3 ideological tendencies related to victimology

Many criminologists have identified three main ideologies that exist within the realm of victimology and victimization — conservative, liberal, and radical

In order to choose an ideology that would best serve the discipline of victimology, one must first gain a better understanding of what ideology actually entails. “An ideology is a coherent, integrated set of beliefs that shapes interpretations and leads to political action.” (Karmen, 2013) 

Many criminologists have identified three main ideologies that exist within the realm of victimology and victimization — conservative, liberal, and radical. Here we examine each ideology. Add your thoughts in the comments section below. 

1. Conservative
The first has been identified as the conservative method. This belief maintains that every individual is somewhat responsible for their own victimization. In this particular ideology, the theory is focused on the individual being ultimately responsible within reason to take their own precautionary measures to avoid becoming a victim. They are expected to prevent and avoid crime, as well as possess the capability to recover if victimization does occur. 

The conservative approach is more likely to be associated with common street crimes. Law enforcement and probation officers in addition to those that work in the criminal justice system would tend to side with this particular belief. 

Many of those who work in the field of criminal justice have been exposed to specific education, training, and experiences that have taught them how to avoid becoming a victim. While no one will ever be able to predict human behavior, most law enforcement personnel take extra precautions in their day to day routine simply to avoid being victimized. 

One specific example would be when a law enforcement officer visits a restaurant — they will more than likely prefer to sit facing the entryway of the building. This would allow the officer to be better prepared to jump into action should an emergency situation arise. A disadvantage to this perspective would be that because the focus is more on the emphasis of the individual preventing their own victimization, there is a larger probability that victim services would become an afterthought. There would be much more focus on prevention, as opposed to dealing with individuals after the fact.   

2. Liberal
A second common ideology is known as the liberal tendency. As opposed to being associated with typical street crime, this belief is more common with criminal acts such as white collar crime, and acts that may involve complex involvement between criminals and victims. The liberal approach assumes the standpoint that it is the government’s responsibility to provide programming, and assistance to victims, and that those individuals that became victims, didn’t necessarily play a role in their own victimization. 

Many people who side with the liberal approach often tend to blame others for their own circumstance. An example would be if an unlocked car were to be parked in a high crime neighborhood with the windows down, and left unattended, a victim may blame the police for not patrolling the neighborhood if the vehicle is stolen. Another example might be someone that blames their banking institution for not providing enough protection in the case of a stolen identity. 

Society tends to deal with these victims by helping them reintegrate to society by educating them on certain ways to avoid becoming a victim. A potential area of concern with the liberal perspective is that with too much emphasis being placed on helping victims after the fact, there is the chance that we could lose sight of the prevention piece of the puzzle. This could have the potential for creating a victimization bubble, where essentially, everyone would constantly place the blame on others as opposed to taking any responsibility for their own actions. 

3. Radical
A third approach is known as the radical theory. This concept focuses on the overall bigger picture regarding victimization. Instead of being concerned with smaller crimes associated with one on one street crime, or even identify theft, the radical tendency takes things a step further. It can be considered a blended approach between the conservative approach and the liberal approach. While an individual needs to be aware of the potential for becoming a victim, it would be the fault of a major corporation that would be at the center of it all. 

A radical tendency might be a victim of insider stock trading that places blame on the government for not creating tougher laws associated with white collar crime. Rather, this particular victim could have been responsible and investigated the potential investment prior to diving right in. Even though the radical approach is somewhat far away from everyday real world victimization, there are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. 

This ideology ensures that large corporations remain in compliance with a multitude of laws that help to reduce the potential for victimization. A disadvantage is the fact that individuals may tend to always blame others for their own unfortunate set of circumstances.  

The best approach would be a combination of both the conservative and liberal theories. Regardless of the situation that led someone to become the victim of a crime, there will always be a certain level of expectation that a person should always prepare themselves for the potential to become a victim. 

On the other hand, even those that have fully prepared simply can’t run and hide from the possibility that they may one day become the victim of criminal activity. For this reason, the liberal approach would be beneficial as there would be systems in place to assist those that become victims, even though that may have taken precautionary measures to protect themselves. 

Karmen, A. (2013). Crime Victims An Introduction to Victimology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

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