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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report 3 Gender and Violence in the United States: Trends in Offending and Victimization Karen Heimer and Janet L. Lauritsen There has been increasing attention in social science to the recent U.S. decline in violent crime, which followed a period of large increases in violence (e.g., Blumstein and Wallman, 2000; Zimring, 2006). Interestingly, almost all of the analyses of crime trends over the past few decades have been silent on the issue of gender (for an exception, see Rosenfeld, 2000). While it is true that female offending accounts for a relatively small percentage of very serious violent offending, such as homicide and robbery, women accounted for roughly 25 percent of arrests for simple assaults and 21 percent of arrests for aggravated assaults in 2004, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). Moreover, by 2004 women accounted for 44 percent of simple assault, 34 percent of aggravated assault, and 33 percent of robbery victimizations, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006). The experiences of women and girls therefore are important for understanding crime in the United States. Some scholars suggest that an examination of changes in crime over time does not require attention to gender because the gender composition of the population does not change rapidly enough to affect aggregate crime rates substantially (Blumstein and Wallman, 2000, p. 10). However, this argument presumes that the “gender gap,” or relative rates of female and male crime, remain constant over time. Perhaps it is reasonable to ignore gender in examinations of short-term trends, but research on long-term trends reveals important gender differences in both victimization (Lauritsen and Heimer, 2008) and offending (O’Brien, 1999). Moreover, most researchers would argue that examining long-term trends is essential
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report for contextualizing shorter term spikes and drops in crime rates. Understanding crime trends in the United States would therefore seem to require consideration of female as well as male experiences with crime over a substantial period of time. In addition, a full understanding of crime trends necessitates attention to victimization as well as offending. Focusing on female and male experiences with violence highlights this point. Women consistently are less likely than men to be both violent offenders and victims. Yet the gender difference in rates of victimization is smaller than in rates of offending, for the most part. For example, women are much less likely than men to kill or rob. They are also less likely than men to be killed or robbed, but the difference between female and male rates is smaller in the case of victimization. This emphasizes the need for research addressing female as well as male trends and offending as well as victimization. Shifts in female victimization and offending may be of little unique significance if they simply mirror male shifts. Thus, a National Academies report on violence against women concluded that careful research comparing long-term trends in female and male violence is a priority (National Research Council, 2004). This chapter seeks to broaden knowledge of offending and victimization trends in the United States by reporting and examining changes in (1) female and male violent offending, (2) female and male violent victimization, and (3) gendered patterns of victim-offender relationships in violent incidents. We produce estimates of annual rates of female and male violent offending and victimization for 1980 through 2004 by pooling the National Crime Survey (NCS) and NCVS data. We also examine gendered patterns of violence across victim-offender relationships. There is no published study to date that examines all three of these aspects of gendered crime trends because research has relied heavily on arrest data from the UCR, which do not include information on victims. Using the pooled NCS-NCVS data, we estimate and report trends that have not been published previously and are free from potential criminal justice system bias. In addition, the NCS-NCVS data allow for important disaggregations that are not possible with UCR arrest data on nonlethal violence, such as by victim-offender relationships, and thus can be used to reveal factors that may be associated with crime trends. Our assessment of the data uncovers similarities and differences between gendered trends in victimization and offending. The detailed examination of these trends is a necessary first step toward better understanding violence in the United States.
