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Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Victim Precipitation and Lifestyle Theories (aka "Victim Blaming")

"Sometimes it is harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure." - F. Scott Fitzgerald



For many years criminological theory focused on the actions of the criminal offender; the role of the victim was virtually ignored. But more than fifty years ago scholars began to realize that the victim is not a passive target in crime but someone whose behavior can influence his or her own fate, someone who “shapes and molds the criminal”...

Victim Precipitation Theory

According to victim precipitation theory, some people may actually initiate the confrontation that eventually leads to their injury or death. Victim precipitation can be either active or passive.

Active precipitation occurs when victims act provocatively, use threats or fighting words, or even attack first. In 1971, Menachem Amir suggested female victims often contribute to their attacks by dressing provocatively or pursuing a relationship with the rapist. Although Amir’s findings are controversial, courts have continued to return not-guilty verdicts in rape cases if a victim’s actions can in any way be construed as consenting to sexual intimacy...

Lifestyle Theory

Some criminologists believe people may become crime victims because their lifestyle increases their exposure to criminal offenders. Victimization risk is increased by such behaviors as associating with young men, going out in public places late at night, and living in an urban area. Conversely, one’s chances of victimization can be reduced by staying home at night, moving to a rural area, staying out of public places, earning more money, and getting married. The basis of lifestyle theory is that crime is not a random occurrence but rather a function of the victim’s lifestyle

HIGH-RISK LIFESTYLES People who have high-risk lifestyles—drinking, taking drugs, getting involved in crime—maintain a much greater chance of victimization. For example, young runaways are at high risk for victimization; the more time they are exposed to street life, the greater their risk of becoming crime victims. Teenage males have an extremely high victimization risk because their lifestyle places them at risk both at school and once they leave the school grounds. They spend a great deal of time hanging out with friends and pursuing recreational fun. Their friends may give them a false ID so they can go drinking in the neighborhood bar; or they may hang out in taverns at night, which places them at risk because many fights and assaults occur in places that serve liquor. Those who have histories of engaging in serious delinquency, getting involved in gangs, carrying guns, and selling drugs have an increased chance of being shot and killed themselves.

Lifestyle risks continue into young adulthood. College students who spend several nights each week partying and who take recreational drugs are much more likely to suffer violent crime than those who avoid such risky academic lifestyles.53As adults, those who commit crimes increase their chances of becoming the victims of homicide. The Criminological Enterprise feature, “Rape on Campus: Lifestyle and Risk,” explores the relationship between lifestyle and victimization risk.

Rape on Campus: Lifestyle and Risk

Bonnie Fisher and her colleagues conducted a telephone survey of a randomly selected, national sample of 4,446 women who were attending a two- or four-year college or university during the fall of 1996...

Fighting Back

For nearly all forms of sexual victimization, the majority of female students reported attempting to take protective actions during the incident. Fisher found that those women who fought back were less likely to experience successful attacks, a finding that suggests the intended victim’s willingness or ability to take protective action might be one reason attempts to rape or coerce sex failed.

The most common protective action was using physical force against the assailant. Nearly 70 percent of victims of attempted rape used this response... Verbal responses also were common...

Who Gets Victimized?

Is lifestyle connected to victimization? Fisher and her colleagues found that four main factors consistently increased the risk of sexual victimization: (1) frequently drinking enough to get drunk, (2) being unmarried, (3) having been a victim of a sexual assault before the start of the current school year, and (4) living on campus (for on-campus victimization only)...

The Fisher research reinforces the lifestyle theory of victimization. Young college women are at greater risk than other women because of their lifestyle: They are more likely to associate with dangerous peers; that is, young men who are more likely to drink and live alone."

--- Criminology 9th Edition / Larry J. Siegel
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