Victimology: Understanding the Psychological Impact of Crime
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Victimology: Understanding the Psychological Impact of Crime


Crime rates are very high in today’s world, and many people fall victim to it. If you look up the crime rates, you’ll realize just how high it is. What makes it worse is that these records are just a part of the actual population that is victimized. Many crimes go unreported due to factors like societal judgment. As a result, everyone perceives crime to be something that exists in the world but is far from their circle. If you think about it, you probably are convinced that the chances of you being in the middle of a crime are unlikely.

Read more: How PTSD Impacts the Survivors of a Crime?

Well, that is also how victims feel before finding themselves in the situation. While many recover physically from being a victim of a crime, there is still an emotional and mental stress that prolongs life. Depending on the severity and the nature of the crime, the psychological effects on a victim also vary. This article aims to look at the psychological aspect that follows in the lives of victims, also terrorizing them. It further helps readers understand how these impacts can be managed to be able to lead a comparatively healthy lifestyle.

Victimology and Its Theories:

Before looking at the psychological impacts on victims, let’s address that everyone is capable of falling prey to victims. However, some people are more prone to it due to their situations. A person is considered a victim if they are harmed by a crime in any way, irrespective of its severity. Victimology is a subset of criminology that studies victims of crime. It includes understanding aspects such as victim proneness, the relationship between the offender and the victim, psychological effects on victims, etc. Under this study, some modern theories have tried to explain why some people are more likely to be victims, as compared to others.

  • Deviant Place Theory: This theory is an overlap between the previous two stated theories, claiming that the chances of being a victim increase if exposed to dangerous areas. For example, a person living in the ‘bad’ part of the neighbourhood is likely to encounter a criminal.
  • Lifestyle Theory: This theory simply bases a person’s choices and lifestyle as the factor that leads them to fall prey to crime. For example, a person who walks through a silent alley every night is more likely to be robbed.
  • Victim Precipitation Theory: This theory bases the cause of the crime on a person’s characteristics. For example, their age, ethnicity, etc.

Psychological Impacts of Crime on Victims:

Following the crime, victims go through a range of negative emotions, including fear, anxiety, anger, helplessness, and depression. If not addressed, these emotions can persist throughout the victim’s life, having long-lasting impacts on the individual’s mental well-being. A victim’s financial stability might also be affected in these cases, further contributing to negative emotions. An individual might lose their will to live or care for themselves in post-traumatic experiences. In cases of violent crimes, victims have endured injuries that may lead to permanent disabilities in some areas of functioning.

Read More: PTSD: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

They can also be subjected to chronic pain. Living in a judgmental society, victims are often forced to live their traumatic experiences again and again. These people are often labelled as victims of a certain crime, and people view that as a large part of their personality for a long period. While some blame the victim for putting themselves in a bad situation, other members of society feel bad for the victim, trying to be empathetic about it. However, in both cases, the topic is brought up in front of the victim, making it hard for them to forget and move on. These interactions with the society may result in feelings of shame and embarrassment. As a result, victims are also prone to isolating themselves, giving way to increased psychological distress.

Read More: “This is your Fault!”, Understanding the Psychology of Blame Games

Victimization can be distressing and leaves no one out of the circle. A person might become a victim due to their age, gender, ethnicity, financial conditions, and many other factors, thus no one is completely safe from falling prey to a criminal’s plans. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly developed among victims post-crime. Victims might also develop acute stress disorder (ASD), which has similar symptoms to PTSD but lasts for a shorter duration. Symptoms might include flashbacks of the incident, being frightened easily, experiencing trouble falling asleep, being irritable, etc.

A 2023 study titled ‘A Study on Psychological Impact of Crime on Victims’ conducted a survey. The survey recorded that 83.3% of the respondents required emotional support and counselling, 10% needed financial assistance, and 6.7% needed legal support. Through this, it was found that many victims, who tried to get help after the incident, did not receive the required assistance. Many of them are also uncertain about how effective the criminal justice system truly is.

Read More: Crime and Mental Health: Understanding the Complex Relationship

Coping and Recovering from Trauma:

Crimes surely have a lasting impact on a person’s mental health. However, if focused on, the symptoms and stress experienced by a victim can be controlled, helping them to improve their quality of life moving further. The first step to dealing with victimization is to be provided with adequate resources and support. Self-care should be prioritized to be able to overcome the negative effects of being victimized. A victim might also approach a counsellor, who is equipped to effectively deal with emotions that are experienced.

Read More: Why you should Start Therapy?

Coping and Recovering from Trauma

Small steps can go a long way in such cases. Journaling is one such step that can be initiated by a victim. Spending time around loved ones might also help in dealing with symptoms. Re-establishing a normal routine, taking up tasks, and exercising are all ways in which a victim can deal with trauma. However, victims must avoid engaging in self-harming activities for relief, such consumption of alcohol. It is also of utmost priority that victims don’t engage in self-blame, which will undoubtedly deteriorate their mental health condition.

Read More: The Jellinek Curve: Five Phases of Alcohol Addiction

Being a victim of crime is unexpected, and not easy to recover from. It harms an individual in all aspects, including their mental and physical well-being and their living conditions. A victim might experience constant fear and anxiety. They might show symptoms of depression. Among victims, ASD and PTSD have also been widely recognized, causing flashbacks of the event of crime, facing difficulties in falling asleep, etc. These psychological impacts call for immediate attention. As a victim, asking for help is one of the biggest steps in recovery. Knowing the severity of the impacts of crime, necessary steps must be taken to prevent or reduce victimization and make support for victims readily available.

References +
  • Coping with Crime Victimization. (2020, May 22). Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  • Yılmaz, T. (2021). Victimology from clinical psychology perspective: psychological assessment of victims and professionals working with victims. Current Psychology, 40(4), 1592–1600.
  • Gcu. (2019, September 16). 3 Modern Theories of Victimology. GCU.

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