Victimology: Definition, Theory & History

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  • 0:01 What Is Victimology?
  • 0:54 History
  • 1:54 Theories
  • 3:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Janell Blanco

Janell has an MBA.

Victimology is the study of victims of crimes. In this lesson, learn about the relationships between victims and perpetrators, the theories about victimology, and the history of victimology.

What is Victimology?

Imagine you are on your way to a friend's house, and you see an altercation taking place between two men on the street. As you are watching the news later that day, you find out that one of the men involved in the fight you witnessed has serious injuries. The police are looking for witnesses to the crime. You call the police department listed in the newscast and explain what you saw on your way to your friend's house. The police tell you that the victim was robbed by his neighbor and collect any information you might have. This is the first step in victimology.

Victimology is the study of the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. To understand this concept, first, we must understand what the terms victim and perpetrator mean. The victim is a person who has been harmed by a perpetrator. The perpetrator, also known as the offender, is an individual who has committed the crime against the victim. Law enforcement agencies use the study of victimology and the theories of victimology to determine why the victim was targeted by the offender.


According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), between the 1970's and 1980's, just after the civil rights movement, there was increased awareness about victims. In 1972, the FBI formed the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) to study the relationships between the offenders, the victims, and group dynamics in society. Police officers would gather at the FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia for trainings.

During these trainings, the police officers began to realize they were seeing different patterns between victims and offenders. The BSU studied these patterns and relationships between victims and offenders. Along with the BSU, several independent victim support organizations, such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) and Parents of Murdered Children (POMC), formed to study different crimes that had happened to their loved ones. These groups worked together to help to better define the relationships between victims and offenders that are used in current theories of victimology.


In our opening example, you witnessed a crime. The crime in the example happened to occur between neighbors. In this example, the relationship between the victim and the offender is defined by being neighbors, which is key to the theories of victimology. The theories of victimology take into account several life factors to help define a relationship between the victim and perpetrator or how the victim's life choices may have contributed to him being a target. Several different theories are available, including:

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