Victimology is becoming a much more important area of study in the larger field of criminology. Most often a criminal is caught by tracking down points in time and locations at which the victim may have contacted the perpetrator. What were the victim’s habits or actions that might have led to this contact? Often times a victim who seems to be a low risk for violent crime is discovered to have engaged in high risk behaviors such as drug use or prostitution. Victimology is not without controversy. Victim’s advocates have argued this is a way of assigning partial responsibility for the criminal’s actions to the victim themselves (the old “[he, she] was asking for it” fallacy. In fact there is a term in sociology, penal couple, which assigns near equal blame to the victims of violent crimes. As an anthropologist I think this, along with a lot of sociology, is utter crap. But that’s for another day. For now let’s look at May Burnham.
Twenty-five year old May Alice Burnham was the oldest daughter of John and Emma Hill. John met Emma while working for the railroad making railroad ties and they were married about 1882. John’s job would require him to move his family on down the line as the rails were built. May and her younger sister Nettie would be born in
May would marry Arthur, then a recovering “lunger” around 1904. Arthur worked as a store clerk in various locations throughout
One thing to examine when putting together a victimology is the kind of behaviors a victim has that put them into contact with strangers. In order to make ends meet, May would take in “overflow” from Anna Merritt’s house when someone needed a bed for the night. This often involved renting the bed in one of the two rooms of the house. The door between these rooms had a lock on it and could be secured from one side although I admit I do not know which side it was. May also allowed borders to rent the hammock on the front porch of the house. This would have brought her into contact with strangers regularly and in the few weeks the