The Cost of Being Female: Gender, Violent Crime, and the Privatization of Risk

Ann M. Lucas, San Jose State University

Over the past year, insurance policies have become available to some women who fear being victimized by specific violent crimes. In Japan, such insurance is offered to women who believe they may be stalked; the insurance pays for a detective to gather evidence which is then turned over to police, and also covers bodily injury and property damage. In South Africa, insurance has been developed as one response to the problem of rape of women and children, which has reached epidemic levels over the past few years; among other things, this insurance pays for anti-retroviral drugs for rape survivors to try to reduce the risk of AIDS for those exposed to HIV through sexual assault. This paper evaluates this move toward insurance as a response to the risk of violent crime, addressing how the availability of such insurance may affect social attitudes toward crime, criminals, and victims, including the possibility that crimes against women may become "normalized"; the extent to which it is appropriate to shift responsibility for law, order, and justice to private, for-profit parties; and the possibility that such policies reinforce stereotyped images of women (as weak and vulnerable) and of men (as predators and offenders).

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Updated 05/20/2006