VI. Recurring Victimization

A. Distinguishing Between Repeat and Multiple Victims

People who experience two or more victimizations have been referred to as recurring victims. A repeat victim is one who experiences the same type of victimization two or more times in a given time frame. For example, if a house is burglarized, and burgled a second time later in the same month, the owner would be considered a repeat victim. A multiple crime type victim, or multiple victim, is one who is victimized by more than one type of offense over a period of time. for example, if someone experienced a personal victimization and a property victimization.

B. Characteristics of Recurring Victimizations

Studies on the topic of repeat victimization have confirmed that victimization tends to cluster. A growing body of research shows that repeat targets also experience a disproportionate amount of all crime victimizations. Studies that have used samples from the general population, college populations, and youth have reported that a small proportion of property or personal victims—individuals or households—experience a large proportion of all victimization incidents.

Two distinct patterns have emerged from study of the time course of repeat property and personal victimization research. First, if a second incident is going to occur, it is likely to occur relatively quickly after the first incident. Second, there is a period of heightened risk immediately following the occurrence of the prior incident that decreases over time. Studies of burglary, domestic violence, racial attacks, simple assaults, and sexual victimizations have reported these two patterns.

C. Recurring Victim Typologies and Theories

Much of the early work on recurring victims focused on victim typologies that sought to explain recurring victimization in terms of victim proneness. Similar to the early victimologists, Sparks (1981) developed a typology of repeat victimization that included the following elements: precipitation, facilitation, vulnerability, opportunity, attractiveness, and impunity.

Moving beyond typologies, Farrell, Phillips, and Pease (1995) examined the reasons for why repeat victimization occurs within the context of the offender’s rational choices and routine activities, as well as their decisions to revisit the same targets more than once. In addition to detailing repeat victimization scenarios across a variety of crimes, these authors advanced two important concepts to explain why offenders might be more likely to offend against already victimized targets: (1) risk heterogeneity and (2) state dependence. The idea behind risk heterogeneity is that a victim possesses characteristics that make his or her subsequent victimization more likely—for instance, a house that is continually left unguarded and possesses no preventive devices, such as an alarm. State dependence refers to conditions created by a first victimization that allow for subsequent victimization—for example, the vandalism of a building with graffiti, whereby after the first tagging the target is made more attractive for subsequent taggers.

Lauritsen and Davis Quinet (1995) found support for both the state dependence and heterogeneity arguments in their study of young adults. The heterogeneity argument proposed is one in which persistent characteristics, such as temperament, stay with young people throughout their lives. The state dependence hypothesis, which asserts that a victimization incident changes something about the victim in some way that alters future risks, also was supported.

Hope and colleagues (Hope, Bryan, Trickett, & Osborn, 2001) focused on multiple victimization and reported a link between the risk of becoming a victim of a property crime and the risk of becoming a victim of a personal crime. Outlaw, Ruback, and Britt (2002) determined that individual and contextual factors were important predictors of repeat property, repeat violent, and multiple-type victimizations. Multiple victimizations were driven more by individual characteristics, whereas the repeat property and repeat violent victimizations were predicted by both individual characteristics and neighborhood settings. Perhaps one of the more valuable contributions of this study is the idea that repeat and multiple victimizations are affected by unique processes.

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