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report GENDER, VIOLENCE, AND VICTIMS: PREVIOUS RESEARCHON TRENDS Two undisputed findings in criminology are that men are more likely than women to commit violent crime and, with the exception of rape, men are more likely to be the victims of violent crime. Although the gender gaps in violent offending and victimization are established, there is uncertainty about whether these gaps have changed in a meaningful way over time. Public perception seems to be that women are becoming more similar to men in terms of criminal violence. Over the past three decades, the popular press has warned periodically of a changing female criminal, who is more violent than her predecessors (e.g., Leach, 2004; Scelfo, 2005). The media and activist groups have highlighted the seriousness of violence against women (e.g., the National Organization for Women), and the increased attention to the problem has helped to bring this issue into public awareness. Indeed, the federal government responded by passing the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, reauthorized in 2005. But media treatment of women, violence, and victimization—as well as some scholarly and textbook treatments—tend to blur the critical distinction between two very different questions. The first is “Has violence by and against women increased over time?” The second question is “Has the gender gap in violent offending and victimization narrowed over time?” Of course, the answers to these questions can differ. For example, female rates of violent offending and victimization could have increased (or decreased) at a time when male rates changed similarly. When this occurs, the gender gaps in violent offending and victimization would be constant, and the changes in female trends would not be unique. By contrast, female rates of violent offending and victimization could have increased more or decreased less than the corresponding male rates, which would result in a narrowing of the gender gaps, with women accounting for an increasing portion of violent offending and victimization over time. In other words, women’s and men’s patterns of victimization and offending would differ over time, which would highlight the importance of seeking gender-specific explanations of offending and victimization trends. The distinction between the two questions is critical and illustrates the importance of examining both shifts in female rates of violent offending and victimization as well as replacing and comparisons of female and male rates. Yet some may ask whether decreasing gender gaps in violent offending and victimization are important in the current context of declining crime trends. In other words, would it be practically significant if female rates of offending and victimization remained stable while male rates declined, or if female rates decreased more slowly than male rates? The answer clearly seems to be “yes.” In the first scenario, the finding that women’s offending
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report and victimization holds steady at prior levels when male offending or victimization declines undoubtedly would be of both scientific and policy importance. This pattern would indicate that social forces affecting men’s exposure to violence seem to have little impact on women’s experiences with violence. In short, women’s lives do not improve as men’s do in this regard. The second scenario similarly highlights a situation that should be of both scientific and policy relevance. In it, women’s exposure to violence (in the form of either offending or victimization) is reduced, but to a lesser extent than men’s exposure. Interestingly, this situation is analogous to current trends in death from heart disease in Western nations. Women have lower rates of mortality from heart disease than men, and the rates for both sexes have been declining over time. Yet there has been a narrowing in the gender gap over time in the United States and other nations because female rates have not been dropping as quickly as male rates (Lawlor, Ebrahim, and Smith, 2001). This has been identified as an issue of concern; men’s health is improving at a faster rate than women’s health. The same logic applies to the case of female and male exposure to violence. If the gender gap in violent offending and victimization is narrowing—even during a period of declining crime—this would suggest that social environmental changes have benefited men more than women. Research on long-term trends in the gender ratio of violent offending has produced mixed findings. Moreover, there has been a paucity of research on long-term trends in gender ratios of violent victimization. In the remainder of this section, we review existing research on trends in female-to-male offending and victimization, with an eye to limitations of previous research and unanswered empirical questions. Later in the chapter, we present data on these trends. Gender and Trends in Violent Offending Some studies of changes in gender ratios of offending report that women have accounted for an increasing proportion of all arrests over time (e.g., Heimer, 2000; O’Brien, 1999; Simon and Landis, 1991), but other studies report little change in gender rate ratios (e.g., Steffensmeier and Allen, 1996; Steffensmeier and Cobb, 1981). One reason for these seemingly disparate findings in the case of violent offending may be that trends in gender rate ratios of arrest vary depending on the years under investigation. Studies of the 1960s through the early 1980s tend to report little meaningful change, while studies including more recent years are more likely to find significant increases in gender rate ratios of arrests (Heimer, 2000; O’Brien, 1999). More specifically, recent research that includes the crime decline since the mid-1990s reports that the gender gap in arrests for violence (namely aggravated and simple assault) continued to narrow
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report because female rates either remained stable or dropped more slowly than male rates (Steffensmeier et al., 2006). Most researchers, however, have considerable concerns about relying exclusively on arrest data in studies of gender ratios of offending. It is possible that the relative violence of women and men changed little over time, and the increasing gender rate ratios (i.e., narrowing of the gender gap) instead reflect changes in policing. For example, the increasing equality of the genders may have shaped the way that police view female offending over time. In the past, police may have viewed women’s violence as less serious or as less in need of criminal justice intervention. As time passed, however, police may have become more likely to view women’s violence as problematic, and thus more likely to arrest female offenders. Or the criteria used in decisions about arrests for aggravated assault may have shifted over time, with police becoming more likely to “charge up” offenses that previously would