The scientific study of victims of criminal acts is known as victimology. The victim's relationship with the offender and their experience with the criminal justice system is examined from the victim's perspective.
Why it’s important to understand victimology as a legal professional is the usefulness of knowing in-depth applicable fields of criminology, sociology, and psychology. Victimology is a subset of all three disciplines.
As an academic term, the parent areas of study and subsets like victimology contain two elements which show the traditional cultural roots of these fields:
These two definitions of victimology explain systemic and personal victimology further.
In the first use of victimology, trained professionals in victimology consider how best to help the victims of crime recover. In general, the principle of any action taken is that the victim must reject victimology if they are to achieve their full potential.
The second use is the victim’s willingness to conquer a mental attitude (“being the victim”) which tends to indulge and perpetuate the feelings of victimhood identified in victimology.
A third purpose of the study of victimology is to identify what factors may increase someone's chances of becoming a victim.
According to the UN Declaration on Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, a "victim" can be defined as: "people who, individually or collectively, have suffered harm.”
The United Nations Declaration gives a broad definition of criminal behaviour: conducts that are criminalized by national laws or through other behaviours that are not criminalized by national laws but violate internationally recognized norms of human rights and as such they are internationally criminalized".
While this gives the global context to the criminal victimization of a person, there are realistic, day-to-day issues that the legal professional must consider:
The rights of the victims of crime and abuse of power are still not adequately recognized in any part of the world. Victims, families, witnesses, and others who aid them are still unjustly subjected to loss, damage, or injury. They too often suffer hardship when assisting in the prosecution of offenders.
Action must be taken to advance research, services, and awareness for victims across the world. This requires persons committed to these ideals, better services, more research, innovative education and training, and continued advocacy and rights. It requires a process of assessing progress and acting to make the necessary improvements.
Criminologists can help by recognizing the independence of victimology as a specific field of study. It appears that victimology can be seen as a field of study in criminal sciences, sociology, and psychology if it is explained by a general theory describing all concepts, theories, and principles based on scientific methodologies and hypotheses.
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