What Is the Victim Precipitation Theory?

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The victim precipitation theory, also referred to as the victim precipitation approach, hypothesizes that victims of violent crimes and sexual assault put themselves in harm’s way through their own actions. Criminal assailants and their victims are often referred to as penal couples. This concept views the victim as a participant in the crime because her presence provides the offender with the opportunity to commit the offense.

Victimization theory as applied to cases of rape and sexual assault suggest that the victim invited the attack by behaving in a friendly or flirtatious manner toward the perpetrator. This approach is founded on the myth that victims can prevent attacks by not engaging in risky behaviors, such as walking alone at night and inviting potential perpetrators into their homes. Victimization theory also implies that victims fail to adequately communicate to the attacker that they are not interested in a sexual relationship. The assault is then viewed as a result of the perpetrator’s misinterpretation of the victim’s nonverbal signals. The victim precipitation approach toward violent crime theorizes that individuals who place themselves in potentially dangerous situations increase their vulnerability to harm. Common scenarios include hitchhiking and working in industries that involve contact with strangers.