The chance of a women being raped, in most cases, has a high correlation with their lifestyle they choose to live. The lifestyle exposure theory can help explain the probability of a rape occurring. Where a women lives, the time of day she choose to travel, the type of transportation she uses, her economic statues, if she has any family obligation, and what type of societal and cultural constraints that are imposed on her all effect the type of lifestyle she lives. In turn affects how and what type of potential offenders she will come into contact with. Victimization Type
There is a word in our vocabulary that can elicit an emotional and defensive stand in almost all people in our society- the word is rape. By just reading the word most people feel some type of negative reaction whether it is: disgust, embarrassment, fear, repulsion, concern for the victim, hatred for the offender, or all of these or more. How is the word rape definite? In January of this year the DOJ changed the definition of rape- “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”, that is used in the UCR (UCR Part I Offenses), which was categorized as “forcible rape” and had remand unchanged since 1929 and excluded victims of anal/oral sex, rape with an object, male rape and statutory rape (Shields).
To a wider, more inclusive definition with the title of “rape” to show that all forms of rape could be considered under this definition-“The penetration, no matter how slight of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, without the consent of the victim.” (Attorney General). With the change in the definition that law enforcement used to define rape there was a shift from the type of violence and aggression that just included women and ignored males and a number of other aspects to situations where it wasn’t a gender specific crime and the penalties for rape were on similar punishment scale. The crime of rape is still a very women dominated on the victim side and males being the offenders.
There are three different categories of rape: stranger rape, acquaintance rape, and marital rape. Stranger rape is thought to be the most common but in all actuality acquaintance rape is the most prevalent followed by marital raped-which for the longest time wasn’t considered rape-than stranger rape is the least prevalent. For the purpose of this paper I am going to focus more on the category of stranger rape (Roberson and Wallace). Rape is considered to be a stranger rape when the offender is unknown to the woman.
Any type of rape is detestable and the repercussions of the crime are similar despite whether it was someone the woman knew or not. It is thought that the victims of stranger rape recover from the emotional, mental, and physical affects more quickly than those victims of martial and acquaintance rape, because victims of stranger rape usually don’t have to go through the feelings of betrayal and loss of trust from a person they knew (Definition of Stranger Rape). Theory
Lifestyle-exposure theory more commonly known as Lifestyle theory was developed in 1978 by Michael Hindelang, Michael Gottfredson, and James Garofalo when they published a book titled: Victims of Personal Crime: An Emprical Foundation for a Theory of Personal Victimization. Through the research for this book it was found that in a person’s victimization they can play a more suitable target for an offender. With the development of this theory it opened new doors in the world of victimology by suggesting that choices a victim makes in their every life and dealings with others can either increase their chances at being victimized or it can decrease their chances (Hindelang, Gottfredson, Garofalo).
These scholars helped shift the focus more fully on the victim and less on the offender by stating that victims could be held in some part responsible for their victimization just by the lifestyle characteristics they posses. Through earlier theorists and the typologies they used it help refine victimization research in that it was noted that being victimized wasn’t a completely random, out of the blue, type of event it was previously thought to be; but a big down fall, so to speak, was that these older theories tended to viewed as blaming the victim for them being victimized and not placing adequate blame on the offender.
With the emergence of the lifestyle theory it pushed the past the bad karma of victim blaming and gave a better understanding of what type of relationships and or associations the victim had to the offender and vise versa in view of what their lifestyles were and the location of where the victimization took place (McGrath). So a big question is how would one define a lifestyle? Hindelang, Gottfredson, and Garofalo defined a lifestyle, for the purpose of this theory, as “…as daily activities and leisure activities in which individuals participate on a routine basis”. It also includes the choices a person makes on their own freewill and those “imposed on by constraints”, such as societal structures and or cultural expectations.
The main point of the lifestyle theory that Hindelang, Gottfredson, and Garofalo were making is that the more lifestyles a person places themselves in or are involved in they are also placing themselves in a closer range for potential offenders, which in turn makes them a more suitable target to be victimized (Hindelang, Gottfredson, Garofalo). To expand on some of these lifestyle constraints the first that comes to mind is the societal expectation that are made of a person’s behavior. The different roles a person has in society shapes what kind of lifestyle is expected of them to live in many ways. With the majority of crime and criminal behaviors happening on a street level and usually after dark it’s expected that the people that stayed home at night, like new parents, are at a far less likelihood to be victimized than say someone that works all day and decides to unwind by going out late at night to party it up at a bar.
That kind of person is less likely to be victimized if they don’t fall into the category of being young-under the age of 25, single, and male but women who fall into this category are more likely to a victim of a sexual crime. It’s thought the younger single people are somewhat less likely to have employment or part time employment so they are freer to go different places they choose at all times of the day or night, whereas, an older single person usually has more responsibilities such as full time employment and other bills to worry about but are still more likely to be victimized than new parents because they don’t have the big responsibility on kids (Robinson). Secondly, other lifestyle constraints that can influence a person’s chosen lifestyle is their economic status, their education level, and if they any family obligations.
