Are women at more risk of violence than men at night?
August 6, 2012 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Are women actually at more risk of violence than men at night? I'm looking for crime statistics and well supported research (such as reports and journal articles) on violence (such as muggings, assault, etc ) and gender.

I've managed to find a lot of articles about gender and perceived risk, but not much about how this tallies with actual risk. From the few off-hand comments I have seen in reports it seems like young men are actually at the highest risk of experiencing violence, but they are the people who are encouraged to be most confident walking around at night.

Of course, I'm fairly sure that women are at higher risk of sexual violence, and answers that explore this are fine too. However, my assumption is that the risk of sexual violence from strangers whilst walking around at night is quite low- much more likely to be attacked by a friendly colleague or acquaintance driving a woman home to 'protect' her for instance, and that drinking at a party or going on a date is a more high risk activity than walking alone at night.

For the purposes of this question I'm interested in well-supported, academic style research rather than anecdotes. Research that explores other aspects of this question- such as differences in crime rates between night and day, and the impact of intersectionality on risk is welcome too. I'm based in the UK so research that explores the situation here is particularly interesting to me, but research based in other countries is fine too.
posted by ninjablob to Society & Culture (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It would be nearly impossible to determine this, as women and men are socialized to behave differently with regard to risky behavior. If you have a population on N women and P men, and 0.4N is wary of pedestrian travel at night, your sample is incredibly skewed from the start.

It would, however, be possible to gather data on the incidence of violence by gender. But that's not the same thing.
posted by charmcityblues at 3:17 PM on August 6, 2012 [7 favorites]

Charmcity is spot on. You can't necessarily calculate risk - women are often told not to walk alone at night. Some do anyway, but some follow the warning. So if someone does not "attack" a woman, it may not be that she was intrinsically at a lower risk, but that the buddy system deterred the attacker.

That said, have you checked this out? This article (pdf) states that "more" men are involved in violent altercations, but it doesn't give a number, and is more about alcohol that time. However they say they got the data from BCS.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 3:26 PM on August 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would suggest that you include, among the "other aspects" you consider, threats of violence as well as actual violent acts.
posted by prefpara at 3:28 PM on August 6, 2012

For an overview, a quick look at the relevant datasets from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (formerly the British Crime Survey) will confirm that men are more likely to be victims of violent crime generally, while women are more likely to be victims of "intimate crime" (including domestic abuse, stalking and sexual assault).
posted by howfar at 4:06 PM on August 6, 2012

From the few off-hand comments I have seen in reports it seems like young men are actually at the highest risk of experiencing violence, but they are the people who are encouraged to be most confident walking around at night.

My impression (observation, not research, but potentially another apples-to-oranges hurdle in your quest) is that while young men are at higher risk, most of this risk is of the "takes two to tango" variety. Ie it's not the result of men being more at risk of muggings and out-of-the-blue surprise attacks, but being more likely to act in ways where initially non-violent situations (such as an insult) don't get "flagged-and-moved-on" rapidly enough, and instead people ratchet up until violence breaks out - often even when neither party actually wants to be violent, but still end up prolonging or escalating because they don't feel like they have better (face saving) options.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:30 PM on August 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

This would depend on if you consider "being approached, confronted, searched, and antagonized by a man with a gun, pepper spray, baton, handcuffs, body armor, military training, and no accountability for his actions" a form of violence.
posted by DJ Broken Record at 9:37 PM on August 6, 2012

Independent of the gender-based facets of the OP's question it seems that his or her hypothesis that "drinking at a party or going on a date is a more high risk activity than walking alone at night" is something that can reasonably be investigated. The threats of violence prefpara mentions might well be more frequent in the former two cases rather than the latter. It could be the case because of the difference in socialized behavior that charmcityblues points out.
posted by XMLicious at 10:51 PM on August 6, 2012

There are some statistics about US homicides here (not precisely what you're asking about, but in the ballpark). :

Between 1976-2005, US men were more than three times as likely to be murdered than US women were. Among the men who got murdered over the last thirty-something years, 15.5% were murdered by strangers, as compared to women (who are murdered by strangers 8.7% of the time). So if you are talking about probability of being killed by a stranger, US men are the victims at a rate of about six to one.

