Women As Victims of Violent Crime: A look at the FBI stats. by
Lili Pintea-Reed, PhD
Popular images of women as victims in violent crime have probably strayed far from reality. Rather than a mature women attacked by strangers in alley ways, the average female victim is young (often a child), poor, and a passing aquaintance of the attacker. The perpetrator is most likely an older male of the same race, with a past history of violence toward others. Further, women are not the most common victims of violence, most violence is committed by men on other males. If you asked the average person on the street to describe the "typical" victim of violent crime, they would most likely describe a woman in mid-life pulled down an alley way off a busy city street who is robbed and raped by a group of attackers of a different race. This is the image frequently portrayed in film, television, and popular fiction. It has become so pervasive a series of images that we seldom question this perception of violence in America. However, an examination of the most recent USA Bureau of Justice Statistics Reports indicate a much different picture. The average victim of violent acts is a male attacked by another male (Ringel, 1997). The only type of violence where women are more frequently victimized than males is sexual assault (Greenfield, 1997). The women who are most commonly victimized, rather than mature, are young, poor, and an aquaintance of the perpetrator, who generally is a much older male of the same race (Craven, 1996). While domestic violence is the second most frequent factor in violent crime against women, it was surprisingly below "violence by aquaintance" as a risk factor --- with just 29 percent of all violence to women committed by "intimates" as opposed to the 40 per cent rate by "aquaintances," and the 23 percent rate for "strangers." The only part of the popular image that appears to be accurate is the higher rate of violence per capita in urban areas as opposed to rural (Ringel, 1997). These startling statistics should give pause to those actively involved in anti-crime, anti-rape, and victim prevention programs. To be effective, we need to match our anti-violence planning and prevention programs to the reality of victimization and not fall into acting on stereotypical and popular images of crime. THE VICTIM
The average victim of violent crime as we mentioned before is most often male with rates of violence toward men reported at one third more frequently than for those of women (Ringel, 1997). However, women are victims far more often in cases of rape and sexual assault at a rate of 91 percent for this type of violence (Greenfield, 1998). In all types of violence toward women, the overwhelming number of victims are young. People between the ages of 16 and 19 had the highest rates of victimization, followed closely by those 20-24 (Ringel, 1996). In cases of rape (which statistically is a crime against women), the age of the average assault is even younger, with half the victims of rape being under the age of 18 years. A full third of all the rapes that occur overall happen to the age group between the ages of 12 and 17 (Greenfield, 1997). Obviously, the most typical rape victim is a teenager. The income level of the "average victim" is very low with most victims coming from homes with incomes under $10,000 a year. Women from low income households are 4 times as likely to experience violence of any sort than women in the income bracket above $50,000 (Craven, 1996). When violence does occur, women are most at risk for injury in an altercation with a person known intimately than in an altercation with a stranger (Craven, 1996). Women who were robbed were least likely to have known their offenders (Ringel, 1997). Race, unlike income, does not appear to be a factor in female victimizations (Craven, 1996). To summarize, the "average" female victim is a poor teenager living in an urban area. Although race does not appear to be...
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