have resulted in arrests for simple assault; this would disproportionately inflate the figures for aggravated assault over time (see Blumstein, 2000; Rosenfeld, 2006). Furthermore, cases that in the past would not have entered the official system—particularly domestic violence cases—increasingly have resulted in arrests for aggravated assault (Blumstein, 2000, p. 17). Similar arguments can be made with regard to simple assaults. If shifts in police discretion in arrests for violence operate similarly for both female and male offenders, then the changes in gender gap or gender rate ratios of arrests for violence would not be biased. However, if police use their discretion in substantially different ways in arresting women and men, then the observed narrowing of the gender gap in arrests may be an artifact of changing police practices (Steffensmeier et al., 2005, 2006). An assessment of whether recent reports of increases in the gender rate ratios of violent offending represent real change in women’s and men’s violent behavior can be answered by examining victims’ reports of the gender of offenders in the NCVS. The NCVS is unaffected by criminal justice system policies and potential bias in arrest decisions, yet it has been used in only two studies of trends in gender ratios of offending (Steffensmeier et al., 2005, 2006). Part of the difficulty in assessing the comparability of arrest and victimization data on female and male offending over time has been that the NCS was redesigned in 1992, when it became the NCVS. The data can be used to create a single time series, but doing so requires specific computational procedures, which we describe in our data section (see Lynch, 2002). Gender and Trends in Violent Victimization At the time of this writing, there was almost no published research on long-term trends in nonlethal violent victimization against women. One
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report exception is an early study by Smith (1987), which used the NCS over a 10-year period (1973-1982) and reported some increases in the proportion of all robberies that had female victims, but no appreciable change in the proportion of assaults with female victims. However, there are good studies of long-term trends in the homicide victimization of women (e.g., Batton, 2004; Browne and Williams, 1993; Dugan, Nagin, and Rosenfeld, 1999, 2003; LaFree and Hunnicutt, 2006; Rosenfeld, 2000; Smith and Brewer, 1995). Most studies use the UCR’s Supplemental Homicide Reports and show that while homicide offenders and victims are disproportionately male, the magnitude of the gender gap is smaller for victimization than offending. Moreover, homicide victimization rates declined during the 1990s for both genders, with very little change in the gender gap. Indeed, a recent cross-national study of homicide victimization trends by LaFree and Hunnicutt (2006) shows little evidence that the gender gap changed significantly in the United States over the period 1950-2001, despite the broader changes in women’s lives. However, recent evidence suggests that there have been changes in the gender gap in victims of homicides involving intimate partners (e.g., Browne and Williams, 1993; Dugan, Nagin, and Rosenfeld, 1999, 2003; Rosenfeld, 1997). Although intimate partner homicide rates declined for both women and men, the declines were greater among men. Given that female rates of intimate partner homicide were consistently higher than male rates over the past 30 years, the greater decline among men resulted in a widening of the gender gap in intimate partner homicide (Lauritsen and Heimer, 2008). Of course, it is difficult to rule out competing explanations of these changes with national-level data; researchers have thus turned to city-level analyses to try to determine how various factors might explain gender-specific changes in intimate partner homicide (Dugan, Nagin, and Rosenfeld, 1999, 2003). These studies suggest that the declines in female and male rates were significantly related to falling marriage rates. In addition, the greater decrease in male rates relative to female rates may reflect the improved economic status of women, as well as the expansion of domestic violence intervention programs.1 Yet it is unclear whether patterns in gender rate ratio of homicide can be generalized to other forms of violent victimization (see Lauritsen and Heimer, 2008). In short, little is known about long-term changes in violence against women other than homicide. This gap in knowledge is attributed to poor integration between studies of violence against women and research on crime and violence more generally, as well as the difficulty of finding measures of violent victimization that are reasonably valid and reliable over 1 However, this research examines female and male homicide as outcomes and does not analyze patterns in the gender rate ratio.
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report time (National Research Council, 2004). Researchers concur that police data are problematic for this purpose because much violence—especially violence against women—is poorly measured by police data (National Research Council, 2004). Rape and sexual assaults, nonstranger incidents, and intimate partner incidents against women are often the least likely crimes to be reported to the police (Catalano, 2006). Yet even if reporting rates were higher, police-based UCR data would be of limited use because, for victimizations other than homicide, the UCR data lack information about the sex of the victim. The NCVS, by contrast, is designed to produce data that allow for the assessment of long-term trends in violent victimization, for crimes other than homicide. As mentioned above, the NCVS data can be pooled with the earlier NCS data to estimate a continuous series of violence rates by using specific weighting procedures. Indeed, these are the only available source of continuous information about violent victimization and details about violent crime incidents. Generating Gender-Specific Estimates Using the NCS and the NCVS The NCS and the NCVS are rich sources of information on gender-specific rates of both violent offending and victimization (U.S. Department of Justice, ICPSR Study Numbers 8608, 8864, 4276).2 We use these data to create national-level estimates of gender-specific rates of aggravated assault, simple assault, and robbery offending using victims’ reports of the gender of offenders. Similarly, we derive estimates of gender-specific aggravated assault, simple assault, and robbery victimization rates. We do not compare rates of rape in our analysis because preliminary analyses showed that almost all perpetrators of rape are male and almost all victims are female, and that there were no detectable changes in the gender gap in the rape offenders or victims over time.3 The NCS/NCVS has been used to gather self-report survey data about people’s experiences with violence and other forms of victimization continuously since 1973. Using a nationally representative sampling frame, interviews are conducted with persons age 12 and older in each sampled household to determine whether respondents have been the victim of an attempted or completed violent crime.4 Persons who report an incident of 2 The NCVS by design does not include information on homicide. 3 For example, about 96-97 percent of all rapes and sexual assaults since 1992 involve male offender(s) only. 4 The annual sample size has varied over the years, ranging from approximately 248,000 interviews in 1980 to 148,000 interviews in 2004. Persons and households are selected for participation on the basis of Census Bureau information (rather than random-digit-dialing procedures, which may produce biased samples). Person-level response rates are very high, ranging
