U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Structural Victimization (From Verbrechensopfer, P 61-83, 1979, Gerd Ferdinand Kirchhoff and Klaus Sessar, ed. - See NCJ-72716)

NCJ Number
W H VonNagel
Date Published
23 pages
The concept of victimology, predisposition of certain individuals to victimization, and the concept of victimization resulting from predetermined social structures are discussed.
The principal contribution of victimology studies is that this approach has restructured criminolgy and focused attention on the needs of victims. Individuals who are physically or socially vulnerable, e.g., male prostitutes, mentally retarded individuals, women, children, and the elderly, are more likely to be victimized than the population at large. In effect, every victim is a victim of the abuse of power inherent in the social structure. According to this concept, either the individual or the society may be victimized by the other. Essentially, victims are those whose convictions are violated. Justice is the system of guaranteed individual rights enjoyed by all: if the rights exclude one segment of the population they are unjust. The legal order is initiated by human beings to protect their individual interests; just as law can be violated, it can also victimize. Big business has in the 20th century also gained the power to infringe on individual rights. Structural victimization, which influences upbringing, education, and socioeconomic status, may be a key factor in such offenses as child abuse and terrorism. The secondary effects of victimization are as traumatic as the original violation: the victim or even the potential victim is labelled a 'loser' or a 'sucker,' and grows into the role. Preventive education and treatment must be directed at victims as well as offenders. Victims must learn to resist by reporting offenses. Victim assistance measures should include restitution and psychiatric treatment. Citizens must learn to show tolerance of victims, but not to the point where they themselves are exploited. On an international level, emphasis should be placed not only on the unacceptability of criminal states but on the criminal nature of collaboration with those states. A 38-item bibliography and notes are supplied.