Victimology: Victimization and Situational Settings
Part I: Completely Innocent
The Murder of DamilolaTaylor
Damilola Taylor was 10 years old when he met his death. Taylor and his parents had arrived in Britain three months earlier from Nigeria with the hope of finding a cure for his sister’s advanced condition of epilepsy. He went to school in the morning and later went to a meeting with his computer club. At 4.45 pm, he headed home, as usual, using the path he has always used, but that tragic day he arrived home with a glass wound on his thigh from which he succumbed. Investigations revealed that some boys belonging to a street gang had stabbed Taylor on the thigh with broken beer bottles then left him there to die. It was established that the street gangs raided innocent by-passers in order to steal their valuable possessions. On the day Taylor was killed, he was wearing a Puffa jacket that obviously was attractive to his perpetrators. In fact, the culprits accepted that they only wanted to steal his Puffa Jacket and not intended to murder the 10-year-old boy (Stubley, 2009).
This case illustrates the concept of being completely innocent in victimology (Wolfgang and Singer, 1978). In this situation, we cannot possibly attribute any blame to the 10-year-old boy whose only crime was living in a neighborhood that was made insecure by street gangs. He had not contributed in any way to his adversity as what he was doing and the place he was in was where anyone would have expected him to be. He cannot be said to have been walking around at night in an insecure neighborhood, as 4.45 is not late and the time most kids go home from school. Damilola Taylor was only an innocent victim of crime who had simply been at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Part II: Victim Proneness
The Killing of Baby P
Baby Peter Connelly was only 15 months old when the worst that can happen to a baby that young happened to him. When he was found, Baby P. had severe injuries on his lifeless body including a fractured spine that rendered him paralyzed halfway down, bite marks, fractured ribs, missing fingernails and toenails, bruises on his forehead, lips, nose, cheeks, chest, and basically everywhere else. Evidence also showed that he had been punched on the face to the extent that he swallowed a tooth. As the story goes, when Baby P. was only three months, his biological father walked out on them upon which his mother entered in an affair with Steve Barker, described as a racist thug who was obsessed with Nazi souvenirs and porn materials. In the following months, Steve would abuse Peter by doing all manner of assaults on him. His mother did not do anything and when questioned by authorities about the obviously visible marks on her baby’s body, she gave all manner of excuses to not put her boyfriend in trouble. On the day of his death, Peter was tied face down on his cot and covered tightly in a blanket from which he died (Stubley, 2008).
This sad situation portrays the concept of victim proneness. Apart from the fact that Baby P was disadvantaged by his tender age, his proneness emerged majorly from the lack of anybody to take care of him and protect him from abuse. His mother who was lovesick and desperate to hold on to his lover was not in a rational position to protect his son from abuse. His natural father who was jobless and generally did not put enough effort to care for his son also failed in protecting Baby P. In fact, in one of the times when he had the baby, he noticed that his fingernails were bandaged and that he had bruises but did nothing. When a child that young has parents as irresponsible as these ones, such a child is highly vulnerable than any other child of his age. A brother of Barker who was living with the couple at the time also did nothing. There was evidence that social workers, had they employed due diligence would have uncovered the many assaults perpetrated on the child. Generally, Peter was prone from all angles, be it parents, relatives, social workers, neighbors, and the world in general. He did not have a responsible enough adult to protect him from harm.
Part III: Victim Facilitation
Kate’s First Date Killer
Kate Beagley and Karl Taylor had met in a club only days earlier and immediately exchanged numbers. Then the two hurriedly arranged a first date, which took place in a club. During the date, they took drinks then left to go and sit on a bench located outside the club. Thereafter, Kate’s body went missing and during investigations, Karl admitted to having killed her and hidden her body. Kate was murdered using a kitchen knife where she was stabbed in the face, in the head, throat, and her spine cut up. Later Karl would change his statement and claim that she killed herself before investigations revealed that he was the one who killed her (Alford, 2011).
This is a case of victim facilitation. The victim, by her own actions and carelessness, led to the misfortune that befell her (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 1998). Kate’s carelessness and failure to take due care are evident all along. Firstly, due care demands that you should not go on a night date with someone you just met and know nothing about alone. Kate should have at least brought along a friend or two for the first date as she gets to know this stranger. If friends did not accompany her, then she should have ensured that the first date took place during the day and in public places. The second mistake that Kate made was to get out of the club with Karl alone to go into an exclusive place with someone she did not know much about. She should have remained in the club where there were many people. In fact, witnesses said that Karl had looked agitated by Kate’s loss of interest in him. Kate should not have ignored these signs and agree to go into the dark with an agitated man who was a stranger to her. She should probably have called one of her friends to accompany her home and leave Karl at the club to meet another day when he was in a better mood. Thus Kate may have facilitated the commission of the crime on her.
Part IV: Victim Precipitation
Stephen Lawrence’s Murder
Stephen Lawrence was an A-level student, 18 years of age when he was murdered. Stephen was stabbed to death while standing at a bus stop with a friend by a group of white racist youths, Dobson and Norris who were 16 and 17 at the time of the crime. Stephen was himself black and was aspiring to become an architect. After 19 years of investigations, the two perpetrators were convicted of murder and given 15 years and 14 years and three months of jail term respectively after being found guilty. The case had sparked wide publicity and the issue of racism was still fresh in 1993thus the fact that it took the white authorities 19 years to get the offenders was also noted (Alford, 2010).
