In 2016, there were 5.7 million violent crimes and nearly 16 million nonviolent property crimes in the U.S.* While the overall crime rate is much lower now than it was a few decades ago, there are still a lot of people victimized by crime. In the past, these victims were studied far less than the criminals who victimized them. But now, with victimology, that’s changing. And it’s proving to be an important part of the criminal justice system in general and in forensic psychology in particular.
What Is Forensic Psychology and What Is Victimology?
Forensic psychology, simply put, is where psychology and the criminal justice system meet. Those with forensic psychology jobs use the scientific principles of psychology to perform a wide variety of roles, such as assisting crime scene investigators, counseling inmates at correctional facilities, consulting with defense attorneys and prosecutors, helping design crime-prevention programs, and more.
Victimology is the scientific study of the psychological effects of crime and the relationship between victims and offender. It examines victim patterns and tendencies; studies how victims interact with the police and the legal system; and analyzes how factors of class, race, and sexual orientation affect the perception of the victim by different constituents, including the public, the court system, and the media.
How Does Victimology Help the Practice of Forensic Psychology?
The field of victimology is providing forensic psychology professionals with new understandings they can apply to multiple areas of the criminal justice system. Victimology is helping improve:
Certain risk factors can make you more likely to be a victim of crime. These include everything from your age to your income level—and those risk factors can change depending on the type of crime. Victimology studies these risk factors and forensic psychology professionals use the research to help government agencies and nonprofits develop programs aimed at decreasing the risks of crime among high-risk groups.
Often, a member of law enforcement is the first person a victim interacts with after a crime. Forensic psychology professionals can use victimology research to help prepare law enforcement professionals for encounters with victims, training them on how to respond with appropriate empathy while also obtaining vital details about the crime. Forensic psychology professionals can also use research on victim risk factors to help local police and law enforcement agencies better serve vulnerable communities. In addition, some forensic psychology professionals choose victim specialist positions within state and federal government that specifically deal with victims. This isn’t a counseling role, but rather an opportunity to provide assistance and resources to victims in need.
When dealing with convicted criminals, forensic psychology professionals regularly address the relationship between a criminal and his or her victim. Victimology gives these psychology professionals a better understanding of those relationships and the psychological impact of crime, which can help them provide more effective feedback and, ultimately, reduce recidivism.
The victim of a crime is often a witness in the trial of the accused. In cases where the victim isn’t required to appear in court, but is allowed to provide testimony, forensic psychology professionals can use victimology research to guide forensic interviews designed to ensure the accuracy of testimony. In cases where the victim will appear in court, forensic psychology professionals can help defense attorneys, prosecutors, and court officers relate appropriately to these victims. They can also help attorneys choose effective cross-examination questions.
How Can You Learn More About Forensic Psychology and Victimology?
If you’re considering starting or advancing one of the many careers in psychology, including those that focus on victimology, you should consider enrolling in a graduate program in forensic psychology. Specially, you should look at earning an MS in Forensic Psychology with a victimology specialization. Of all the types of psychology degrees, a master of science in forensic psychology with a victimology specialization can best prepare you for the career you want.
If you’re concerned about fitting a master’s degree program into your schedule, online education may be the best path for you. When you earn an MS in Forensic Psychology online, you can complete your coursework from home or from anywhere else you have internet access. On top of that, online psychology degree programs don’t require you to attend class at specific times of day. Instead, when you choose online learning, you’ll get to choose when in the day you attend class, allowing you to fit a master’s program in forensic psychology into your schedule.
Forensic psychology professionals play a vital role in the criminal justice system. Through a forensic psychology online program with victimology specialization, you can put yourself in position to succeed in this important field.
Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Forensic Psychology program with a specialization in Victimology online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.
*R. Morgan, Criminal Victimization, 2016, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, on the internet as a PDF at www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv16.pdf.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.