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Different Traumas Result in Different Crimes for Female Offenders

Update Date: Aug 02, 2013 05:06 PM EDT
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A new study reveals that the pathways to jail vary for females who are victims of specific types of trauma.

 A new study, published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly, pinpoints the types of trauma such as caregiver violence, witnessing violence and intimate partner violence that lead to specific types of offending later in life.  In the study, researchers also offer explanations based on real experiences.

The study revealed that intimate partner violence increases a woman's risk to commit property crimes, drug offending and commercial sex work. Researchers explain that these relationships are often related to intimate involvement with violent men who fluctuated between roles as the women's co-offenders, drug dealers, and pimps.

For women, witnessing violence increased the risk for property crimes, fighting, and use of weapons. Researchers said these relationships are often stemmed from affiliation with criminal networks, and women's use of weapons or aggression come from efforts to protect themselves or others. Being abused by a caregiver increases the risk of running away as a teen, and runaway youth often enact this behavior as a means of escaping intolerable maltreatment at home.

"The research is critical to development of gender-responsive programming, alternatives to incarceration, and problem-solving court initiatives that address girls' and women's specific needs," researchers wrote in the study.

The women in the study also had high rates of mental health disorders, like major depression, bipolar disorders or psychotic spectrum disorders like posttraumatic stress disorder or substance use disorders.

"Existing studies note that many offenders with serious mental illness are not identified as mentally ill upon entry into the system," the authors wrote.

"Given that mental health problems in offenders are linked to greater likelihood of violent crimes, longer sentences, rule violations, and physical assaults in the corrections environment, greater knowledge and understanding of these offenders and their needs is critical for the success of behavioral health treatment programs, jail management, and correctional staff safety," researchers concluded.

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