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 factor in victimizations, poverty has a very strong correlation with victimization. THE VIOLENT OFFENDER
The typical violent offender for all violent crimes is male, and is also most likely a male who has offended before (Greenfield, 1997; Ringel, 1997; Craven, 1996). Even in the case of violent crimes against children, in which male apologists frequently cite possible female violence, perpetrators are overwhelmingly male at a rate of 97 percent for all crimes against children (Greenfield, 1996). Of violent offenders, most have offended before — at the high rate of 73 percent (Greennfield, 1997), and most sex offenders — at the high rate of 61 per cent — had previously been convicted of similar or other violent crimes. Violent offenders more than any other group of criminals reported never being married, at a rate of 47 percent, and sex offenders had an even higher rate of no prior marriage, at 60 percent. Of those who did have prior relationships, many reported a high rate of divorce. Of all violent offenders, only slightly more than 17 per cent were married at the time of incarceration (Greenfield, 1997).
Of people on probation for violent crimes, a whopping 41 percent will be re-arrested for some sort of violence (Greenfield, 1997). Violent offenders for all offenses as a group had an average age of first conviction of between 18 and 24. The average age of first conviction for the typical sex offender is over the age of 30. The race of the typical violent offender is pretty evenly divided between whites and other ethnic groups, but the race of the typical sex offender is white, at a rate of 73.9 per cent (Greenfield, 1997). This is quite different from the popular image of a black male lurking in the alley. To summarize, the “average” violent offender is a single (never married) male in his twenties, race unspecified. If sexual offenses are the violent crimes involved, he is most likely a single (never married) white male in his thirties. THE LOCATION OF VIOLENT CRIMES
Most violent crimes occur in urban areas at a rate not quite twice that of rural areas (Ringel, 1996). There is a definite difference between male and female victims in terms of the “place of crime.” Most female victims are assaulted indoors, most frequently in their own homes or the residence of a friend or aquaintance. The next frequent location was a parked car. This is a contrast the location of assault of male victims of violence, who are most frequently assaulted outdoors (Ringel, 1997; Craven, 1996). IMPLICATIONS
Implications for violence prevention programs should be clear. The targets of anti-female violence are most often young urban women. They are most often assaulted by older single males who are aquaintanted with the victim or the victim’s family. When rape occurs, the age of the assailant is most often even older, the rapist most likely being a single male in his thirties. Unlike males who are victims of violent crime, the young women are assaulted in their own homes or those of friends or family. How many are lured into the attackers home is unclear. Prevention programs should focus on educating young women, particularly those in risk areas like urban locations, or places with many strangers like colleges, to never go indoors with older males not very well known to them.
Since poor women seem to be at greatest risk, programs which assist them in other efforts should include information on violence prevention. Criminal justice professionals and law makers should be aware that violent criminals of all sorts are at great risk to re-offend. Efforts to deny bail, prolong incarceration, withhold probation or parole of violent criminals need to be made to protect the public safety unless exceptional demonstration of rehabilitation can be demonstrated. Treatment of violent offenders in custody needs to identify that these people differ substantially in many respects from the average person, and may need to focus on the offenders’ lack of ability for intimacy in human relationships.
Black Victims of Violent Crime
Blacks were victims of an estimated 805,000 nonfatal violent crimes and of about 8,000 homicides in 2005. While blacks accounted for 13% of the U.S. population in 2005, they were victims in 15% of all nonfatal violent crimes and nearly half of all homicides. These findings are based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR), Supplementary Homicide Reports. Among blacks the risk of nonfatal violent victimization varied across demographic characteristics. During the 5-year period from 2001 to 2005, comparative nonfatal violent victimizations showed – • Black males were more vulnerable to violent victimization than black females. • Younger blacks were generally more likely than older blacks to be victims of violence. • Blacks who had never married were more likely than all other blacks to be victims of violence. • Blacks in households with lower annual incomes were at a greater risk of violence than those in households with higher annual incomes.
• Blacks living in urban areas were more likely than those in suburban or rural areas to be victims of violence. Black victims of homicide were most likely to be male (85%) and between ages 17 and 29 (51%). Homicides against blacks were more likely than those against whites to occur in highly populated areas, including cities and suburbs. About 53% of homicides against blacks in 2005 took place in areas with populations of at least 250,000 people, compared to about 33% of homicides of white victims. Blacks were killed with a firearm in about 77% of homicides against them. Violent crime rates between 2001 and 2005 were higher for blacks than for whites, Hispanics, and Asians Between 2001 and 2005 blacks had higher rates of violent victimization than whites, Hispanics, and Asians (table 2). American Indians were the only group that had rates higher than blacks. Blacks were more likely to experience an aggravated assault than whites or Hispanics Between 2001 and 2005 the average annual rate of aggravated assault for blacks (8 per 1,000 persons age 12 or older) was nearly twice that of whites (4 per 1,000) and slightly higher than that of Hispanics (5 per 1,000).
While blacks were more likely than whites to experience aggravated assault, blacks and whites were equally likely to experience a simple assault during the 5-year period. Blacks were at a greater risk of rape or sexual assault than any other racial/ethnic group except American Indians. Among blacks, males and those in urban areas were the most vulnerable to robbery victimization Between 2001 and 2005, blacks were victims of an average of about 121,000 robberies per year, representing an average annual robbery victimization rate of about 4 per 1,000 blacks age 12 or older. This was higher than the rate for whites and similar to that for Hispanics.
Between 2001 and 2005, robberies made up about 15% of all violent crime against blacks, a percentage higher than that for whites and similar to that for Hispanics (see appendix table 5). Between 2001 and 2005, blacks ages 12 to 19 made up about 37% of all black robbery victims, a percentage similar to that for Hispanics (table 3). Males made up the majority of robbery victims among blacks, whites and Hispanics. About a third of black robbery victims lived in households with annual incomes of less than $15,000. Black robbery victims were less likely than white victims and as likely as Hispanic robbery victims to live in households with annual incomes of at least $50,000. Black robbery victims (65%) were more likely than white robbery victims (41%) to live in urban areas.