U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Women's and Men's Fear of Gang Crimes: Sexual and Nonsexual Assault as Perceptually Contemporaneous Offenses

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 20 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2003 Pages: 337-371
Date Published
June 2003
35 pages

This study examined gender differences in fear of gang-related sexual and nonsexual assault as contemporaneous crimes.


Specific questions explored were whether women are more afraid of gang crimes and of rape/sexual assault than are men; whether fear of rape/sexual assault is an important predictor of fear of gang crimes; if so, whether fear of rape/sexual assault is a perceptually contemporaneous offense only for women; how fear of rape/sexual assault and fear of nonsexual (gang-related) assault compare as predictors of fear of other types of crimes; and once fear of assault generally is controlled, how important is the sexual component. The research was conducted in Orange County, CA, an area just south of Los Angeles that has been confronted with gang crime for years. A random-digit-dial survey of 1,000 Orange County residents was conducted during a 3-week period in September 1997. The survey was designed to measure fear of gang crime, but it measured general fear of rape/sexual assault to allow for a test of Warr's (1985) and Ferraro's (1995, 1996) arguments that fear of rape underlies women's fears of other crimes. The sample was constructed to ensure an equal number of men and women (500 each). The dependent variables included fear of five specific gang crimes: graffiti/tagging, harassment by gang members, carjacking, home-invasion robbery, and drive-by or other gang-related shooting. Respondents were asked to rate "how personally afraid" they were of each crime on a scale of one to four. For both women and men, once physical harm was accounted for by controlling for fear of nonsexual assault, fear of rape explained much less variance than it did when it was included alone. The authors argue that fear of physical harm, not the sexual intrusion in rape, was the strongest effect on fear for both women and men. 7 tables and 65 references

Date Published: June 1, 2003