Your question might be easier to answer if the variables were nailed down more precisely (i.e. does mugging count and do we put it in the same column as homicide). Also, is the night factor crucial, or are you mostly interested in street violence between strangers? And of course the points made by charmcity and harlequin are spot on...
posted by feets at 12:55 AM on August 7, 2012

In the UK, men are at greater risk of violence. And young men more so.

The stats below are from the British Crime Survey (which others have linked to above).

The risk of being a victim of violent crime in the 2009/10 BCS was 3.0 per cent. Men were more than twice as likely as women (4.2% compared with 1.8%) to have experienced violence in the year prior to interview. The risk was highest for men aged 16 to 24 at 13.3 per cent.

It doesn't say anything about time of day though.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:21 AM on August 7, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers so far.
Obviously this a huge and complex area. It might help to be clear about where I'm coming from with this question (as a kind of background) : I think that messages women are given about safety are more to do with social control and sexist attitudes than concern for women's safety, and that behaviour considered high risk, like walking alone at night or being alone at home, aren't at all in comparison to the risk women are at of violence from friends and acquaintances.

So the reason I'm interested in the different rates for violence at night for women and men is simply that, as it does appear that men are at greater risk of impersonal, stranger violence, it seems hypocritical to be telling women to restrict their movements and always travel with a friend on the basis of very little evidence.

Sure, women behaving in different ways to men because they consider themselves at higher risk of violence is something obviously any good research would address, but there are a variety of ways I can imagine researchers could use to approach the question nevertheless. Social research looks at difficult to answer questions all the time.

I'm not expecting a link to articles that will provide a definitive answer to all aspects of the question, but rather ones that explore gender and crime in relevant ways. Some of you have made some useful points about what factors might influence how the research is conducted, but I'd expect relevant research to take them (and more) into account anyway.
posted by ninjablob at 3:41 AM on August 7, 2012

You might want to check out research based on routine activities theory in criminology. Use combinations of keywords including 'routine activities' 'gender' 'lifestyle' and 'victimization' Some useful papers could be:

Jensen & Brownfield, 1986
Sampson & Woolredge, 1987
Mesch 2000

Jensen & Brownfield: When differences in participation in delinquent activity are adjusted for, differences between male and female adolescent victimization are substantially reduced
Sampson & Woolredge: if you control for differences in normal patterns of behavior, women are more likely to suffer from personal theft than men.
Mesch: fear of crime influences night time behavior and exposure to risk of victimization. Women report higher perceived risk of crime at night and their night time activities were likely to differ from (and be less risk-taking than) those of men.

The story here is pretty complex. There are real differences in terms of gender and lifestyle that are also related to the differences between men and women in terms of victimization. When these differences are adjusted for, women seem to be more likely to be victimized for some types of crimes, but not necessarily for others. It is likely however that if women's average behavior and lifestyles changed to put them into more frequent contact with criminogenic places and times (in terms of putting women into more frequent contact with strangers who are likely to victimize them), then they would also be more likely to be victimized.
posted by _cave at 6:53 AM on August 7, 2012

There was a report on this in 2009 from Statistics Sweden, a government organ. It's only available in Swedish, but perhaps you can still interpret the graphs and tables.

The report is interview-based, and concludes is that men are overall subject to more violence and threats of violence than women. When threats are included, the difference is not very large, though, and has decreased in recent years. If only actual violence is counted (not threats), the report says men are substantially more often victims, but does not quantify it as far as I can see.

Women are subject to more violence and threats at home (in particular single women with young children) and at work, whereas men are more often the victims in public places/outdoors. There are big differences between age groups as well.

If you'd like some more of this translated, feel free to send me a mail.
posted by springload at 4:17 PM on August 7, 2012

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