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Victimology: Definition, Theory and History Report

Victimology is a science that dedicates itself to the study of the connection between the victim and the offender. These two terms are intertwined, and in order to understand the concept, one must first obtain an understanding of these definitions. A victim is someone who has been assaulted or harmed by the offender. An offender is someone who has committed an act of violence or felony against the victim (Victimology, 2016).

The police use victimology in order to discover a correlation between the victims and the offenders, in order to understand the underlying motives of every crime. Victimologists are an important part of the counseling effort to help the victims of crime and abuse regain a semblance of normal life after the deep psychological traumas inflicted by such events. The purpose of this report is to convince the readers of the necessity of introducing a greater number of such specialists into the criminal justice system of the US.

The word “victim” comes from the Latin language. It word had a meaning of sacrifice dedicated to a God or a Goddess. In the 19th century, however, the word obtained a different meaning, being used to describe suffering and tragedy. Fredric Wertham first used the term victimology in 1949 in his book, which was dedicated to the study of murderers (Ferguson & Turvey, 2009). Nowadays, the word victim is identified with someone who had suffered from harmful and illegal actions. The science itself is a relatively modern one – the concept has been in existence for a little less than 60 years. However, it is rapidly gaining acknowledgment in the justice systems around the world.

Victimology is both different and similar to criminology, sociology, and psychology. It explains how, when, and where a person could become a victim. The reasons could be numerous, from murder to natural disasters. These studies are based on demographics, with factors like race, gender, and wealth being accounted for. The core difference lies in the ability of victimology to use all the sources and methods of information gathering that are included in criminological, psychological, and sociological studies, not restricting itself in any way. The mental and behavioral aspects of the crime are both accounted for in victimology (Ferguson & Turvey, 2009).

The rise of victimology as an independent discipline is in no small part due to many governmental and grassroots organizations that have dedicated themselves to assisting the victims of abuse, homicide, rape, and domestic violence. These organizations deal with these problems every day and have accumulated a great amount of information about victims and ways of helping them. Nowadays there are numerous groups out there willing and eager to help those in need. The four major organizations in the USA include:

  • The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
  • The Child Welfare League of America.
  • The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
  • The Battered Women’s Justice Project (Newcomer, 2013).

Even though there are many people out there willing to help the unfortunate victims of crime and abuse, the criminal justice system should not leave this matter to them alone. Instead, the police and the government should take a more active role in assisting them. Justice is pointless if the victim has not recovered from the assault.

Another problem that the current criminal justice system faces in regards to helping out victims of domestic and child abuse is the problem of mandatory reporting by religious organizations (Clergy, 2015). The confidentiality of pastoral communications is used as an excuse that keeps many crimes from being disclosed to the police. While in some states the pastors are obligated to report cases of domestic and child abuse should they receive knowledge of such, in many others the archaic notion persists.

As it currently stands, only 31 states out of 50 have laws that brand the representatives of religious organizations as mandatory reporters, with an exemption of certain religious conversations (Jenkins, 2015). The rest do not, meaning that even if a pastor or a clergyman possesses the knowledge of abuse, he or she has the right not to report it, thus concealing valuable information.

The worst thing is that they could not be held accountable for this either. In order to make the US a safer place for everybody, there must be no loopholes and ways around the obligation of every citizen to report a crime should they bear witness to it. All states need to adopt the mandatory reporting policy for the religious organizations.

The media could be a powerful ally in achieving this goal. In most states, nothing is being done about this issue due to general unawareness and apathy of the populace. The mass media is capable of reaching out to many people within a short amount of time. They need to see the truth and be aware of the consequences of such inaction.

If the subject becomes public and well known, the bureaucratic apparatuses would be left with no choice other than doing something about it (The Mass Media, 2016). There are many terrible stories that the clergymen know about but refuse to report them for one reason or another. Revealing these stories to the public would cause an outrage that would ultimately benefit justice.

California is a state famous for many clergy-related scandals regarding child molestation and child abuse. In the year 1990, a law was passed that forced clergymen to mandatory report cases related to child sexual abuse. However, there was one important exemption – the pastors were allowed to remain silent of the crimes, in case the information is obtained through penitential communication, or, in other words, a confession. This loophole is now a cause of many court processes, such as the case of Rebecca Mayeux, who was molested by a priest.

She currently runs a lawsuit against father Jeff Bayhi for his failure to report the crime to the authorities (Jenkins, 2015). Right now there are little to no alternatives to introducing a mandatory reporting law – in many cases, the clergymen are the only ones knowing about the abuse going on within their own ranks. The police and the supporting organizations usually do not know about the incidents until many years later. It is enough time to do irreversible physical and psychological damage.

It appears that nowadays the rights of the criminals are studied and protected far better than the rights of their victims. What the criminal justice system must do is make a greater emphasis on the victims by promoting laws that ensure their safety and care, and by having enough specialists in the area of victimology to help consult the targets of violence and abuse.


. (2015).

Ferguson, C., & Turvey, B.E. (2009). Victimology: a brief history with an introduction to forensic victimology. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier.

Jenkins, J. (2015). Unholy secrets: The legal loophole that allows clergy to hide child sexual abuse.

Newcomer, L. (2013). .

The Mass media. (2016).

. (2016).

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1. IvyPanda. "Victimology: Definition, Theory and History." August 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/victimology-definition-theory-and-history/.


IvyPanda. "Victimology: Definition, Theory and History." August 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/victimology-definition-theory-and-history/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Victimology: Definition, Theory and History." August 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/victimology-definition-theory-and-history/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Victimology: Definition, Theory and History'. 26 August.

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