Its Victims: Victim Precipitation

Introduction

A crime is an act forbidden by the law of the land (Darrow 2004). Such actions usually carry stiff penalties set out by the penal code governing the area. Crimes not only have an effect on an individual alone but also the society at large. High crime rates will make individuals feel unsafe in their own neighborhoods. Crime has mental, physical, and emotional effects on the lives of people it affects.

The definitions used to define a victim depend on individual perceptions (Edmund & Underwood 2003). In reference to crime, a victim can be described as an individual who has suffered physical psychological, or economic loss or injury due to illegal activities (Victimization theories). The acts these victims have suffered are not only considered unacceptable legally but also morally (Edmund & Underwood 2003). They are also of great concern to society in general.

Victims of crime are said to be victimized. There are various forms of victimization they face. The primary form is the crime committed against them (Edmund & Underwood 2003). These result in emotional responses of fear, anger, guilt, and frustration. They will lead up to the secondary form of victimization. This form is inflicted by the institution that is meant to provide services to the victims. Professional insensitivity, lack of information, and unnecessary delays may further cause emotional harm to the victims of crime (Edmund & Underwood 2003). An example is a rape victim. Sensitivity must be shown when interviewing such victims. This is because the act of rape is very demeaning and causes psychological trauma in many cases.

Victim precipitation

Victimology is defined as the scientific study of the relationship between victims and offenders. The interaction between victims, the criminal justice system, and other societal groups is also studied in victimology. The criminal justice system is made up of the police, courts, and correctional facilities. Societal groups studied in respect to crime include the media, businesses, and social movements (Victimization theories).

Crime does not happen randomly (Tark). There is said to be a degree to which victims are responsible for their own victimization. This is termed victim precipitation. According to Davies (1997), some scholars refer to victim precipitation as an ‘acceptance of violence’ (p.168). Another term in crime is victim prone. It is used to describe cases in which the victim is likely to make the first move. Victim precipitation plays an important role in the occurrence and prevention of crime.

Origin of particular events

Criminals are driven by three basic factors (Victimization theories). One is they feel a need to commit the crime to satisfy their wants. The second is experience and the society one lives in. if one was brought up in a neighborhood where a crime was a way of life, the person may not know any other way by which to live. The media has also contributed to this. Violent programs have helped develop a culture of violence (Siegel 2005).

Violence is becoming a part of society by its acceptance in the media. The third driver of crime is belief. In cases of domestic violence, the perpetrators believe that they have the right to ‘discipline’ their partner. Tark reports that research done shows that there may be a genetic tendency to be violently delinquent in some individuals.

Victim precipitation involves opportunities being made available to commit a crime. One theory that has been put forth to explain this is VIVA i.e. Value Inertia Visibility and Access (Victimization theories). The offender must see the value his victim holds for him. For example in cases of robbery, the victim will have valuables such as cash which the robber may want. Inertia means that the offender can actually carry the object he desires. For example, the cash he steals is portable. The third thing is visibility. The risk of being caught is first in an offender’s mind. They will carry out the offense in an area where they are unlikely to be seen. The presence of CCTV is a deterrent to crime because it makes the offender visible. The last is access. The offender must be in a position to access the valuables he wants.

There are certain factors that contribute to the occurrence of crime. One of the major contributors is alcohol and drug abuse. A study conducted in England found that 40% of violent crimes, 88% of criminal damages, and 78% of assaults occurred when the offender was under the influence of alcohol (Crime reduction). Other factors include being in dangerous places such as dark alleys and at a dangerous time e.g. late at night.

Cases of secondary victimization that occur are influenced by cultural beliefs and behaviors. A policeman may be insensitive to a rape victim who was indecently dressed. The law enforcement officer, like many in society, may hold the belief that the victim’s dressing provoked the attack (Edmund & Underwood 2003). In cases where their economic losses, secondary victimization is a result of individuals not taking adequate measures to protect themselves. Such measures include insurance for health and against theft (Crime reduction).

Victim offender interactions

Understanding victim precipitation will allow for a better understanding of the origin of crime. To do so one has to take into account the victim-offender interactions that may have contributed to the crime. The people most likely to become victims of crime are the elderly, women, and ethnic minorities. Men are the most common victims of violent crimes (Bureau of Justice 2008). In America, African Americans and minority young males are the most common victims of violent crimes (Tark). Some scholars have attributed the rise of offenders to the destabilized family unit (Victimization theories). Most offenders tend to come from single-parent households. The absence of a male role model is said to be the main reason many black young men end up in prison (Johnston 2007).

