Victimology: what is it and what is its object of study?

“A 28-year-old woman was found dead in her home. Her husband called the police soon after to confess to her murder, to shoot himself in the head with a pistol.

This type of news, unfortunately, is published or broadcast with some frequency by the media before the commission of a crime. When such acts occur, the police and the judiciary take action, investigating the facts and taking into account a wide variety of knowledge to determine what may have happened and why it happened, on the basis of the situation. basis of evidence.

The science that deals with the study of crime and its causes, how to prevent it, and how to deal with criminals is criminology. However, there is an essential element which does not appear among the preceding ones … Where is the victim? There is a discipline, currently inserted in criminology, which is responsible for its study: victimology.

What is victimology?

Invented by the psychiatrist Fredric werthamThis term refers to the scientific discipline resulting from criminology which studies victims of crime in the different phases of victimization.

The creation of this discipline allowed both the study and the treatment of victims and relatives of all kinds of crimes, which traditional criminology ignored to focus on the figure of the offender. It is a relatively young scientific discipline, dating from the 1930s.

This discipline has many variations which have focused their attention on different aspects and have different interpretations of reality. However, all theories and perspectives had in common their study objective.

It can be said that, in some respects, victimology focuses its attention precisely on those who find themselves in a situation of greatest vulnerability and who are therefore the first to need to study the type of experiences in which they occur, their victims. sources of discomfort and possible solutions. .

Object of the study of victimology

The main object of study of this discipline is the victim and his characteristics, As well as his relationship with the offender and his role in the criminal situation.

More precisely, it analyzes all the factors which make the person become a victim, whether the situation was caused by a second person or is due to his own action or to chance (such as an accident at work), the relation of facts with the law in force and the possible compensation of damages and the relationship between the aspects that can make a person a victim and the occurrence of the crime.

What is a victim?

To better understand this object of study, it is necessary to define what is meant by victim. According to United Nations General Assembly resolution 40/34 of 1985, a subject is understood to mean the subject (s) who have suffered physical, psychological or emotional harm, or a violation and violation of their fundamental rights as a result of actions or omissions that violate the law.

In the same way, their relatives or people who have suffered damage to assist the victim will also be considered as such.

Thus, it is understood that the damage suffered by the victims is not an isolated phenomenon which affects only the individual, but that the victim is inserted in a social fabric through which the discomfort and deterioration of the condition are transmitted. quality of life.


As a scientific discipline, victimology has always been in an empiricist position, Make inductive hypotheses from the observed cases. In this way, investigations and observations of cases and victims are needed in order to develop valid hypotheses that can help explain the processes of victimization.

The biopsychosocial elements, the relationship with the subject who commits the crime and the crime are fundamental clues to develop a coherent study of the victim and his situation in the crime. However, this science must take into account both the need for its immediate use and the need to resemble other natural and social sciences.

The techniques used are observation of reality, study and analysis of cases and statistics, interviews and techniques. other sciences such as psychology, medicine, history, economics or computer science, among others.

The main mechanism by which victimology can act is the denunciation of a crime, along with the testimony of those affected. Even the absence of these elements is an important source of information, as it reflects the position of various social groups and individuals in relation to the system.

Types of victims

As a science that studies victims of criminal offenses, many authors have made various classifications on the types of victims.

One of them is that of Jiménez from Asúa, Which divides the victims into:

1. Determined victim

It is considered as such the one who is voluntarily chosen for the crimel, And this is not your product of choice. An example would be crimes of passion, revenge or crimes committed by relatives or close people.

2. Indifferent victim

Random choice. The crime could be committed with anyone else without changing the criminal. An example of this could be fraud or scams, such as thrillers. It is also observed in some criminal acts committed by psychopaths and serial killers.

3. Resistant victim

This victim able to resist and defend, Or who is attacked because or knowing that the subject was going to defend himself.

4. Auxiliary victim

There is not always a situation in which a subject is the victim of a crime, it is a subject unrelated to the criminal act. This way, there are victims who are actively involved in the crime, although it is possible for them to act under duress.

Role in the protection of victims

In addition to studying the victim and the process by which she became, Victimology also plays a very important role in post-criminal action.

More specifically, its field of study allows the creation of victim services, contributing alongside psychologists and other professionals to prepare assistance programs, Such as the creation of crisis centers, officially protected apartments, witness protection programs. Likewise, the information and support provided to victims are usually the most important services.

On the other hand, efforts are also made to avoid the dynamics of personal relationships which generally lead to the appearance of victims. In this way, victimology comes into contact with many branches of psychology and forensic science.

ethical prudence

As a science that establishes close contact with victims of crime, victimology must have particular care in the procedures used in the exercise of their activity. It should be borne in mind that the victim of a crime, in addition to suffering from the crime itself, is subjected to the stress and tension produced by the search process (also reliving the event, which is often traumatic), and then suffer the consequences. (physical, psychological, social or professional) produced by the crime.

In this sense, victimology must try not to provoke with its application in the practice of not provoking secondary and / or tertiary victimization, that is, it must try to prevent the victim from being harmed by the simple fact of reporting, repeating or reliving traumatic experiences, both institutionally and socially.

Bibliographical references:

  • Fattah, EA (2000). Victimology: past, present and future. Criminology, vol. 33, 1.pages 17 to 46
  • Gulotta, G. (1976). The victim. Milan, Italy. Editor Guiffré
  • Jiménez, L. (1961). The so-called victimology. In Studies of Penal Law and Criminology, I.Buenos Aires, Argentina: Bibliographic Omeba
  • Langton, L. (2014). Socio-emotional impact of violent crime. Washington: Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • Lauritsen, JL (2010). Advances and Challenges in Empirical Studies on Victimization, Journal of Quantitative Criminology 26: 501-508.
  • Marquez, AE (2011). Victimology as a Study. Rediscovery of the victim for criminal proceedings. Magazine of Prolegòmens. Rights and values. Bogota. Flight. XIV, 27.
  • Marshall, LE and Marshall, WL (2011). Empathy and Antisocial Behavior, Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology 22, 5: 742-759.
  • McDonald, W. (1976). Towards a Bicentennial Revolution in Criminal Justice: The Return of the Victim, The American Criminal Law Review 13: 649-673.
  • Neuman, I. (1994). The role of the victim in conventional and unconventional crimes, 2nd ed: Buenos Aires: University.
  • Varona, G .; de la Costa, JL; Butler, V. and Pérez, AI (2015) Victimology. An approach through its fundamental concepts as tools of understanding and intervention.

Leave a Comment