"Criminals are inside of our homes": intimate partner violence and fear of crime.

Author:Broll, Ryan
Position:Canada
 
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Despite the fact that approximately one quarter of the Canadian population aged 15 years and older reports being the victim of a criminal incident in the past year (Perreault and Brennan 2010), few Canadians seem to be worried about crime. In fact, 93% of Canadians report feeling satisfied with their personal safety, more than 8 in 10 are not worried when home alone in the evening, and some 90% of Canadians feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhood at night (Brennan 2011). Notwithstanding these general feelings of safety and personal security, past research indicates that Canadians who have been the victim of crime whether property or violent--are more likely to report higher levels of fear of crime than those who have not been victimized (AuCoin and Beauchamp 2007; Brennan 2011; Keown 2010). For instance, 94% of Canadians who have not been a crime victim are satisfied with their personal safety, compared to 92% of those who were a victim one time and 87% of those who were a victim two or more times, both of which numbers represent statistically significant decreases in feelings of safety (Brennan 2011). Similarly, the use of crime prevention measures to protect oneself from crime is much more common among Canadians who have been the victim of crime (57%) than among those who had not (32%) (Brennan 2011), demonstrating the behavioural impact that victimization can have on Canadians' everyday experiences.

While the literature on fear of crime has expanded considerably in recent decades, an important shortcoming remains that most research on fear of crime ignores intimate partner violence (IPV). Given that victims of crime report much lower levels of satisfaction with their personal safety (Brennan 2011), the possibility exists that victims of crimes that are committed by a partner might feel heightened levels of fear yet again. Although the greatest fear of many women--and the majority of policies aimed at addressing those fears--is that they will be victimized by a stranger in a public locale (Madriz 1997), most research shows that crimes against women are more likely to be committed by somebody within their social network or even their own home (Johnson and Bunge 2001; Madriz 1997; Stanko 1990b, 1991, 1993). (2) As Madriz (1997: 13) explains, however, "curiously, the relation between domestic violence and fear of crime has been neglected. We do not know, for example, whether a woman who is the victim of intimate violence or violence committed by her mate is also more fearful on the streets." In this sense, Haggerty's (2003) contention that harms that are statistically more common do not receive the same attention as less likely, but more extreme, offences would seem to be quite accurate.

In this paper, I first briefly examine the literature on IPV (3) and fear of crime. Next, the study's data and methodology are discussed. The results, in which I specifically examine the relationship between IPV and fear of crime, are then presented. I conclude this paper by offering a discussion of these findings and the implications that they may have for understanding the relationship between IPV and fear of crime.

Intimate partner violence and fear of crime

Surveys administered by the state consistently indicate gender variations in respondents' fear of crime. Most frequently, these surveys report that women's level of fear is much higher than men's, despite overall lower rates of victimization (Brennan 2011; Kelly and DeKeseredy 1994; Kitchen and Williams 2010), which follows broader social trends wherein those who fear crime the most are typically the least likely to be victimized (Haggerty 2003). For many people, their fear of crime is much greater than their actual likelihood of being victimized, largely because "public knowledge and opinions about [crime] are based upon collective representations rather than accurate information" (Garland 2001:158)--that is, fear of crime reflects an individual's actual victimization as well as indirect victimization, such as experiences they hear from others or through the media (Kelly and DeKeseredy 1994; Perkins and Taylor 1996). Thus, scholars have suggested that one's personal experiences with crime play, at most, a limited role in explaining that person's fear of crime (Warr 1984,1985).

Many feminist researchers, however, have argued that physical, sexual, and psychological abuse by male intimates is a major predictor of women's overall fear of crime (Madriz 1997; Radford 1987; Stanko 1990a, 1990b, 1991). Therefore, it is suggested that women's fear is well founded on objective facts (Hanmer and Saunders 1984), but much of the violence experienced by women at the hands of male intimates is not considered when examining fear of crime (Smith 1988; Stanko 1990a, 1990b, 1991). The lack of a focus on IPV when studying women's fear of crime persists, despite the fact that studies of IPV clearly demonstrate that females are disproportionately more likely than males to be abused by an intimate partner (Borkowski, Murch, and Walker 1983; Buzawa 2007; Dutton, Hart, Kennedy, and Williams 1992; Gill 2006; Green 2007; Johnson and Bunge 2001; Kurz 1992; McCue 2008; Tjaden and Thoennes 1998; Ursel 2006). For example, recent studies indicate that as many as 25% of American women compared to just 8% of American men are abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives (Tjaden and Thoennes 1998). Furthermore, some evidence suggests that these experiences contribute to women's feelings of fear and insecurity and affect their everyday lives (Hanmer and Saunders 1984; Madriz 1997; Stanko 1990a). Indeed, among Canadian women who reported experiencing abuse in the 2004 General Social Survey, 34% also reported fearing for their lives (Johnson 2005).

Despite indications that IPV may have an important influence on women's fears, "traditional studies on fear of crime have ignored the links between domestic violence and feelings of fear or apprehension" (Madriz 1997: 64). Several women interviewed by Madriz explained that the crime they most fear is abuse by an intimate partner. Madriz further notes that women who experience IPV not only experience violence in the home but also the same risks and fears that other women face on the streets. This is particularly disconcerting given that, for women, more so than for men, fear of crime often leads to changes in behaviours and routines. For instance, as a result of their anxieties, many women will not go out alone after dark, they keep their windows and doors locked at all times (even when they are home), and they dress in ways that will not draw unwanted attention to themselves (Madriz 1997; Renzetti and Maier 2002). Madriz (1997) describes such behaviours in terms of the notion of limited lives. In her book Nothing Bad Happens to Good Girls, Madriz (1997) argues that fear of crime contributes to the social control of women by accentuating gender inequalities that help to maintain patriarchal power and, in particular, the patriarchal control of women. Accordingly, the image of women as victims and the fear that this image creates limit women's ability to see themselves as citizens with the same rights as men. A handful of qualitative studies support this position, finding that IPV affects the ways in which women live their lives (Hanmer and Saunders 1984; Radford 1987; Stanko 1990a, 1990b, 1991).

An even smaller number of quantitative studies have tested the hypothesis that IPV victimization increases women's fear of crime with mixed results. For example, Smith (1988) examined data from a representative sample of women in a large metropolitan area. His findings indicate that women who have experienced severe forms of violence are much more fearful than women who have experienced minor forms of violence or no violence at all. Women who had ever been physically abused by a male intimate partner also reported heightened levels of fear. Smith's findings also suggest that the frequency and recency of abuse have no bearing on one's fear.

Similarly, Kelly and DeKeseredy (1994) collected data from a national, random sample of Canadian post-secondary students, measuring the incidence and prevalence of IPV as well as violent experiences in elementary and secondary school relationships and between non-dating partners. While Kelly and DeKeseredy did not find a generalized fear in public places for those who had experienced dating violence, their results indicate that women who have experienced sexual and psychological abuse perpetrated by a male intimate partner are more fearful in their own homes. The authors conclude that their findings suggest a complex relationship between fear of crime and victimization, wherein women who are assaulted by male intimate partners reassess their understanding of dangerousness--that is, the authors argue that women's fear, which is shaped by their mother's warnings and media portrayals of violence, encourages being afraid of strangers (especially strange men) in isolated areas. Thus, women are socialized to...

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