Victimization Typologies and the News

Purdue University Global


Crime is prevalent throughout every culture and country. It does not matter where you look, there will always be a mention of some crime that has happened within any news media outlet. The study of crime goes back for centuries, and while crimes today may seem more sophisticated, perhaps, than they did 500 years ago, there is still one universal truth: Crime has always been a prevalent part of society, and it will always be a part of society, even if the types of crimes change.

In order to understand what victimization is and how it differs from criminology, one must first have a general understanding of the definitions of both. Victimology is the study of victims and their role in the crime committed, whereas criminology is the study of the nature, cause, extent and control of criminal behavior .

In 1964, Sellin and Wolfgang offered up a victim typology that consists of 5 components, which are; Primary victimization, secondary victimization, tertiary victimization, no victimization and mutual victimization. In order to gain a greater understanding of what each of these components are, I will be going into detail about each one and what types of crime belongs to them.

Primary Victimization

Primary victimization is a personal type of crime committed. This is when a specific person or group is targeted for victimization based on personal reasons for the offender. In general, the crimes that are considered part of primary victimization would be that of hate crimes and domestic violence .

Secondary Victimization

The victims involved in this type of victimization are considered impersonal, or collateral damage. There is not a particular reason for their victimization as there is with primary victimization, but instead they are victims of chance. The types of crimes that are considered a part of this type of victimization are that of people who bought faulty products or embezzlement of their funds by an individual who has access, i.e. a banker who embezzles money from a bank, which then can affect the bank’s customers .

Tertiary Victimization

The victims in this type of crime can be considered the general public. There are no specific reasons that the individuals were targeted and, like in secondary victimization, are collateral damage. In general, the types of crimes that are considered a part of this type of victimization includes those committed by public officials. Crimes such as a public individual embezzling or defrauding the public, or a public official such as a secretary of state or governor using public funds for themselves while stating that it is for business expenses .

No Victimization

This type of victimization contains crimes that can be considered victimless or hard to define. Victimless crimes can be acts such as prostitution: There is no victim, the acts committed are between two consenting adults, thus there are no victims in this type of crime. A hard to define type of crime can be that of a couple involved in sadomasochist relationship: Again, the acts committed are between two consenting adults, and while there might be a victim, per se, it is hard to define because the victim was willingly involved with the acts .

Mutual Victimization

This type of victimization includes crimes that are committed against another offender. Such crimes that can be considered part of this type of victimization includes a robber who is then robbed by another, a person who becomes involved in gang activities who is then assaulted or murdered, or even a prostitute who robs her ‘john’ and is then assaulted by the individual with whom they robbed .

Synagogue and Mosque Attacks- Victimization

The article that I have chosen to analyze and discuss is that of the recent synagogue attack in San Diego, California. This attack, which happened on Saturday, April 27 was an attack against the Jewish people at a place of worship. Law enforcement agencies state that this crime was previously alluded to on social media, but that they got the tips in about the crime just minutes before it took place, and that the tip was an anonymous one, consisting of no prominent details about the author of the social media posts, as well as lacking in details involving where this attack would take place .

Further details about the suspect after the attack took place, providing information about the perpetrator and possible motivations. The 19-year-old suspect is being charged with murder, attempted murder and arson, of which the charge is being levied for a previous attack on a Mosque in March of 2019. The suspect is alleged to have written an anti-Jewish manifesto, of which he praises those who committed prior attacks in New Zealand that killed 50 people at a Mosque, as well as the attack at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue last fall. The motivations behind both the manifesto, as well as both crimes committed, appear to be that of hate against certain peoples .

Thus saying, this article displays a clear case of primary victimization, of which the primary targets appear to be people of the Jewish and Muslim faiths. The offender shows clear intent via his social media posts about the hate that he holds towards the persons that he targeted, as well as speaking of his intent to target said persons. The offender perpetrated an arson attack against a mosque in March of this year, which was then followed by the deadly attack on April 27, targeting Jewish individuals with an automatic weapon, killing one, before the gun jammed and he ran from the scene .

These types of attacks seem to be happening more frequently as can be seen via the media. By looking through the lens of victimology, the crimes can view the attacks differently from simply looking at the crime through the lens of criminology. Instead of focusing on just the criminal aspect of the crime perpetrated, victimology can focus on the victims and give voice to the victims. As can be seen through the article, the individuals who were targeted had not perpetrated any acts that incited the hatred against them, but instead were victims of chance who were targeted due the offenders hatred against them for the simple fact that they were Jewish or Muslim, as was the case of the Mosque. The individuals who were attacked were truly what could be considered innocent victims, having no responsibility for the acts committed against them.