According to the U.S. Department of Justice, criminologists' findings in the field of victimology have major implications for the criminal justice system. Until the mid-20th century, attention was primarily focused on offenders and their criminal acts.
Victimology is the scientific study of victims of criminal acts. The victim's relationship with the offender and his experience with the criminal justice system is examined from the victim's perspective.
The purpose of the study of victimology is to identify what factors may increase someone's chances of becoming a victim. Criminal statistics and victim demographics such as age, race, gender and social class are compared.
Victimology came into the spotlight in the mid-20th century. According to the Department of Justice, criminologists Benjamin Mendelsohn and Hans Von Hentig began focusing on the views, behaviors and experiences of crime victims in the 1940's and 1950's. There was a backlash to their findings, which tended to assign blame to the victim. Awareness about victims' rights developed during the following decades.
According to the Department of Justice, men are more likely than women to be victims of violent crime, excluding sexual assault and domestic violence cases. Adolescents, racial minorities and low-income individuals have a higher risk of being crime victims.
Victimology is important not only to educate citizens about behaviors that place them at risk for becoming victims, but it also helps those working in criminal justice, law enforcement and mental health better assist victims. Through understanding the psychological effects criminal acts have on victims, members of the criminal justice system are better equipped to guide them through the stressful process of prosecuting offenders.