Assault Victimization: A Comparative Analysis of the United States, the Netherlands, and England & Wales

By Stein, Rachel E. | International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, January-June 2009 | Go to article overview

Assault Victimization: A Comparative Analysis of the United States, the Netherlands, and England & Wales


Stein, Rachel E., International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences


Introduction

According to the Uniform Crime Report (UCR), as compiled by the FBI, assault is the most frequently occurring violent crime in the U.S. (UCR 2006). The violent crime of assault has numerous serious short- and long-term consequences, including both physical and psychological effects. Additionally, assaults characterize the majority of personal violent crimes in other industrialized nations (Bouten, Goudriaan, & Nieuwbeerta, 2002). It is important to recognize not only the characteristics surrounding assault victimization within a cross-national perspective, but also to explore the theoretical relationship between routine activities and lifestyle variables and assault victimization experience (Cohen & Felson, 1979; Hindelang, Gottfredson, & Garofalo, 1978).

While much existing research focuses on comparing victimization rates across countries (Gruszczynska, 2004; Killias, van Kesteren, & Rindlisbacher, 2001; LaFree & Drass, 2002; Lewis, Barclay, de Cavarlay, Costa, & Smit, 2004); many studies do not examine victimization within a theoretical framework. The understanding of what these victimization rates mean, and what circumstances surround the criminal act is limited. A focus on the opportunities surrounding victimization is relevant, as Wilcox, Land, & Hunt (2003) propose opportunities are an important factor in all criminal behavior. Routine activities theory (Cohen & Felson, 1979) and lifestyles theory (Hindelang et al., 1978) both emphasize the role of opportunity in victimization experience.

Existing research that incorporates a routine activities/lifestyles theoretical approach has primarily concentrated on victimization in the U.S. (Brody, Ge, Gonger, Gibbons, Murry, Gerrard, & Simons, 2001; Osgood & Chambers, 2000; Schreck & Fisher, 2004; Spano & Nagy, 2005). A cross-national comparison of crime is often complex, as different countries define crimes uniquely and have different official policies. Additionally, while large scale cross-national studies are useful for identifying trends in victimization, studies that incorporate only a few countries within the analysis offer an outlet to examine in greater detail, the characteristics of victimization. This exploration can lead to a greater understanding of victimization experience through the lens of a theoretical framework focused on opportunity.

The current study examines three developed countries, the U.S., the Netherlands and England and Wales. The focus is on these particular countries, as past empirical comparisons have been made regarding these countries (e.g. Tseloni, Wittebrood, Farrell, & Pease, 2004). I utilized the International Crime Victimization Survey and the European Survey on Crime and Safety, both of which are self-report forms of victimization experience. This data allows for a more accurate comparison of victimization, as the survey questions and methodology remain consistent across each of the three countries. I examine the characteristics surrounding assault victimization in each country, including location, whether the offender was known, the use of force, whether a weapon was used, and if injury was the result of the attack. Further, I incorporate logistic regression models to examine a routine activities/lifestyle theoretical approach in understanding victimization.

Routine Activities/Lifestyles Theoretical Perspective

Routine activities theory was developed by Cohen & Felson (1979) during the post World War II era, and was based on a sample of the population within the U.S. The premise of the theory is on the shift in the daily routines of individuals from activities centered in the home environment to activities conducted outside of the home. The change in the location of daily activities highlights the increased opportunities presented for victimization experience. Activities that take place in public spaces are perceived as situations with greater opportunity for victimization to occur (Cohen & Felson, 1979; Felson, 1987; Messner & Blau, 1987). …

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