Victim precipitation has been used to explain a variety of interpersonal crimes such as rape and homicide. Victim precipitation can be grouped into two main categories; active precipitation and passive precipitation (Siegel 2005 p.77). Passive precipitation occurs in cases where an individual’s mere presence is perceived as a threat to the offender (Siegel 2005 p.77). Most crimes committed in search scenarios are thought to be those that give the offender power.

An example of such is a hate crime against a person of another race. In such cases, the victim precipitation may be as a result of an individual’s setting. The environment one is in is an important factor in understanding the importance of victim-offender interaction. Some victims are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. An example of these is victims of terrorist bombings. This is a form of passive precipitation.

There are also professions that are thought to be high-risk occupations. These include law enforcement officers (Victimisation theories). These professionals are at risk of being attacked because of the kind of work they engage in. Daily, police officers may be forced into a dangerous situation in the line of duty. This is a form of passive precipitation. To prevent most crimes that occur as a result of passive precipitation is very difficult. This is because the occurrence of the crime solely depends on the offender and their perception of the situation. The best thing individuals can do to prevent such a situation is to take precautions in their daily activities. Governments must also protect their citizens from certain crimes such as terrorist attacks by having an efficient security intelligence system.

Active precipitation occurs in cases where the victim provoked the attack (Siegel 2005). Wolfgang investigated murders in Philly that took place between 1948 and 1952(Victimization theories). He found that in many cases, the victim knew his murderer. Alcohol abuses were also reported in many of the murders. In 25% of the cases he found that the victim had provoked an alteration between them and the offender (Meloy 2007). In this case the victim was described as the party found to be the weaker one of the two involved in the altercation (Edmund & Underwood 2003 p.11). In conclusion the study found the victim precipitation factors to be alcohol abuse, prior relationship with offender and arguments (Meloy 2007).

An analysis of rape cases was conducted. It was found that in many cases alcohol, indecent dressing and the woman having a bad reputation led to rape (Tark). In the case of the murders, provocation of the offender by the victim is considered to be an act of active precipitation. In the rape analysis, the indecent dressing can be said to be an act of active precipitation. This concept has received criticism from various civil societies. This is because the concept seems to blame the victim for the crime (Muncie & Wilson 2004).

Another set of victims are those who are ignorant of the danger lurking around them. These are those who may go out during dangerous times eg late at night. In 2005, almost two thirds of all rapes and sexual assaults occurred between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. (Bureau of Justice 2008).The place they are in may also be dangerous eg a dark alley. The last set of victims is the voluntary victims who place themselves in dangerous situations.

An example is a gang member who may be in danger of being attacked by rival gangs. A person’s lifestyle may also make him more susceptible to crimes being committed against them. This gives rise to the routine activity theory. This theory assert that routines like drinking and staying out late places an individual at a high risk of being a victim of a crime. The reaction and in some cases overreaction of individuals can make them fall victim to a number of crimes (Davies 1997 p170).

Crime and its prevention: A victim’s role

Meloy (2007) asserts that cultural attitudes determine the response to victims of crime. For example, if one is robbed while walking through a dark alley people will ask why he had to be in that place at that time. Some will uses stereotypes to justify the crime. An example is a prostitute who is raped. She may receive very little sympathy from society. From a sociological perspective victims are said to have a “functional responsibility” for victimisation that develops (Meloy 2007).

This theory was put forth by Shafer. He believed while the victims may not necessarily provoke the crime, but they are necessary for the criminal transaction to have occurred. Their inaction or actions will lead to their victimization (Meloy 2007). The downside to this belief is the fact that is seems to support the claim of a culturally legitimate victim. It also tends to excuse the offenders behaviour by holding the victim partially responsible (Victimisation theories).

The victim plays a number of roles in cases of crime. One is the provocateur (Victimisation theories). This is a case where the victim provokes the crime. The other role victims play is the innocent victim. These are victims who are in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other role victims can play is prevention. This is done before or after the crime. Before a crime is committed individuals can take measures to protect themselves and their assets from being victimized.

After the crime is committed, the victim can prevent future crimes by reporting the crime to the police (Shaffer 2004). This action is an important aspect of victim precipitation. If a victim does not report a crime, the offender goes unpunished and may commit the crime again. If the victim reports the crime, the offender may be arrested and prosecuted for the crime. The sentence handed to the offender may serve as a deterrent to any future crimes. If the offender is arrested, it will make the victim feel that they have had retribution for the crime committed against them. If the offender is jailed, the victim may feel safer knowing that the offender is behind bars (Victimisation theories).

