Von Hentig's Theory of Victimology and Domestic Violence Victims


Hans Von Hentig devised a theory as to why criminals can take advantage of select individuals. Von Hentig developed seven typologies to illustrate his reasoning. Von Hentig's seven typologies are:

The Depressed - an emotional unbalance that prevents an individual from noticing the world around him or her and focusing on the item(s) that make the individual sad.

The Acquisitive - focuses on doing whatever it takes to become accomplished. An individual allows himself to be placed in a bad position without thinking of the repercussions.

The Wanton - This individual needs other factors to initiate his or her actions. The use of drugs and alcohol will help this person become out of character or to do something he or she would not normally do without drugs and alcohol.

The Lonesome and Heartbroken - These individuals are in constant sorrow and will readily accept something that eliminates that sorrow. The individual will see his or her actions as helpful to the loneliness he or she is feeling or may believe he or she is respecting the memory of the loved one.

The Tormentor - This individual is a product of his or her upbringing whether it is through abuse from a parent or abuse from associates such as childhood friends. At times this type of individual could have learned the behavior from an experience he or she had in adulthood.

The Blocked, Exempted, and Fighting - An individual has found a way to deal with the situation as it is and does nothing to remove themselves from the situation.

The Activating Sufferer - An individual who replicates the actions of the aggressor because he or she believes there is no hope.

This paper will take a look into each of the seven typologies and explain how each typology affects a direct victim, someone who was the target of domestic violence, and an indirect victim, someone who was present during the domestic violence.


An individual who suffers from depression could be suffering depression as a result of domestic violence whether it is from direct physical abuse or indirect physical abuse (Lawrence, Chau, & Lennon, 2004). A young girl growing up watching her father beat her mother may experience depression as a result of the beatings even though the father never hit his daughter. It is possible that she feared that her father could harm her for speaking out or helping her mother.

The Acquisitive type could very well be a young student who sees other students bullying classmates and receiving friends or popularity in return. The other students are afraid of the bully and will befriend him or her in order to avoid being bullied. When the student befriends the bully, he or she must act like the bully in order to be shielded from bullying and this begins the cycle of learning to abuse others to get ahead. The bully may have been an indirect victim of domestic violence in his or her own home and learned this behavior as a result of his or her lifestyle. Meadows (2010), states that children who are not treated well are more likely to offend and young offenders are more likely to re-offend.

The wanton typology brings to mind the Columbine high school shooting and the Virginia Tech Massacre. The Columbine high school shooting occurred on April 20, 1999 (Rosenberg, n.d.), two teenagers went to school determined to kill their classmates. The reasoning behind the decision to harm fellow classmates was because of bullying and not fitting in with other kids. The Virginia Tech massacre was sparked by a domestic dispute between the shooter and his girlfriend (Caruso, n.d.). While these examples are not hinged on domestic violence in the home, there is a form of neglect in the home where incidents of this nature are born. It is quite possible the young men were depressed as a result of the bullying and it went unnoticed. These young men were direct victims of abuse, not necessarily at home, but within a domestic type situation, such as the school.

The Lonesome and Heartbroken seems to fit into the same category as depression and wanton. It is possible that there are some individuals who prey on those who are devastated from a lost love or the loss of a loved one, but in today's society this category seems to fall into depression. A heartbroken father who is suffering the loss of a wife or child may neglect or abuse other family members physically or mentally. Those who receive the abuse are direct and those watching from afar are indirect but the abuse affects them just as well.

The tormentor typology can be given an example through the case of John Caudle. A fourteen year old who suffered through domestic violence and killed his mother and step-father (Johnson, 2010). The mental abuse and unstable living environment along with the constant living in fear was too much for this teen to handle. As he aged he believed the only way out was to end his parents' lives.

The Blocked, Exempted, and Fighting typology is remindful of the Andrea Yates case in June of 2001 (Ramsland, 2011). Andrea Yates suffered from many different mental health issues. It does not appear that she suffered from domestic violence unless you consider having concrete religious beliefs as being mentally straining. Her post-partum depression and her religious beliefs along with her husband's religious convictions made it impossible for Andrea to receive the care she needed. She blocked out the thought, did not mention the thoughts to others and fought the urge to kill her children until the day she stopped fighting altogether. How is it that this woman cannot be seen as a victim of neglect? Her mental illness falls into many of Hentig's typologies, but it also took over her right to choose and I believe this could have been prevented.

The Activating Sufferer is the one who suffers so much and receives no help that eventually he or she grows into an adult who believes his or her actions is a part of life. The direct and indirect victim can change into the perpetrator over time. A tormented person can become an activating sufferer. To become this typology one must see it as a way out of suffering.

Hentig's typologies can very well be applied to indirect and direct victims of domestic violence but to be truthful, his typologies can apply to many other forms of abuse. To have this theory to help pinpoint why people act or react is crucial to understanding the mind of the victim, offender, and potential offender and victim of the future.

Published by Sabrina Bogan

I am 39 and I live in VA. I have a wonderful husband and 3 great children along with 4 cats.  View profile