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report violence over the six-month recall period are then asked a series of questions about the incident, including the sex of the offender(s).5 In 1992, the NCS survey began using a redesigned questionnaire and henceforth became known as the NCVS.6 The redesigned survey instrument was phased into the data collection process in a way that makes it possible to assess the effects of the new format on victimization or offending estimates (Kindermann, Lynch, and Cantor, 1997; Lynch and Cantor, 1996; Rand, Lynch, and Cantor, 1997). Prior analyses of data from the phase-in period showed that the new questionnaire significantly increased the reporting of victimization and the magnitude of the change varied according to crime type. Rape reporting increased most, followed by aggravated assault and simple assault. Robbery victimization rates were not significantly higher in the NCVS compared with the NCS. Generating Gender-Specific Rates of Violent Offending In order to use the NCS and NCVS data together, it is necessary to take into account this break in the series and weight the earlier NCS data in ways that are informed by research on the effects of methodological and content changes to the survey. Lynch (2002) details the appropriate procedures for estimating long-term offending trends using the NCS and the NCVS. We follow these procedures to generate gender-specific estimates of assault and robbery offending from 1980 through 2004.7 Some recent from 97 percent in 1980 to 86 percent in 2004. Census-created sampling weights are used to take into account possible differences in response rates according to the age, race, sex, and residential location of the respondent. Interviews are conducted in English and in Spanish. 5 Following a series of cues and questions about the possible occurrence of a victimization event, detailed questions are asked about what happened during the incident. The answers to these questions are used to place the incident into crime type categories. Subsequent questions about the incident arise in the following order: the number of times it occurred, when and where the incident took place, the nature of the incident (threatened, attacked, completed), whether the offender had a weapon, the extent of injuries and subsequent medical care, victim protective actions during the incident, whether bystanders were present, whether the victim knows anything about the offender, the number of offenders, the sex and age of the offender, whether the offender was a member of a street gang, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the victim’s relationship to the offender, and the race of the offender. 6 Key reasons for the changes in the survey were the difficulties of obtaining estimates of events that were not commonly thought of as “crimes” and discoveries about the extent of family, intimate partner, and sexual violence from other surveys about violence against women (Kindermann, Lynch, and Cantor, 1997). For the purposes of estimating violent victimization, the 1992redesign was the only major methodological break in the NCS-NCVS series. 7 We begin our analyses with data from 1980 because the victim-offender relationship measures in the NCS changed in the late 1970s. By starting with 1980, the same time series can be compared across consistently defined victim-offender categories. These years also correspond to the years addressed in two recent publications on gender and violent offending (Steffensmeier
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report research presents gender-specific estimates of adolescent and overall offending that depart from ours (Steffensmeier et al., 2005, 2006).8 We therefore describe our estimation procedure in detail. When an incident of attempted or completed violence is reported to an interviewer, respondents are asked a series of follow-up questions about the incident, including the number of offenders and the sex of those offenders. Estimates of the number of incidents involving female offenders depend on how one treats incidents involving single and multiple offenders.9 Because of this, we created two sets of measures to study female offense involvement. Our estimate of female involvement in violence includes single-offender incidents in which the offender was reported by the victim to be female and multiple-offender incidents in which any of the offenders were reported to be female. We also replicate our analyses using a more conservative measure of female violent offending that includes only single-offender incidents to assess whether changes in female involvement might be only as secondary offenders.10 For the 1992-2004 NCVS period, our annual gender-specific violent offending rates are defined as follows: et al., 2005, 2006). Although the definitions of stranger and nonstranger offenders did not change during this period, the additional categories of boyfriend/ex-boyfriend and girlfriend/ex-girlfriend made it possible to distinguish such incidents from those involving other friends and acquaintances to better define incidents involving intimate partners. 8 The estimation procedure used to produce gender-specific rates of offending by Steffensmeier et al. (2005) is described in a footnote 5, in which the authors state: “We use three years of data surrounding the transition to calibrate upwards pre-redesign surveys to account for the expanded range of behaviors measured by the revised survey. See Figure 2 for the formula” (p. 369). The formula in Figure 2 reads: “Multiplier = (n92 + n93 + n94)/(n90 + n91 + n92)” (p. 380). The same multiplier is noted in the later study (Steffensmeier et al., 2006, p. 87). 9 We found a slight increase over time in the percentage of incidents involving a single offender. Over the 1980-2004 period, approximately 54 percent of robberies, 72 percent of aggravated assaults, and 80 percent of simple assaults involved a single offender. Incidents in which the victim did not report the sex of the offender(s) were rare and are excluded from our estimates. About 1 percent of single-offender incidents are missing such information, as are about 2 percent of multiple-offender incidents. 