Declining Gender Gap in Violent Victimization

Women are consistently less likely to be violent crime victims and offenders. However, while the difference between men’s and women’s rates of offending is very large, the difference between men’s and women’s rates of victimization is much smaller. In other words, women are at a greater risk for victimization than we would expect given their lower levels of criminal offending. Moreover, there has been a decrease in the “gender gap” or difference in victimization risk for women and men over recent decades.

Two papers (Lauritsen and Heimer 2008 and Heimer and Lauritsen 2008) examine long-term changes in female and male violent victimization, female and male violent offending, and the gendered patterns of victim/offender relationships in violent incidents. The authors produce estimates of annual rates of female and male violent offending and victimization for 1973 through 2004 by pooling NCS and NCVS data. Overall, the data indicate that the gender gap in offending has narrowed over time, with violent offending declining for both genders since the middle 1990s. The gender gap in violent victimization has begun to converge, with female rates approaching male rates for aggravated assaults perpetrated by strangers, as well as by persons known to the victim. Female and male rates of nonlethal intimate partner violence have also begun to converge, primarily because while male rates remained stable, female rates increased between 1979 and 1993 and then declined substantially after the early 1990s. It is notable that changes in the gender gap in nonlethal intimate partner violence occurred around the same time that male criminal offending declined and domestic violence intervention programs became more available.