Childhood Sexual Victimization, Running Away and Crime: Results From a Prospective Study

Jane A. Siegel, Rutgers University
Linda M. Williams, Wellesley College

Many scholars have noted the theoretical importance of childhood victimization in understanding female delinquency and crime. Life histories of female offenders demonstrate a pattern in which victimization precipitates running away, which in turn places a girl at risk of involvement in delinquent activity on the street, largely for survival. In this paper, we examine whether victims of child sexual abuse are more likely than non-victims to report having run away and whether their reasons for running away were related to their abuse experiences. The sample for this study consists of 174 women; half were known to have been victims of child sexual abuse (CSA) in the early 1970s. Analyses are based on interviews with the women conducted in 1997-98 when the women ranged in age from 23 to 37. The interviews not only asked about the women's histories of victimization and running away but also posed questions about any delinquent behaviors they engaged in after running away and whether they had engaged in such acts prior to running away. The relationship between CSA, running away and crime is examined based on both official reports of CSA from the 1970s as well as retrospective self-reports of CSA from the follow-up interviews.

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Updated 05/20/2006