Clarifying the victim’s role in crime can also help us devise strategies for reducing risk and predicting victimisation. There are measures that individuals can take to avoid falling victim to crimes. The first is substance abuse treatment. Alcohol and drug abuse is said to make individuals vulnerable to attacks. Their intoxicated state makes some individuals lose their sense of reasoning and commit acts they would otherwise not do if they were sober. 30% of offenders were intoxicated at the time of the crime (Bureau of Justice 2008).

Individual should learn to know their limits when it comes to drinking alcohol. This will allow them to enjoy their drinks without losing control of what they do. This is applicable to both victims and offenders. All potential victims should recognise that intoxication makes them more vulnerable to attacks. They should hence take care of themselves by making sure they can remain alert even when drinking.

Research has shown that in some cases, the victims have been the provoker of their confrontation with their attacker (Siegel 2007). To avoid this, those who tend to overreact in anger should take anger management classes. This will help them control their emotions better. The same applies to offender who may commit a crime due to rage. A reaction made in anger is worse when the offender is intoxicated (Duhaime 2007). It is important for all individuals to learn what trigger rage in them. They will then learn to handle these emotions when someone provokes them.

Another major contributor to crime is unemployment. Some individuals turn to crime as a means of earning their daily bread. Unemployment was found to be the cause of the high rate of burglaries (Shaffer 2004). The unemployed individuals who turn to crime do so for monetary gain. For such individuals, job training assistance should be provided. Victims can protect their homes by putting in place security systems which may be a simple lock on the door to a sophisticated alarm system (Davis, Lurigio & Skogan 1997).

It is important for people to take measure to protect themselves and their assets from being burglarized. In cases of burglary, victims must immediately call the police. They must not attempt to enter their property to prevent compromising the crime scene (Muncie & Wilson 2004). In this way a victim will allow the police to gather evidence needed to catch the criminal. It is also important for individuals to know exactly what they own. This is helpful in cases of robbery. The police can be informed of exactly what is lost.

As earlier mentioned one of the major contributors to crimes is broken families. For young people gang intervention is one effective measure of preventing them from turning to a life of crime. It has been found that many gang members come from broken homes (Bureau of Justice 2008). The government and other civil institutions should instigate measures to provide parental and family services. This will provide single parent homes with some form of stability. The support the government provides should include monetary support. This will reduce cases where the single parent has to go out and find a second job to make ends meet. Young people should also be encouraged to join engage in positive social activities like sports. This will keep them occupied and away from crime.

Individuals should know the situations that place them at risk of being victimized. They should take measures to either protect themselves if the need arises or avoid the risks. If in one’s neighbourhood, most robberies occur at certain times, people should ensure that they are somewhere safe during those times. If drinking alcohol makes them vulnerable to attack, they should limit their drinking. Potential rape victims should take care of who they choose to associate with. They can protect themselves by avoiding compromising situations. Self defence classes will come in handy for individuals to protect themselves (Davis, Lurigio & Skogan 1997).

Governments have a huge responsibility of protecting the inhabitants of a country from criminal attacks. They should take measures to ensure that the people are not held hostage by their fear of being victimised. Governments should hence take measures to improve security. They could improve street lighting and install surveillance systems to act as deterrent to crime. Police patrols on the street especially at night should increase. Police investigation into crime should be thorough. Cases where the offenders are caught should form the majority of the investigations done. The punishment should fit the crime. This will act as a deterrent to future perpetrators. When justice is served, the victims will be able to get over the crime (Bureau of Justice 2008).

Conclusion

It is important for victims to know that they have a role to play in protecting themselves from victimization. In passive victim precipitation, individuals must be careful to treat each other with respect. This will ensure that they do not face future attacks due to retribution. In active precipitation, the same will apply. Lifestyle changes are vital in preventing active victim precipitation (Victimisation theories). Individuals should try and avoid any form of confrontation. They should also know when to leave a potentially dangerous situation. This is especially important for victims of crime within the homes. An example is a victim of spousal abuse. Spouses must be able to leave if abuse occurs (Crime reduction).

It is important to remember that for every action, there is a reaction. To protect oneself, it is important to know the risks and measures one can use to overcome them. It is also important to know the huge role a victim can play in preventing a crime by not only reporting it but also acting as a witness in the court case. The importance of reporting a crime and acting as a witness in a court case must be appreciated (Bureau of Justice 2008). This is one major way that a victim can take action and prevent further crimes. Be informed. Avoid risky scenarios. Take action. Avoid victimization.

Reference

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Johnston, P 18th June 2007, Broken homes ‘fuelling black crime’, Telegraph. Web.

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