10 Researchers must also decide how to treat series victimizations in their rate estimations. Victimizations of a similar nature that occur more than six times during a recall period and for which the victim cannot recall sufficient detail are referred to as series victimizations. (During the NCS period, series victimizations were defined by three rather than six incidents.) To reduce respondent burden, series victims are asked to report the details (including sex of the offender) for the most recent event of the series. Victims’ estimates of the number of times the event occurred tend to be rounded approximations that can have substantial influences on overall rates (see Planty, 2006; Rand and Rennison, 2005) as well as gender-specific offending rates. Because of this, we decided to count series victimizations as one incident. While male and female offending rates would certainly be higher if series victimizations were counted as three (NCS) or six (NCVS) or more incidents, we found that counting these crimes as one incident will not bias our conclusions about the gender gap in offending. Preliminary analyses showed that the proportion of robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault incidents
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report To estimate comparable offending rates for the 1980-1991 NCS period, we examined the data from the redesign overlap period and weighted the NCS data accordingly. Because the NCS and NCVS instruments were administered concurrently, estimates from the two surveys can be compared according to a variety of crime or victim characteristics. If the NCS/NCVS-ratio of the rate estimates from the overlap period are found to be statistically significant, that ratio is then applied to the NCS estimates to make them comparable to NCVS estimates.11 We found that the gender-specific offending estimates did not differ significantly within crime type; therefore, we use the same crime-specific ratios developed in earlier analyses of the design change and used by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Kindermann, Lynch, and Cantor, 1997). Thus, for the 1980-1991 period, the crime-specific offending rates were multiplied by wc, where wc = 1.00 for robbery, wc = 1.23 for aggravated assault, and wc = 1.75 for simple assault. Of course the NCS and NCVS estimates of offending are not without limitations and two caveats should be noted. First, the sample excludes persons who are unattached to households, and thus the data exclude incidents that are experienced by homeless and institutionalized persons. We do not know whether men and women offend against these persons in proportions that are different from their offending against others. Second, the use of weights to adjust NCS data to make them comparable to NCVS data assumes that the effect of the methodological change is constant across the NCS years. Although it cannot be determined whether this assumption is true, Rand, Lynch, and Cantor (1997) and others (Lynch, 2002) argue that reported to be series was low and declined slightly from 1980 to 2004, and that the proportion of series incidents with female offenders remained fairly stable over time. 11 Although prior research suggests that additional adjustments beyond crime type may not be necessary (e.g., Lynch and Cantor, 1996), we assessed whether this was true for gender-and crime-specific rates of offending. We compared the gender-specific offending estimates of robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault for the NCS/NCVS overlap period and found small but statistically insignificant differences in the ratio according to the gender of the offender. Thus the weights for our gender-specific offending estimates for the NCS period are the same for female and male rates, consisting of the crime-specific ratios developed in earlier analyses of the design change (e.g., Kindermann, Lynch, and Cantor, 1997). Lynch (2002) similarly found that the NCS adjustment rates for crimes involving juvenile offenders did not vary by gender but did vary according to crime type and the presence of adult co-offenders.
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report it is probably the case that any potential weighting error is correlated with time and that estimates for distant years may be more problematic than those for years closer to the redesign. While the first caveat warns that the rates will be underestimates, the second urges caution if conclusions about the gender gap are driven by data from the earliest years of the series. Generating Gender-Specific Rates of Violent Victimization We use similar procedures to create gender-specific estimates of aggravated assault, simple assault, and robbery victimization for the period 1980 to 2004.12 We also assessed how the NCS data should be weighted for the purpose of comparing crime- and gender-specific victimization rates. As with the offending data, small gender differences were associated with the new design for some types of victimization; however, these differences were not statistically significant.13 Therefore, the final weights for the victimization estimates in the NCS period consist of the crime-specific ratios used in our earlier analyses of the gender gap in offending. An important second strength is that NCVS estimates of violence against women have been shown to be externally valid when compared with estimates from the 1995 National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS). Rand and Rennison found that the rape rate was higher in the NVAWS than in the NCVS, but that the difference was not statistically significant due to the large standard error for the NVAWS estimate. The difference in women’s assault rates was also higher in the NCVS, and this difference was statistically significant (Rand and Rennison, 2005, pp. 278-280). Thus, despite important differences in sampling method and the use of alternative questions, cues, and prompts, estimates from the NVAWS suggest that the NCVS data provide valid and reliable information about violence against women. Also, it is important to remember the key limitations of the survey data regarding the sampling frame, the potential correlation between weighting error and time, and the fact that series victimizations are treated as a single incident. For reasons discussed earlier, we think that these limitations will lead to underestimated rates but are unlikely to bias our estimate of the trend in the gender rate ratio of violent victimization. Of course, all crime rates include measurement error, and sampling error is a component of the NCVS estimates. Changes in sampling error will not bias our trend esti- 12 The issue of how to treat single-offender versus multiple-offender incidents is not applicable in these analyses because the victim is a single individual. 13 When gender- and crime-specific weights are used, the adjustments make the gender gap appear slightly larger during the NCS time period. The use of such weights would suggest greater decreases in the gender gap over time.
