Research unit II – Victimology

Heads of the research unit (equal responsibility):
Dr. Anne-Kathrin Kreft and Dr. Farina Rühs


The interdisciplinary research unit “Victimology” investigates crime and deviant behavior with a special focus on individual victims and their social networks, while also considering the societal and systemic implications of criminal and deviant behavior. The research unit thus continues a decades-long tradition of victimological research at the KFN, which has been characterized by large-scale victimization studies on various topics (e.g. burglary or cybercrime) designed to record also crimes that have never been formally reported.



Main research areas

The research unit focuses in particular on a processual perspective on victimization experiences and the associated coping processes (research focus 1: Victim experiences as a (developmental) process) as well as the reciprocal relationship between individual victim experiences and societal reactions (research focus 2: Victim experiences in societal context). In addition to these two main research areas, the research unit regularly endeavors to investigate in a more targeted manner specific victimological phenomena that play a prominent role in public discourse or that have received little attention in prior victim research (research area 3: Characteristics of specific victim experiences).

To address these research topics, we use a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, with a strong focus on the integration of longitudinal studies and the application of experimental designs.


Victim experiences as a (developmental) process

The first research area focuses on victimization and coping processes from the perspective of those affected. Against the backdrop of discussions about better victim protection, we also investigate the individual-level consequences of victimization experiences (e.g. fear of crime, psychological stress) and the factors that influence the (developmental) course of the experiences and the behavior of those affected by victimization (e.g. individual coping processes, characteristics of criminal proceedings). Among other things, the needs of victims during a (criminal) trial and the identification and addressing of these needs in state (especially prosecuting) institutions play an important role in the planned research.

Victim experiences in societal context

The second research focus centers on victims’ experiences in the societal context. Current and planned research projects in this research focus deal with topics such as the societal approval or rejection of certain forms and manifestations of violence and the effects of societal attitudes on victims. Of particular interest are also the interactions between victimization experiences and socio-political agency (e.g. socio-political mobilization or political activity) and perceptions (e.g. trust in democracy, the state, and its institutions). Secondary victimization processes in criminal proceedings will also be taken into account.

Characteristics of specific victim experiences

The third research area focuses on the victimization experiences of certain groups, victimization in certain forms of crime, and victimization experiences in specific contexts. These include, for example, intimate partner violence against men, violence against politicians, and victim experiences in the area of cybercrime.


Current research projects

The three research foci are to be understood as complementary and partly overlapping categories that jointly serve as a common framework for the interdisciplinary research unit. Projects can be located within a single focus area or at the intersection of different focus areas. In a current project on violence against politicians, for example, we investigate individual coping processes and at the same situate victim experiences in the societal context as a whole.