What determines whether someone feels sympathy or contempt

What determines whether someone feels sympathy or contempt for the victim of a crime? Is it a function of society or the nature of the crime? What prompts society’s attention to see victimization in different perception? These are the few questions people ask themselves when someone is being victimized. All these questions lead many theorists to examine in different perspectives about victimization but before introducing the main topic of this paper I would like to give an overview of the term “Victimology”. The study of victims and the term “Victimology” had its origin in the early writings of Benjamin Mendelsohn. Mendelsohn is one of the well know theorist that introduced the term “Victimology in his article “A New Branch of Bio-Psycho-Social Science Victimology” (1956).

In his article, he suggested the establishment of an international society of victimology which leads many theorists to think him as “The Father of Victimology”. He discovered the relationship between victimization and social setting which it explains how it deals with the victims, the process of victimization and its reactions. Additionally, he explains why certain individual or group of people experience victimization at certain times and in certain places. “Rationally, Mendelsohn sought to understand the role of the victim, recognizing that not all offenders are assumed totally responsible for their actions.” The main purpose of this essay is to emphasize clearly about the “Mendelsohn’s Theory of Victimization” and the issue of victim blaming. He outlined six-step classification based on the degree of the victim’s blame: 1.

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Completely innocent victim, 2. Victim with minor guilt, 3. Victim as guilty as offender, 4. Victim more guilty than offender, 5. Most guilty victim and 6. Imaginary victim.

However, this paper will mainly focus five out of six classifications that are central to Mendelsohn’s theory of victimization. Additionally, this paper will also incorporate other theorists’ perspective and scholarly sources.                                                                                   The Completely Innocent Victim                                                                         According to Mendelsohn’s, “The Completely Innocent Victim” term states how a victim is free of any contribution to the criminal act in another word a person is completely innocent and cannot be blamed for the crime, or blame that that individual had intention to provoke the situation or  behaviour to cause the criminal act.

A similar perspective was stated by Von Hentig (1948) in a different term the “born victim”. According to Von Hentig (1948), there are individuals or society  that are “declared that there were “born” victims just as there were “born criminals” (Lombroso, 1899/1911). For instance, women and children are considered to be born victims and also suggest that there is something inherently weak about these population groups that naturally made them victims. For example, children are often the unnoticeable, unintended, and unaided victims of domestic violence.

They may see the violence or become part of it, but most typically children are exposed by hearing the event and experiencing its aftermath (Holden& Richie, 1998). Children exposed to domestic violence were considerably more likely to be mentally disturbed than children not exposed to violence. One of the most powerful examples of victimization in Canada was the treatment of Aboriginal children in residential school in many provinces. The residential school system was designed in 1960s and 1970s  to ensure “institutionalized assimilation”. During this period high numbers of aboriginal children were seized from their families, communities, and culture. The majority of these children were placed in “stranger’s care and adoptive homes.

Arbitrary decisions were often made to remove children without consent of parents This disastrous policy continues to have a powerful impact on the lives of Aboriginal peoples and children. Many children have articulated their sense of loss, which included: a loss of cultural identity, lost contacts with the birth families, loss of status. their history. The constant and unrelieved neglect of the children- hungry, malnourished, ill clothed Aboriginal children were forbidden to speak their language, to practise their traditions and customs, and to learn about, dying of tuberculosis, and overworked- was compounded by harsh displine, cruelty and physical and sexual abuser. The system was suffused with not just strict discipline and punishment but with a violent savagery. Children  were frequently beaten severely with whips, rods, and fists; they were chained and shackled, bound hand and foot, and locked in closets, basement, and bathroom, and they had their heads shaved or hair closely cropped. In the 1960s, many residential schools were shut down; the last one closed in 1988. However, the abuses perpetrated in these schools continued to haunt the present.

Children who attended these schools continue to struggle with their dignity after years of being taught to hate themselves and the culture. The residential school led to disruption in the transference of parenting skills from one generation to the next. Without these skills, many survivor had difficulty raising their own children. In residential schools, they learned that adults often exert power and control through abuse. The lessons in childhood are often repeated in adulthood, with the result that many survivors of the residential school system often inflict abuse on their own children. Children exposed to domestic violence were considerably more likely to be cruel to animals than children not exposed to violence.

A key study has found “children committed one-third of pet abuse in homes where physical child abuse had been documented.” Ascione Friedrich, Health, and Hayashi (2003) also found that animal cruelty was more frequent among children who had experienced violence and abuse. Ascione (1998) interviewed 22 women with children who sought shelter at a safe house for battered women. In total, 32% reported a child had hurt or killed a family pet. It was assumed that children exposed to domestic violence would be significantly more likely to be cruel to animals than children not exposed to violence.

It was further theorized that children exposed to more severe domestic violence and children exposed to domestic violence for a greater proportion of their lifetime would be significantly more likely to be cruel to animals. Many researchers have found that children exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk of developing behavioral, emotional, and cognitive difficulties (Mohr, Lutz, Fantuzzo , 2003). As a result, the researchers concluded that these children who were cruel to animals had learned disturbing lessons about power and control (Currie 2006). As noted by Lockwood (1996) “…

the way we treat our animals is mirrored in the way we treat one another”. Therefore, animal cruelty by children is correlated with exposure to domestic violence.


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