This is a case of victim precipitation. The victim had passively, by merely belonging to a minority group, become the target of racist youths. Stephen had not provoked or contributed in any way to his being attacked. In fact, he was just at a bust stop going about his business. Even though it has not been stated in the case, chances are high that these street youths had never seen Stephen, they did not know who he was. The only thing they knew was the color of his skin. Evidence had it that during the struggle words to the effect “what, nigger” were uttered by Stephen’s perpetrators. We can argue that the one thing that irked the racist so much was the increased black supremacy that had hit the world at the time. Black now was seen as a threat to white supremacy that had reigned for time immemorial. Therefore, the very picture of a black person worked to agitation to any racist out there. Besides, more and more black people were joining educational institutions and becoming good at it. Moreover, Stephen Lawrence seemed like an aspiring black student while the attackers were a bunch of useless gang members. In fact, by the time they were35 and 36, Norris had been convicted of several theft crimes while Dobson could not secure a decent job. The attack on a black student who was obviously doing better than them could have been a way of re-establishing their superiority and regaining their power, which was now threatened by the excelling black students.
Part V: Victim Provocation
Ben Kinsella’s Murder
According to the storyline, Ben died simply because he had been disrespectful to a member of a gang who was wanted by the police. Braithewaite was a member of a street gang. The strife had started at a club where Ben, Braithewaite, and other youths were chatting and Ben asked Braithewaite what he was looking at. Accordingly, being a member of a gang, was a huge disrespect that led Braithewaite to enlist the help of two other delinquent youths to redeem his honor. One of the youths sought by Braithewaite was a wanted man due to a robbery and stabbing that had happened earlier and he was thought to be connected. The other one had only been released from prison. Braithewaite himself was freshly out of prison in a 12-month sentence having been convicted of attempted robbery. On the day that Ben died, the three youths chased Ben’s group down the street but Ben refused to run away with the others. He was stabbed 11 times, from which he died (Alford, 2009).
We can say that this case falls into a Victim provocation situation. Ben can be said to have provoked the culprit delinquent youths as a result of which they killed him. This is because Ben, and everyone else, knew that the Braithewaite group was a deadly one, which you should avoid. The fact that Ben challenged Braithewaite, a recognized gang member, in front of other gang members was enough to provoke a delinquent youth to want to reassert himself. However, the height of provocation is seen when Ben is chased by the gang and refuses to run away. To members of a gang, this may seem, and in fact was, a way of communicating to them that you are not afraid of them and that there is nothing they can really do. A situation like that will only lead them into seeking to prove themselves and their prowess in murder and assault. It is possible that if Ben had run away that night, he would not have died (Nettelbeck and Wilson, 1998).
Part VI: Victim Fabrication
The Case of Jane Andrews
Jane Andrews was accused of murdering her boyfriend, Tom Cressman, through and ruthless cold-blooded attack on him. The argument of the prosecution was that Jane Andrews had murdered Tom, a billionaire’s son, out of anger and bitterness as Tom had refused to marry her. The argument was that Jane Andrews being brought up in a humble family and aspiring to live the good life having been fired from her job saw Tom as her only salvation. Jane Andrews argued that on the night she murdered Tom, he had forced anal sex on her and had repeatedly raped her despite attempts to get away from him. The defense also argued that the reaction was a result of childhood traumatic events – she was actually seeing a psychiatrist for this reason. Jane Andrews killed her boyfriend by hitting him with a cricket bat then stabbing him to death. A few days before the event, she had complained to him of his neglect and diminishing attention. The jury convicted her of premeditated murder (Stubley, 2010).
This is a classic example of victim fabrication. Jane Andrews sought to turn events from herself by claiming that Tom had abused her causing her to react the way she did. She literally argued that she was the victim here. She had stated in court that she was the only one who had been exposed to the other side of Tom, meaning that Tom was an abusive person who did not deserve the jury’s sympathy. By this argument and by pleading her traumatic childhood experience she was seeking to manipulate the jury into considering her the victim of the crime (Wolfgang and Singer, 1978). This is victim fabrication as the culprit is assuming the position of a victim.
This assignment was instrumental in helping me identify the various kinds of victims in a given case scenario. It has also helped me apply the various victimology theories studied in the classroom to real crime situations (Karmen, 2010). Most importantly, I was able to identify the interdependence between the occurrence of a crime and the social settings surrounding the victim. I was able to establish how the various factors and circumstances increase the risk of a crime being perpetrated on a given victim. Risk factors associated with crimes such as proneness, facilitation, precipitation, victim fabrication became clearer as real situations were analyzed. Generally, it was a chance to apply all the knowledge acquired during my learning to practical issues that actually happened to people in real life.
Alford, Simon (2009). Braithewaite, Kika and Alleyne: The Murder of Ben Kinsella. Central News, UK.
Alford, Simon (2011). Karl Taylor: The ‘First Date Killer’. Central News, UK.
Karmen, Andrew (2010). Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Nettelbeck, T. and Wilson, C. (1998). Criminal Victimization: The Influence of Interpersonal Competence on Personal Vulnerability. Australian Institute of Criminology.
Simon, Alford (2010). Dobson and Norris: The Murder of Lawrence. Central News, UK
Stubley, Peter (2008). Baby P: The Boy Who Broke a Nation’s Heart. Central News, UK.
Stubley, Peter (2009). Damilola Taylor: Welcome to Modern Britain. Central News, UK
Stubley, Peter (2010). Jane Andrews Naked Ambitions. Central News UK
Wolfgang, E. and Singer, I. (1978). Criminology: Victim Categories of Crime. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology