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reading 16 - Cornell - EARLY VICTIMIZATION THEORIES Stacy...

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E ARLY V ICTIMIZATION T HEORIES Stacy De Coster Rena Cornell Prepared for the Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention (edited by Bonnie S. Fisher and Steven P. Lab)
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1 Most work in criminology focuses on developing and testing theoretical models of crime that are centered on explicating offender behavior. In developing these perspectives, criminologists often disregard or underestimate the role of crime victims in understanding crime. This is despite longstanding recognition that a comprehensive approach to explaining crime requires an emphasis on offenders, victims, and situations/contexts. The theories that come closest to recognizing all of these elements are those that focus on victimization, particularly lifestyle-exposure and routine activities theories (Cohen and Felson 1979; Hindelang, Gottfredson, and Garafalo 1978). This article reviews these early victimization theories with an emphasis on their origins, key concepts, and ability to organize the facts of victimization. The article begins with a discussion of work on victim precipitation and the advent of national crime victimization surveys, which provided the bases for the development of lifestyle-exposure and routine activities theories (Miethe and Meier 1994). It next articulates the main arguments of the theories, providing a discussion of their key concepts. The Origins of Victimization Theories – Victim Precipitation The idea that attention should be focused on the contribution of victims to crime is one with a long tradition, originating in the field of victimology. Von Hentig (1948) was among the first to articulate this stance, positing that victims often contribute to their own victimization. While recognizing that the provocative behaviors of individuals can contribute to their victimization, his classification of victims also emphasizes that the contribution of victims can result from characteristics or social positions beyond their control. Some of the victim types in his classification scheme include the female, the old, the mentally defective, the immigrant, and the acquisitive. Many of these categories represent the inability of potential victims to resist perpetrators due to social, physical, or psychological disadvantages. The importance of Von
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