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Crime is an occurrence that constantly pervades society. Various actors are involved in this, specifically the victim and the offender. After an offense is committed, equal status and personal responsibility work together such that even though the offender is condemned for their actions, they are still considered as human beings (Edgar & Newell, 2006). Resultantly, a fair trial is the best option. A relationship also arises between the offender and the victim, which forms the basis of explaining the motive for the crime.
Explanation of each concept
The duet frame present in crimes is a concept by Von Hentig, who described two characters who exist in a conventional criminal act. Thus, the concept involves an offender and a victim. The criminal act does not arise from a vacuum; rather, it is a result of the drives and the needs of the criminal. Criminal behavior emerges from the interaction, communications, attitudes, and contacts. The criminal is influenced externally to commit a specific crime, and the victim is at the center of it all (von Hentig, 1948).
An offender, according to the law, is the individual who is committing a crime. The offender is party to an offense. Offenders are also categorized into juvenile and adult offenders. Juvenile offenders are under the age of eighteen years. They are put in juvenile homes in the hope that once they grow up, they will become law abiding citizens (Edgar & Newell, 2006). This differs from adult offenders whom in many instances end up serving life sentences in prisons for various offences though some are due for parole if they maintain good behavior.
The interaction between victim and offender is viewed as a subject-object interaction, and not just by the offender. They occur as a force that influences each other. The outcomes are seen as beneficial to one party while causing harm to the other. In reality, this is not the case, especially if the psychological context is considered. The victim is seen as influencing what the perpetrator does (Garofalo, 1914).
Victim-precipitated (VP) crime is also a concept that details criminal activities, where the victim played a role in encouraging the crime. The perpetrator may not be willing to commit the homicide, but they may be encouraged by the victim. The victim might become violent during the crime, thus the perpetrator could be influenced to become more violent (Edgar & Newell, 2006). Both are humans, and a violent interaction is bound to get dangerous. The perpetrator will feel threatened and commit the homicide unwillingly. In this scenario, the victim can be said to have been the first to have resorted to physical violence, leading to an emotional effect on the perpetrator, who will then resort to a violent response. In other cases, the victim may not be a perpetrator of the crime, thus the crime is referred to as non-victim precipitated homicide (Tarde, 1912).
Pros and cons
The term ‘victim’ had a variant description over the years. Individuals who were considered criminals during a certain period became victims in another period. Thus, victims can be considered as social constructions in society. During the dark ages, witches were burned as they were blamed for various ills in society. Later on, they were considered as victims of witch hunts, as they had not committed any criminal act. Recently, it is the general tendency by victimologists to widen the concept of victimization. It is now defined more widely and loosely to apply to a wide array of groups and individuals (Edgar & Newell, 2006).
It means that victims were created and constructed such that they did not perceive or define themselves as victims. Individuals may consider themselves as victims, even though what they have gone through cannot be considered criminal victimization legally. Various issues may arise to lead to a lack of legal protection for the victim. An individual may be a victim of a criminal offense, but they can be considered as the offender, thus suffer for a crime they may not have committed (Edgar & Newell, 2006). Even though there is a duality of the relationship between the victim and perpetrator, it may become tricky sometimes to determine who the victim is.
Based on the Philadelphia study, several outcomes arose showing differing characteristics of both victim precipitated (VP) and non-victim precipitated (non-VP) homicides. These were mental factors, sex, age, prior criminal offences, victim-offender relationships, and alcohol. The perpetrator intentions might not be known, which could make them a victim if determined. For instance, a victim might have had the intention of causing harm, but they turn out to be victims if their plan backfires. An interaction that might possibly lead to a crime has intense emotional and sometimes physical interaction between the two parties (Jacoby, Severance, & Bruce, 2012).
Victims do not engage in any crime, but they are part of criminal outcomes. They are affected by a criminal activity directly or directly. Some victims are unaware of an occurrence, thus they are affected without a way of avoiding the criminal activity (Jacoby, Severance, & Bruce, 2012). On the other hand, some victims are aware that an offense will be committed against them, especially if they have been involved in actions correlated to the criminal outcomes. A victim is involved unconsciously in influencing the mental rationalization and reasoning of the victimizer before a crime is committed. For instance, VP homicide is higher among females who have lower rates of precipitating their own violence in comparison to males. This leads to higher rates of criminal offences in VP homicides among females in comparison to non-VP homicide cases (Porterfield & Talbert, 1954).
Mental factors are also considered. A crime will no longer be considered as such if the said victim gave consent to the occurrence. For instance, rape can no longer be considered a criminal offense if the woman was privy to the act. This changes the legal considerations of an action, even though the factual occurrence remains unchanged. The victim, through consent or non-compliant, can turn a criminal activity into an action without legal consequence (Garofalo, 1914).
It is necessary to study victims, as it provides a way to know why the offender was attracted to a particular victim. Some offenders, especially serial offenders, are known to target victims with specific characteristics, or because of proximity to the victim. The occurrence is more certain for egoistic attackers, who feel provoked by the victim (Jacoby, Severance, & Bruce, 2012). VP cases are higher where the victim is known by the attacker, for instance friends or relatives. These are the specific relationships that play a big role in higher rates for both VP and non-VP homicides. Moreover, such close relationships explain why over half of both VP and non-VP homicide cases occur at home where there is close interaction (von Hentig, 1948).
Race is also factored when analyzing victim-precipitated crime. Males, specifically the blacks, are statistically considered to be more criminally aggressive than the whites. It is the same for females, who are less aggressive in comparison to males. Males constitute a large number of VP victims, while the blacks account for over 80 percent of such cases. Therefore, VP homicide and race are interrelated to a large extent (Jacoby, Severance, & Bruce, 2012).
Under the law, a criminal act will not be considered as a VP crime if there was a mutual disagreement between two parties, or heated exchanges occurred between the two. An analysis of a victim’s characteristics, their roles, and where they occupy within these dynamic processes is vital in determining why the crime was committed (Jacoby, Severance, & Bruce, 2012). Thus, how offenders target their victims is an important and promising research in victim biology. Human beings are unpredictable. When two people come together, an opportunity is opened up for a myriad of interactions and exchanges. It only makes sense for the law to recognize this interaction so that it can determine the offender and the victim. The situation may turn out quite different, both psychologically and socially. The offender might turn out to be the victim and the vice versa. The roles might be reversed as a result of various causative forces. Two individuals are considered equal without categorizing them as either the victim or the offender. It is only through change that either of them can be a victim or an offender when they meet in a dangerous situation. This leads to a generally higher rate of VP homicides in comparison to non-VP homicides (Edgar & Newell, 2006).
Different crimes have many similarities. This is based on the partners involved, who are the offender and the victim. It is important to analyze how the victims behave to determine how the perpetrators act, especially in cases of VP homicides. The law distinguishes the two partners in a variety of ways, even though their descriptions have changed over time and based on differing consequences.
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Edgar, K., & Newell, T. (2006). Restorative justice in prisons: a guide to making it happen. Portland, OR: Waterside Press.
Garofalo, B. (1914). Criminology. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Company.
Jacoby, J. E., Severance, T. A., & Bruce, A. S. (2012). Classics of Criminology (4th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
Porterfield, Austin L. & Talbert, Robert H. (1954). Mid-century crime in our culture: Personality and crime in the cultural patterns of American states. Fort Worth, TX: Leo Potishman Foundation.
Tarde, G. (1912). Penal philosophy. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Company.
Von Hentig, H. (1948). The criminal and his victim. New Haven, NY: Yale University Press.