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report FIGURE 3-7b Male violent victimization by victim-offender relationship, 1980-2004.
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report FIGURE 3-8a Female violent offending by victim-offender relationship, 1980-2004.
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report FIGURE 3-8b Male violent offending by victim-offender relationship, 1980-2004.
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report TABLE 3-3 Percentage Change in Female and Male Victimization and Offending Rates by Strangers, Nonstrangers, and Intimate Partners Across Decades: NCVS Victimization Offendinga 1984-1994 1994-2004 1984-1994 1994-2004 Female Male Female Male Female Male Female Male Stranger +24 +10 −66 −68 +243 +28 −52 −63 Nonstranger +17 −8 −52 −39 +20 −4 −46 −57 Intimate partner +5 + −54 − + +13 − −59 NOTE: Includes rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. aBased on single-offender incidents only. + = Rates too low to assess percentage change; however, data suggest increase. − = Rates too low to assess percentage change; however, data suggest decrease. victimization by nonstrangers and intimate partners also increased between 1984 and 1994 (17 and 5 percent, respectively), but at lower rates than the risk of stranger violence. Nonstranger victimization against men decreased only slightly between 1984 and 1994 (see Table 3-3), when the comparable female rates were increasing. This suggests that prior to 1994, female risks of violence increased more than male risks in all relationship categories, and the largest percentage increases among women occurred in violence by strangers. After 1994, violent victimization declined for both genders across all relationship categories. The drop was quite sizable and comparable across gender in violence by strangers (66 percent for women, 68 percent for men). There was a less marked decline in nonstranger violence across gender, but women did experience a greater proportionate reduction in risk than men (52 and 39 percent, respectively). Women also experienced a sizable reduction in the risk of violence by intimate partners during this period (54 percent). We conclude from this that the crime drop of the late 1990s and early 2000s affected female victimization similarly across relationship categories, but it had relatively greater consequences for male experiences with victimization by strangers. Table 3-3 summarizes similar disaggregated trends based on offending. Female offending against strangers increased between 1984 and 1994; then it declined at a rate similar to male offending against strangers between 1994 and 2004. While female violence against strangers has always been very low, Table 3-3 (and Figure 3-8a) show that it increased by 243 percent between 1984 (1.1 per 1,000) and 1994 (4.2 per 1,000). Female offending against nonstrangers increased by a smaller percentage (20 percent) during this period, from 6.9 per 1,000 in 1984 to 8.2 per 1,000 by 1994. The per-
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report centage increase in male violence against strangers was 28 percent between 1984 and 1994, and male violence against nonstrangers declined by 4 percent during this same decade (Figure 3-8b). Although the rates of female violence against strangers are very low and thus a small change in absolute numbers produces a very large percentage increase, the steeper upward slope in female stranger (Figure 3-8a) than male stranger (Figure 3-8b) offending would seem to flag a noteworthy change. We explore this further in the concluding section. Turning to intimate partner offending and victimization, Table 3-3 shows that the decline in male intimate partner offending (and, equivalently, female intimate partner victimization) occurred between 1994 and 2004. In fact, the data suggest that male intimate partner offending increased slightly during the 1984 to 1994 period. Since these peak years, male rates of offending against strangers, nonstrangers, and intimate partners have all declined at similar magnitude, which could suggest that there may be some common causes of the declines in these types of offending during this period. We are unaware of any research that has assessed the factors associated with the decline in nonlethal intimate partner violence during the 1990s, but we suggest that future investigations of such trends should consider additional factors beyond changes in domestic violence policies and practices, which, along with women’s economic and marriage rates, have been the focus of intimate partner homicide trends (e.g., Dugan, Nagin, and Rosenfeld, 1999, 2003). The trends by gender of offender, type of violence, and gender of victim suggest a few basic conclusions. First, the modal category of violent crime in 2004 is not the same as it was in 1994 or 1984. Figures 3-7a and 3-7b show clearly that the risk for stranger and nonstranger violent victimization has declined substantially for women and men since 1993, but it also shows that these declines have been proportionately greater for stranger violence than for nonstranger violence. Indeed, while male victimization by strangers was by far the modal category of violence in the early 1980s, by 2004 it had decreased to the point at which it was no longer substantially higher than male or female victimization by nonstrangers. Second, despite the low base rate of female violence against strangers, the relatively large percentage increase between 1984 and 1994 seems to warrant further investigation. Third, Figures 3-7a and 3-7b show that, throughout the series, nonstranger violence against men and women has been at roughly comparable levels, but female rates came to exceed those of men by 1992. DISCUSSION This chapter uses pooled NCS-NCVS data to show that violence involving women has come to constitute a greater proportion of violent incidents