These types of constraints on a person’s lifestyle can influence what that person can do with their money, the type or quality of job they can qualify for, and what situation family obligations can put them in. a person that has a low SES is far more likely to live in the inner city, ghetto neighborhoods, where crime rates are higher and so forth, whereas, a person with a higher SES can afford to live farther out of the city, gated communities, and could possibly afford a security system for their property. In conjunction with a person’s economic status their education level plays a similar role in that the higher their education level it’s thought the better the job they will have, which in turn can influence where they live.
With family obligations the constraint aspect can go either way, such as, if a person is needed to pick up another job this will keep that person out of the house for longer periods of time and in closer proximity to potential offenders. Whereas, a person is needed at the house to be a caretaker to someone is off the streets and further out of the equation of crime (Robinson). Another aspect of a person’s economic situation is their subcultural and structural constraints. These can fit into how well a person handle things around them getting worse that aren’t in their full control-like a failing economy and they lose their job.
Each individual person deals with that type of stressor in different ways-one could seek physical workout as a stress reliever and works on looking for a new job in positive, acceptable ways; another could slip into depression and start to self medicate with drugs and alcohol to push the feelings of pain and failure away and without a job they have no way of supporting their habit so they turn to criminal behaviors to support the new habit; where another could just fall into a deep depression and never want to get out of bed so their responsibilities fall to another person. In either situation the person chooses, mainly, where the put themselves on scale of being victimized (Theoretical Perspective).
Since lifestyle theory is purposed towards being crime specific a person’s location can play a major role in their victimization risk being either high or low-meaning that a person’s risk level will vary depending on the type of crime. For instance, a student decides to study at the library instead of at their apartment- it’s fairly safe to say that a person would feel the library is a safe place to be when one is looking at criminal activity such as murder but when it comes to looking at the criminal activity of personal thefts it’s not such a safe place. An unattended backpack, laptop, and/or textbooks become very attractive items to steal very quickly (McGrath). A final aspect of lifestyle theory, which is mentioned by Garofalo, is time.
Depending on what time it is during the day or night a person’s lifestyle choices or constraints can influence what type, if any, crime they could be exposed to. For instance, if a person doesn’t have their own vehicle that usually leaves them with limited options-one being public transportation, such as the bus. Taking the bus during the day is statistically less dangerous, fewer crime opportunities, than it would after six in the evening. This is because the atmosphere changes, so to speak. During the day there are more people going to and from work and running errands, whereas, in the evenings more people are off work and alcohol and drugs can become factored in which is favorable to increase a person’s likelihood of victimization (Garofarlo, 1987). Applied
When evaluating stranger rape and how to best predict the occurrence of this crime the victimology theory that would help best describe it, is Lifestyle Theory. In breaking down the events that lead up to a rape, particularly stranger rape, there is something appealing about the victim at ignites an offender to act, the victim’s lifestyle. Lifestyle theory goes into very specific details on how a victim’s chosen lifestyle makes them more or less attractive to an offender.
Those resembling: where they live, inner city or rural; what societal roles are expected of them; the persons age and relationship status; their economic situations, poor middle class or wealthy; their education level which can be influenced by their economic status; if they have family obligation, if any; structural constraints, loss of a job; the places they choose to visit; the time of day they travel; and the type of transportation they use, bus vs. having their own vehicle. There are many myths about rape, such as, that women want to be raped, they like it rough and hard, how a woman dresses is saying they are asking for sex. None of these myths have any footing in this theory analysis or any other that is concerned with victimology.
When a young, single women routinely travels late at night and is known to live alone specially when she is farther in the city- her lifestyle by choice or constraint makes her far more appealing target for the crime of rape, whereas, a young, single woman that travels before six in the evening, has her own vehicle and lives with a bunch of other people is not an appealing target. It’s similar with a young, single woman that likes to go out and party it up at the bar with drugs and alcohol- her target suitability is far greater than that of a woman that like to party but does it at friend’s house where there isn’t any drugs and limited alcohol. In reality every choice a woman makes in her everyday life will influence what, if any, type of potential offender she will attract to her- especially in cases of rape.
Lifestyle theory helped open new ways of understanding criminal victimization specially in being more crime specific which in a help in the crime of rape. It moved past the daunting section in victimology history of victim blaming and into the understanding that victimization isn’t a completely random act but one that could reasonably predict potential indicators of what could lead up to a person being victimized particularly in the crime of rape. Every decision people make in their lives, such as, time they travel, how they travel, where they live, their education level, family obligation, societal expectation, and cultural constrains- will bring them closer to potential offenders or put them farther away.