A Short History of Victimology
O. Hagemann, P. Schäfer, S. Schmidt (Eds.) Victimology, Victim Assistance and Criminal Justice: Perspectives Shared by International Experts at the Inter-University Centre of Dubrovnik. 2010
13 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2014
Date Written: May 1, 2010
It is often said that crime is as old as mankind. But if crime is an age-old phenomenon, it is only recently that researchers have turned their attention to victims of crime. In fact, the word victim did not appear in the English language until 1497. Derived from the Latin word victima, the word originally did not refer to crime victims but to a living creature killed and offered as a sacrifice to a deity or supernatural power (Oxford Dictionary, 1983) We can still find traces of this original meaning of the word victim in modern languages such as Dutch and German. In Dutch the word for victim is slachtofffer. This word consists of two parts: slacht refers to slaughter and offer refers to offering. Similarly, in German the word for victim is opfer; which represents a person or thing that is offered in sacrifice. It was not until 1660 that the word victim was first used to in the sense of a person who is hurt, tortured or killed by another. In other words, the concept of victim of crime did not exist until well into the 17th century. Why were victims ignored for so long? And what led to their recognition after centuries of obscurity? In this chapter we will examine the origin of victimology and its evolution.
Keywords: victimology, history, victims of crime
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation