Enlisting the Potential Victim as Risk Manager: An Integrated Learning Theory of the Victimization Process

Catherine A. Gallagher, George Mason University

ABSTRACT
This paper proposes a theory of victim behavior and risk management that integrates research within victimology, cognitive psychology, public health education and behavioral change. The theory is victim-centered in that it views the potential victim as a dynamic player in the risk process. After a review of some basic assumptions found in the cognitive psychology literature, the paper is organized around the major components of the proposed model, which include; (1) knowledge formation about victimization, (2) assessment of risk and identification of risk factors, (3) the role of fear and vulnerability, (4) motivation and access to change, (5) changing alterable risk factors, and finally, (6) introduction of newly experienced direct and indirect victimization. Several competitive hypotheses are presented regarding the relationships among these components. The proposed model is complementary to the adaptation and rational choice theories within criminology, but distinctive in its application to victimization and its predictions about the biases and impediments to learning, decision making and change. Finally, methods for testing and preliminary evidence are presented, along with implications for victimization prevention and intervention.

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Updated 05/20/2006