Outline and assess sociological explanations of why some groups are more likely to be victims than others 
Many sociologists argue that crime is not randomly patterned; some groups within society are much more likely to be victims of crime than others. Gender, ethnicity and social class are three key characteristics that may influence the likelihood of victimisation. However, it is very difficult to measure rates of victimisation because relatively little crime is reported to the police. This means that a huge proportion of crime is “hidden” (referred to as the ‘dark figure of crime’) and for every hidden crime, there is a potential hidden victim.
Feminists such as Walby, Walklate and Allen believe that female victims are ignored and/or hidden. They link this to the patriarchal nature of society, meaning that it is in the interests of men to cover their crimes by discouraging women from reporting crimes they have been a victim of. For example, Hall argued that only about 8% of rape is reported. This may be due to low prosecution rates, fear of not being believed, having to relive the trauma by giving testimony and through fear of being blamed. There are high-profile accounts of rape victims being ‘blamed’ for their victimisation. For example, in the 1980s, a High Court Judge claimed that “women who say no don’t always mean no”. The New Right perspective in particular has been criticised for putting the emphasis on the responsibility of victims for their own victimisation.
However, in contrast to feminist views, statistically males are significantly more likely than females to be victims of crime. It could also be argued that male rape victims are even more likely to be ‘hidden’ than female victims, due to the perceived added social taboo of being a male rape victim. The Crime Survey for England & Wales (a national victimisation survey) today also estimates the rate of reported rapes at significantly higher than Hall’s 8%.
Statistics have also shown that ethnic minorities are more likely to be victims of crime within the UK. Left Realists Lea & Young argued that young black males are the most likely to be victims of crime in Britain, often through the actions of other young black males, but also through racist practices by the police. This is supported in part by the Macpherson Inquiry into the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence. Macpherson found evidence of institutional racism within the Metropolitan police force, suggesting that they were taking cases where the victim was black less seriously and pursuing them less rigorously. This may mean ethnic minorities are less likely to report crimes against them to the police. Marxists like Castles & Kosack have argued that capitalism promotes racism to justify poor treatment/pay in work of ethnic minorities and this increases the chances of those ethnic minorities being victims of crime.
Marxists and Left Realists would also argue that working-class people are more likely than wealthier people to be victims of crime. In particular, Marxists would claim that many poor people around the world are victims of corporate crime. Marxists claim that the illegal and immoral practices of corporations around the world are considered normal under capitalism. This means that many victims of corporate crime do not know they are victims, and therefore these crimes go unreported and are hidden. For example, the illegal practices of the banking industry – leading to a global financial crisis – devastated the lives of individuals, groups and whole societies around the world. The capitalist system protects these criminals from prosecution and therefore their victims are not recognised.
The Marxist arguments can be accused of being reductionist; placing the blame solely on capitalism. Left Realists have argued that, although victims of corporate crime should be taken seriously, victims of street crimes and violence are a more immediate concern. Corporate crime arguably impacts middle-class people just as much as the working-classes. Nonetheless, working-class people overall are significantly more likely to be victims of crime. Perhaps contradicting the Marxist view, however, the main offenders are not the bourgeoisie, but are other working-class people.
Overall, there are some convincing sociological explanations for the increased chances of victimisation of certain groups in society. However, the difficulties in measuring victimisation – leading to an unknowable amount of ‘hidden victims’ – makes it impossible to confirm the true rates of victimisation of different groups.
Crime & Deviance
A2 Unit: G673