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Teaching of Victimology in Law School

  • Jan 16, 2023

- Dr. Ivneet Walia, Associate Professor of Law
  RGNUL, Punjab

The one who walk towards the corridors of the court, are the ones pained by breaches, violations and intrusions. It is easier to deliberate upon the impact on a victim, but much difficult to be one, insecure and exhausted by the tedious procedural patterns of law. The need of the hour is to make victim justice and victim advocacy as an integral part of the criminal justice system and essential curriculum component at law schools. Most of the law schools are already teaching victimology along with criminology, or victimology as independent subject. There is a need for other law institutions and training academies to make victimology as a course or a training module to sensitize and empower the forerunners of criminal justice system. 

The word ‘victim’ has already been stigmatized and must be replaced by the term ‘survivor’. Certain stereotype battles are hard to fight which inadvertently connects women, minorities and children to the word ‘victim’. The subject of victimology armors not only the academicians and students but also the practitioners to fight obstacles that hinder the pursuit of justice and transform the existing criminal justice system into more victim friendly. Professor G.S. Bajpai has rightly quoted in one of his articles that, ‘Criminal Victimization is one of the important indicators of happiness’. The objective of incorporating the studies of victimology in law school curriculum and in practice is to achieve victim satisfaction along with redressal and relief. Victimology is nothing but a blend of action, redressal, satisfaction and forgiveness. 

The curriculum must be designed to cater to varied distinct needs. Topics must brief about the victim-centered problems, policy analysis, critical thinking and research methods. The curriculum that requires project submissions must focus on interviews and narrative writing, as the learning experiences from direct interactions will trigger the human sensitivity and give exposure about life’s problems and issues caused by mishappening and misfortune. The most unfortunate part of any criminal justice system is, that victims are victimized not only at the hands of the accused or the wrongdoer, but also by criminal justice administrators be it police, counsels or judges. The psychology of considering the victim as a weak party or blaming reasons of crime on victim (victim bashing), lead to failure of victimological scholarship. The victims must not always be seen as ‘lambs’ and accused as ‘wolves’. Victimology is not a subject that can be taught in seclusion, but requires a study of psychology and behavior, emotional intelligence and sociological studies, criminological understanding and critical thinking. The study of victimology is a complex domain, as criminals can become victims too. 

Learners must be taught that while studying and practicing victimology they must keep themselves free from any political orientation or inclinations, their understanding towards causes of victimization must not be clouded by inherent biases or pre-conceived notions and victim advocacy, whether in favor or against a policy must not completely depend upon available data sets only. There must be no excuse for any abuse. The study of victimology can help in building up victimization-prevention strategies and methods of risk reduction. It can help in the analysis of reasons of vulnerability examining reasons for victims falling prey to adversities. Though, victimization can be caused because of natural disasters or other situations, but focus of the victimology studies must be directed towards, ‘criminal victimization’ as no other category can cause more serious and traumatic setback. 

The concept of ‘Bystanderology’ is a sub-component of victimology studies that is evolving. This study emphasis on the impact caused by presence of audience at the scene of crime, this acts as a situational variable. The bystanders will behave in two ways, either there will be non-intervention or they may become engaged. We all may contest that how would bystanders impact the victimological studies, but it does. The reaction of the audience at the scene of the crime will impact the final outcome. If the onlookers intervene, the aggressor may cut short his attempt and try to escape. The audience can minimize the risk of harm or recover the property just by actively intervening. Teaching about such concepts not only enhances the knowledge of the learner but also empower them to be participative in such times. 

At the end, I would like to summarize and conclude, by emphasizing that victimology studies are important to understand the situation of victim and better appreciating life’s fortunes and complexities. The outcomes received from theory and application can help in devising strategies that would add satisfaction, reliability and relief to the sufferers, instilling a sense of accomplishment. The victimological studies will not only assist us in analyzing the victim offender interactions but will also give us an audit about the benefit victims derive from the social programs. The victimology subject can stretch our domain of understanding by examining and learning from past experiences and responding to what methods and processes should be discarded and what new policies and procedures be imbibed and incorporated.