In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Feminist Victimization Theories

  • Introduction
  • Gender and Victimization
  • Gendering Traditional Victimology/Criminology
  • Patriarchy and Victimization
  • Feminist Theories of Intersectionality and Victimization
  • Feminism and the Broader Field of Victimology and Criminal Justice

Criminology Feminist Victimization Theories
Courtney Crittenden, Christina Policastro
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0231


Much of feminist theory focuses on offending, particularly among women. However, there is a growing body of literature related to feminist victimization theory and/or examining victimization through a feminist lens. This research attempts to better understand how gender influences victimization risk, types of victimization experienced, and other key factors. A major component of all feminist theories is that gender is socially constructed. Yet, even though it is “only” a social construction, it has very real and tangible consequences in our society. While feminist theories have historically noted the privilege differential between men and women in society, current feminist theories often include other social dimensions such as race, class, and sexuality. All of these social dimensions illustrate privilege and marginalization in American society (and many other Western nations) and have an impact on the victimization of individuals. In this bibliography, feminist victimization theories are categorized into gender and victimization, the gendering of traditional victimology and criminology, patriarchy and victimization, feminist theories explaining violence against women, feminist theories of intersectionality and victimization, and feminism and its impact on the broader field of victimology and criminal justice.

Gender and Victimization

There is much literature which examines how gender impacts victimization in general and then more specifically by type of victimization. For instance, Belknap 2014 focuses on women’s experiences with various components of the criminal justice system, including how victimization shapes the female experience with offending and justice. Other research examines specific types of victimization such as Lauritsen and Carbone-Lopez 2011 and Daigle and Mummert 2014 which examine risk factors for violent victimization and Wilcox, et al. 2009 which explores school victimization. Some works like May, et al. 2010 have also investigated how gender influences individuals’ fear of crime and perceived victimization risk. Another line of inquiry examines how women’s victimization experiences influence involvement in criminal behavior. Chesney-Lind 1997 underscores the influence of violent victimization in childhood and how this leads to offending in adulthood, while Miller 1998 and Miller and Decker 2001 examine how female involvement in gangs influences female adolescents’ offending, as well as victimization risk. Daly 1992 examines women’s pathways to crime and how these often involve violence and trauma for women and girls.

  • Belknap, J. 2014. The invisible woman: Gender, crime, and justice. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

    This book provides an in-depth look at how gender affects the experiences of females who enter the criminal justice system as offenders, victims, and/or professionals with special attention to how females’ early childhood experiences with victimization and trauma affect life trajectories and the nature of offending.

  • Chesney-Lind, M. 1997. The female offender: Girls, women, and crime. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Chesney-Lind, in her seminal work, discusses the importance of trauma and abuse in the lives of female offenders across the life-course and how the criminal justice system may be used to further subjugate or marginalize girls and women.

  • Daigle, L. E., and S. J. Mummert. 2014. Sex-role identification and violent victimization: Gender differences in the role of masculinity. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 29.2: 255–278.

    DOI: 10.1177/0886260513505148

    Daigle and Mummert investigate how one’s identification of being feminine, masculine, androgynous, or undifferentiated influences the risk of being the victim of a violent, non-sexual victimization.

  • Daly, K. 1992. Women’s pathways to felony court: Feminist theories of lawbreaking and problems of representation. Southern California Review of Law & Women’s Studies 2:11–52.

    Daly categorizes women who commit crime and explores how women’s lives including experienced victimizations lead women to crime.

  • Lamb, S., ed. 1999. New versions of victims: Feminists struggle with the concept. New York: New York Univ. Press.

    Lamb highlights the limitations of the social constructions of victims as either individuals to whom nothing of significance happened or were at fault for their victimization or as individuals who will have to bear lifelong suffering due to their trauma and how victimologists should work to overcome these oversimplified categorizations.

  • Lauritsen, J. L., and K. Carbone-Lopez. 2011. Gender differences in risk factors for violent victimization: An examination of individual-, family-, and community-level predictors. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 48.4: 538–565.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022427810395356

    Lauritsen and Carbone-Lopez use data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to examine whether victimization risks vary by gender when assessing individual, family, and community level factors on violent victimization and find that often risk factors among males and females are similar, however there are some important gender differences.

  • May, D. C., N. E. Rader, and S. Goodrum. 2010. A gendered assessment of the “threat of victimization”: Examining gender differences in fear of crime, perceived risk, avoidance, and defensive behaviors. Criminal Justice Review 35.2: 159–182.

    DOI: 10.1177/0734016809349166

    Based on data from a sample of two thousand adult residents in a single state, this study demonstrates that gender differences exist in the different dimensions of Rader’s latent construct, threat of victimization which includes the culminating factors: avoidance, defensive behaviors, perceived risks, and fear of crime.

  • Miller, J. 1998. Gender and victimization risk among young women in gangs. Journal of research in crime and delinquency 35.4: 429–453.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022427898035004004

    Relying on qualitative data, Miller highlights how female gang members navigate risk within and outside of their gangs, establishing that some behaviors (i.e., abstaining from criminal activity) may be protective against violence from rival gangs while simultaneously placing females at risk of victimization by their fellow gang members.

  • Miller, J., and S. H. Decker. 2001. Young women and gang violence: Gender, street offending, and violent victimization in gangs. Justice Quarterly 18.1: 115–140.

    DOI: 10.1080/07418820100094841

    A multi-method analysis involving qualitative interview data with young female gang members and quantitative homicide data reveals gender influences the social structure of gangs in such a way that female members are at a decreased risk of physical victimization compared to their male gang-involved counterparts.

  • Wilcox, P., M. S. Tillyer, and B. S. Fisher. 2009. Gendered opportunity? School-based adolescent victimization. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 46:245–269.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022427808330875

    Drawing upon the concept of the principle of homogamy, this study investigates how gender moderates the effects of criminal opportunity on youth victimization and provides evidence for gender-specific, as well as gender-neutral, risk factors for victimization within the context of school victimization.

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