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report over time and that gender clearly matters for understanding U.S. crime trends. First, we present empirical evidence from victims’ reports of the gender of their assailants that shows meaningful changes in the gender rate ratios of violent offending over time, with some narrowing in the gender gap in aggravated assault, simple assault, and robbery. Second, we present data on the gender of victims that shows that the gender gap in violent victimization has narrowed for aggravated and simple assault. These findings are further illuminated by the changing patterns of female and male victimization and offending across stranger, nonstranger, and intimate partner relationships. The fact that gender rate ratios of offending and victimization have not remained stable indicates that there may well be something unique about gender during this time period. It also suggests that fully understanding crime trends requires consideration of variation across gender and victim-offender relationships. Furthermore, these findings clearly differ from those based on homicide data, which show no narrowing of the gender gap in victimization. This shows the need to go beyond homicide data to understand gender and violent victimization. As noted at the outset, the goal of this chapter is to present data on long-term trends in female and male offending and victimization, as well as trends in the gender rate ratios. Examining long-term trends is essential for contextualizing shorter term fluctuations in crime rates, and to date research has not examined gender differences in long-term trends in both victimization and offending. In these conclusions, we compare the patterns in offending and victimization and illuminate them further using our findings of patterns across victim-offender relationships. We do not claim to explain the source of gender differences and similarities in these trends, as a time-series analysis that includes a full set of covariates would be questionable given the sample size of 25 years. Rather, because the first step in understanding any phenomenon is thorough description, we seek to highlight select comparisons and offer hypotheses to stimulate future research in this area. A first observation that emerges from the data is that, with the exception of aggravated assault offending, a notable portion of the narrowing of the gender gap in violence can be traced to changing female-to-male ratios before the crime decline of the mid-1990s. Our findings show that large gender differences across the relationship categories occurred before the mid-1990s. During this time, there were increases in both offending against nonstrangers and victimization by nonstrangers among women, yet the corresponding male rates decreased. There also was a notable percentage increase in female violent offending against strangers and victimization by strangers before the mid-1990s, whereas male rates showed smaller percentage increases. This suggests that gender-specific social changes linked to victimization and offending may have occurred before the onset of the
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report great crime decline of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and these changes appear to hold for both stranger and nonstranger crime. It is interesting that the gender gap decreases not only across types of violence, but also for both victimization and offending. The fact that the largest increases in the gender rate ratios of offending and victimization occur at roughly the same time is not surprising, given research showing that involvement in victimization and offending are correlated and share many of the same predictors (Sampson and Lauritsen, 1994). Yet, because previous studies have not compared the gender gaps in offending and victimization over time, this correspondence has been ignored in the literature on crime trends and remains an important area for future research. These shifts in the gender rate ratios of violence may have been associated with broad social changes due to enhanced social freedoms for women and gender equality that increased before and during the 1980s. For women, these changes may have been accompanied by higher levels of public interactions, in the labor force and elsewhere, thus expanding opportunities for violent victimization and offending. However, changing gender roles may have had two very different consequences for violent victimization. On one hand, it may be that displays of interpersonal violence became increasingly less acceptable as women increasingly occupied the public sphere, thus helping to reduce male victimization. This comports with the long-term declines that we uncovered in violence against both men and women, by strangers as well as nonstrangers. On the other hand, women’s increased presence in public life simultaneously created greater opportunities for nonfamilial victimization. Thus, although rates of violent victimization declined for both genders over the past 25 years, the decline for women was less than the decline for men for aggravated and simple assaults. Viewing the trend data as an indicator of motivation for offending rather than opportunities for victimization suggests an alternative hypothesis: perhaps changing gender roles increased women’s vulnerability to the effects of the economy. Although the feminization of poverty slowed in the 1980s for all ages combined, the youth of both genders felt the brunt of the decade’s difficult economic times (Bianchi, 1999). The experience of economic stress may have combined with greater participation in street life by young women to produce relatively greater changes in women’s than men’s violent encounters. Other hypotheses are certainly plausible. Perhaps increasing incarceration rates or changes in the policing of public spaces over the period studied had a more significant impact on male than female offending rates, thus contributing to the reduction in the gender gap in offending. Because men are more likely than women to be the victims of male-perpetrated violence, the large increases in the numbers of men incarcerated may have had a
