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Contact: Gary Galluzzo
University of Iowa

UI researcher finds gender gap narrowing among victims of certain crimes

Although the gender gap among victims of homicide and robbery has remained relatively stable over the last 30 years, the gap has closed significantly for aggravated and simple assault because male rates of victimization have declined faster than female rates.

That is one finding of a first-of-its-kind study presented by researchers Karen Heimer of the University of Iowa and Janet Lauritsen of the University of Missouri-St. Louis on Friday, Feb. 16, at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco. The study examined data from the National Crime Victimization Surveys to compare trends in violence against women and men over the past three decades.

The research provides the first detailed description of how the gender gap in violent victimization has changed over time, according to Lauritsen and Heimer.

Regarding the aggravated and simple assault findings, the researchers noted that they were unable to determine why male victimization rates for some types of violence have declined faster than female rates.

The study revealed several overall trends:

Lauritsen and Heimer said that the study is distinct from others because past studies of trends in male and female victimization have been restricted to homicide, or in the case of non-lethal violence, to data from more recent years (1992 to the present). One of the study's strengths is its comparison of male and female rates, thereby viewing violence against women as part of the larger picture of nationwide violence, rather than as a phenomenon detached from violence against men.

The study suggests that future researchers of violence against women should consider how explanations focused on offender motivations and constraints -- such as changes in the economy and increases in imprisonment -- may be related to changes in women's victimization. They also suggest that studies of crime trends should consider how efforts to reduce victimization against women and children (such as increases in domestic violence resources, protection services, as well as improvements in women's economic status) might be related to some of the observed changes in overall rates of violence.

Lauritsen and Heimer's talk, titled "Gender, Violence, and Victimization: Female and Male Patterns Over Time," was part of a AAAS session on "The Crime Drop and Beyond: Explaining U.S. Crime Trends."


Embargoed For Release: 11:30 a.m. (EST) Feb. 16, 2007

Karen Heimer is professor and director of graduate studies in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Sociology. She earned her doctorate in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her major areas of interest are criminology, sociology of criminal punishment, and gender. She is currently conducting research on trends in violence against women, women's crime, and changes in imprisonment in the United States. Her book (co-edited with Candace Kruttschnitt), Gender and Crime: Patterns of Victimization and Offending, was published by New York University Press in 2006.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

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