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Study notes

Positivist Victimology

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas, WJEC

It is argued that people contribute towards their own victimhood through certain characteristics or behaviour. Anything from walking home alone in the dark, to leaving a window open or valuables on display can be seen as contributing to one's own victimhood.

This can explain apparent patterns in victimisation. For example, young people are much more likely to be victims than middle&dash; aged people and this could be because they are much more likely to get drunk, be out late, not to have burglar alarms, be less security conscious, etc. For example, the 2017 CSEW data shows that people who regularly attended nightclubs were significantly more likely to be a victim of crime than those who do not

Evaluating Positivist Victimology

Positivist victimology is sometimes accused of being, quite literally, victim blaming. In 2011, a Canadian police constable famously told a student group that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised"; and there have been a number of cases where prosecutors and judges have implied that women's behaviour or dress have contributed to a sexual assault, resulting in reduced sentences. These events led to the post&dash;modern feminist "slut walk" protests and concerns about "rape culture".

The other side of the coin from victim blaming is the idea that theorists are taking away some of the blame from the criminal. The idea that victims attract crime through their behaviour or personality takes away agency from the criminal. Of course, people shouldn't leave their windows open, but an open window is not an invitation to enter a home and steal property. Positivist victimology appears to blame victims for putting temptation in the way of criminals.

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