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report larger impact on male victimization than female victimization rates, thus contributing to increasing gender rate ratios of violent victimization. Similarly, increases in the policing of public places may have disproportionately decreased male victimization. It is also important to understand why the crime drop after the mid-1990s affected women and men rather similarly. One hypothesis is that, perhaps by the 1990s, growth in social freedoms for women had slowed and the factors affecting female and male trends became more similar. So, for example, economic prosperity and the growth in imprisonment may have spurred decreases in female as well as male victimization and offending. Another hypothesis is that different factors were associated with the similar rates of decline in female and male violence. For example, the decline in female intimate partner victimization may have been related, in part, to successful policies and programs targeting violence against women, which became more widespread during the 1990s. Declines in other forms of violence against women, such as violence by strangers, and declines in violence against men may have been more associated with other contemporaneous policies targeting crime more generally, such as increased incarceration. Moreover, it could be that policies aimed at reducing violence against women had a spillover effect on other forms of male offending, by bringing men into the criminal justice system when they otherwise might have remained free to commit other types of offenses. One final issue uncovered by our disaggregation of crime trends concerns the changing composition of violence over time. While male stranger victimization was by far the modal category of violence in the early 1980s, by 2004 it had decreased to the point at which it was no longer substantially higher than male or female nonstranger victimization. Why stranger violence has declined more rapidly than other forms of nonlethal violence is a challenging question for future research. Moreover, nonstranger violence against men and women had occurred at comparable levels, but female nonstranger victimization rates came to exceed male rates by about 1992. This means that nonstranger violence is now a critical part of violence in the United States, and women are now affected at levels similar to those of men. This presents a challenge to criminal justice policy, and it indicates that new efforts to reduce nonlethal violent crime are unlikely to have much effect unless they can affect violence by nonstrangers. If interventions to reduce violence against women have had some impact on violence by men both inside and outside intimate partner relationships, such strategies may offer a place to start the thinking about crafting policy to reduce violence. We note that our analyses cannot speak to race, ethnicity, or age differences in these gender-specific patterns of offending and victimization. This is a very important issue that requires careful research attention to determine whether the patterns of gender rate ratios that we observed
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Understanding Crime Trends: Workshop Report would hold across different race and age groups. Although the study of race and age differences in nonlethal victimization and offending cannot be addressed with UCR data, these important issues can be addressed with careful use of the NCVS data. However, disaggregating the data to address these patterns involves methodological complexities beyond those described here and therefore is beyond the scope of the present analysis. Our goal here has been to take a first step by focusing on long-term trends in the gender rate ratios of offending and victimization as measured by pooled NCS-NCVS data and to link the study of violence against women to the study of crime trends. In conclusion, our findings highlight the complexities inherent in understanding trends in violence across crime types and gender. The trends that we present indicate that gender-specific trends in violence share similarities but also are sufficiently unique to indicate that female victimization and offending should be part of the consideration of crime trends in the United States. Given that the data reveal some reduction in the gender gap in violent offending and victimization, the situation is akin to that of a narrowing gender gap in mortality from heart disease. Even in a period of an overall decline in crime (or heart disease) the fact that women benefit less than men from the social changes affecting crime rates over the past 25 years signals the need for both scientific research and social policy to address the differences. Gender is therefore an important part of the story of violence in the United States and should not be excluded from analyses of crime trends. REFERENCES Batton, Candice. (2004). Gender differences in lethal violence: Historical trends in the relationship between homicide and suicide rates, 1960-2000. Justice Quarterly, 21, 423-461. Bianchi, Suzanne M. (1999). Feminization and juvenilization of poverty: Trends, relative risks, causes and consequences. Annual Review of Sociology, 25, 307-333. Blumstein, Alfred. (2000). Disaggregating the violence trends. In Alfred Blumstein and Joel Wallman (Eds.), The crime drop in America (pp. 13-44). New York: Cambridge University Press. Blumstein, Alfred, and Joel Wallman. (2000). The crime drop in America. New York: Cambridge University Press. Browne, Angela, and Kirk Williams. (1993). Gender, intimacy, and lethal violence: Trends from 1976 through 1987. Gender and Society, 7, 75-94. Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2006). Criminal victimization in the U.S., 2004. Statistical tables. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice. Catalano, Shannan. (2006). Intimate partner violence in the United States. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice. Dugan, Laura, Daniel S. Nagin, and Richard Rosenfeld. (1999). Explaining the decline in intimate partner homicide: The effects of changing domesticity, women’s status, and domestic violence resources. Homicide Studies, 3, 187-214.
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