Female Victimization and Offending: Exploring the Link Within the Context of Gangs

Dana Nurge, Northeastern University
Michael Shively, Abt Associates

Research on female offending has established, and continually focused on, the role that women's victimization experiences play in their criminal offending. The tendency to emphasize victimization (both the role of previous victimization experiences and the effort to prevent current/future victimization) has led many researchers to minimize or discount female offenders' agency. Using data from a qualitative study of female gang in Boston, this paper examines members' involvement in violent acts, and explores the connections between their victimization and offending experiences. Findings reveal a link between some females' prior victimization experiences and their subsequent involvement in, and thoughts about, violent offending. Yet findings also suggest that females' acts of violence may serve a variety of functions and are not strictly about preventing victimization. Like males, females sometimes engage in violence for practical or emotional benefits such as acts could provide: money/material goods, excitement/thrills, power/domination, status and so forth.

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Updated 05/20/2006