Let’s look at two boxing scenarios. In the first scenario a boxer is beaten and has taken substantial physical abuse which included bruised ribs, bruised brain, and a fractured left hand. The fight ends abruptly because the boxer is knocked out resulting in him loosing five million dollars. In scenario two, after the boxing match, a spectator is mugged in the restroom he loses five hundred dollars, the loss of his wallet and receives a black eye. Comparing these two scenarios there are obvious distinction as to why the boxer in the first example is not a victim and the spectator in the second example is. It can be assumed the boxer did not intentionally mean to have a physical or monetary loss but it can also be assumed that he knows they are the possible risks of boxing. The spectator going to the restroom more than likely did not expect to be robbed and punched in the eye.
There are several factors that contribute to a person being a victim; lasting psychological trauma; severe physical injury; and a disruption of a person’s safety template. A safety template is what the person holds to be true or safe about something. We all have safety templates about various activities. Driving a car, flying in airplanes, taking medication, or going to a public restroom are examples of situations that individuals may take for granted but could take a turn for the worst. An individual also becomes a victim when something happens that is unexpected from outside of there safety template. Mendelshon’s first typology of victimization theory (Mendelshon, 1963) defines this as being an innocent victim. An innocent victim is someone that is unaware of the potential to be victimized. Cohen and Felson’s routine activities theory (1989) also suggests that there are three requirements for victimization to occur; an available suitable target, absence of capable guardians, and the presence of a motivated offender. Using these theories and working backwards we can see how it is possible for a person to become a victim of the media. (a) The “Presence of a motivated offender”: is the media sensationalizing a chosen event; (b) “Absence of capable guardian” can be applied to children that watch television. However many children may have their parents to regulate their viewing. Who regulates what the parents are viewing? Thus the suitable target of any form of media becomes very broad. Newspapers, listening to the radio, or watching television are within our safety templates making us innocent victims to what we’re exposed to. Many people may watch or read about something and just think, “That only happens to people somewhere else.” However the power of sensationalized media can allow a person to feel as though the same event could happen closer to home. A violent action that happens in New York City can have traumatic affects in San Francisco. Young Caucasian girls from an affluent neighborhood may be perceived as the only children getting kidnapped on a regular basis. All of our senses that we use to observe and assess information from our environment are influenced through these mediums.
The affects of positive and negative visual reinforcement is not a new idea. BoBo Doll Studies, based on Albert Bandera’s (Banduras, 1963) Social Learning Theory, showed that people learn intentionally or accidentally by observing others. Since then his theory has been applied to television shows worldwide concerning topics such as the transmission of disease, illiteracy, overpopulation, and gender discrimination. These shows visually tell stories in which there is a problem and a resolve amongst the characters. If what we see in the media can affect us in a positive manner then surely they can have a negative affect as well.
The mediums we use for news and entertainment are vast and powerful tools. Like the boxer in the first example an individual knowingly exposes themselves to these mediums for the entertainment and the information they provide. But, like the spectator many are unaware of the specific social effects through media use. Media can be very subjective in the information it provides and its entertainment bias. In many instances it appeals to the wants of an individual more so than their needs. It bombards a person’s senses with stimuli. Many have incorporated multi-media as apart of their safety template allowing them to think no harm can come from its use. Being unaware of its influences is what allows a person to become its victim.