Elaborating Toward a General Theory on Violent Victimization

Laura J. Dugan, University of Maryland at College Park
Robert Apel, University of Maryland at College Park

Policy research has previously been designed to examine how intervention strategies impact a person's risk of future victimization. However, that research assumes that the target population will choose to pursue available policy options. This research considers ideas found in theoretical perspectives such as routine activities, rational choice, and feminist theory to outline a dynamic, yet general, theoretical approach to explain differences in victimization risk across cultures and types of violent offenses. It focuses on the target's choice to pursue options that alter his or her dangerous rountine activities. It outlines a choice process used by potential targets that not only depends on the pereived costs and benefits of a change, but also relies on the targets preferences, historical and cultural norms described in feminist theory. Our ideas move further beyond those delineated in routine activities by considering the enhanced risk of retaliation once the target chooses to alter dangerous routines. For instance, we propose that the closer the relationship between the victim and offender, the greater the risk for retaliatory violence. Finally, we use data from the National Crime Victimization Survey to examine the consistency of patterns of victimization with the new elaborative theoretical approach.

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Updated 05/20/2006