Victimology is defined as an assessment of everything that can be known about the victim of a crime, and is a critical tool for the investigator and experts which can lead to the quick solution of a criminal case or the resolution of a premises liability matter involving a violent crime.
In 1978, the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU) at the FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia established a Psychological Profiling Program to assist local, state, and federal agencies in the investigation of violent crimes. Research by the BSU determined that there was a lack of credible and experienced forensic experts who could assist agencies confronted with bizarre, repetitive violent crime by attempting to determine the thought patterns and motivation of the offenders. In 1984, the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) was funded by the National Institute of Justice and is currently operated by the FBI.
NCAVC Criminal Investigative Analysis (CIA) Program:
The FBI's Psychological Profiling Program eventually evolved into the Criminal Investigative Analysis Program which is defined by the FBI as "an investigative process that identifies the major personality and behavioral characteristics of the offender based on the crimes he or she has committed." The CIA involves a behavioral approach from a law enforcement perspective which focuses on the identification and apprehension of the offender rather than the mental health view of diagnosis and treatment.
The process of a CIA involves the following steps:
One of the most important aspects of the CIA process is the evaluation of the victim also known as victimology. The purpose of this step is to determine why the victim was attacked and if there was any relationship between the victim and the offender. Also, attempts are made to determine the victim's risk level or how the victim's life style may have contributed to his or her assault or death.
To determine victimology, the author has developed a Daubert style (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. 43F. 3d 9th Circuit, 1995) methodology for a detailed assessment of the victim. This evaluation is in the form of a questionnaire which can be completed through an interview of the victim (if still alive) or a person who is familiar with the victim's lifestyle and personality. A family member may not be the best person to interview since they may allow their bias toward the victim to influence their answers, thus not providing a true assessment of the victim. A close friend of the victim may be best since the victim may have disclosed information to the friend that would not be provided to a family member.
How long have you known victim(V)?
What was your relationship?
During your relationship, how often did you see or speak?
Unusual characteristics, mannerisms
Any physical disabilities
Any step brothers/sisters?
Any physical, sexual, or psychological abuse?
Relationship with parents, brothers, sisters
Any high risk behaviors?
Drug/alcohol/prescription drug usage
History of psychiatric treatment
History of any significant medical problems/treatment
Describe work habits/ethic
How did V react to strangers?
How would V react to being threatened?
If confronted with bodily injury, would V flee or fight?
Was V concerned with personal security?
Access to, use of, or familiarity with weapons
Was V afraid of anyone?
Characterize associates and types of people avoided
Anything you are aware of about V that would be inconsistent with his/her known personality?
Was V a follower or leader?
Ever suicidal or express thoughts of self destruction?
Use a few adjectives to describe V.
Any major personality changes?
Are you aware of anyone who had a motive to kill or hurt V?
Who would benefit financially from V's death?
What do you think happened?
How would V want to be remembered?
What mistakes did V think he/she made in life?
How would V change his/her life if he/she could live over?
Any compulsive/obsessive behavior?
Is there anything that you would like to add that has not been covered?
A detailed assessment of the victim of a violent crime is critical to understanding the crime and may assist in a quick solution to the case. The Victim Assessment Questionnaire may be used to obtain information that can be used to better understand the crime and may help in focusing on a suspect. For the expert, this assessment (using the questionnaire) should meet the requirements of Daubert methodology for depositions and trial testimony.
Dan L. Vogel is a retired FBI Special Agent with 25 years of service. During his last 15 years with the FBI, he served as Coordinator, National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime in the Oklahoma City office. 405-615-6877 firstname.lastname@example.org
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