Claire Renzetti Discusses Gender & Crime

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    • 00:00


    • 00:17

      CLAIRE RENZETTI: Gender and crimeis an important area to study, because everythingthat we do is gendered.So we know that all social institutions, allof our social interactions, have gender,and that it's a fundamental componentof how we organize social life.

    • 00:38

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: So it's so fundamental, in fact, that we take it for granted.We don't pay much attention to it,but one of the most consistent findings across criminologystudies is gender differences.So gender differences in offending,gender differences in victimization,and gender differences in how people are treated

    • 01:00

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: in the criminal justice system.So we know that if students want to havea comprehensive understanding of criminal offendingand victimization, and how the criminal justicesystem operates, they need to study gender.

    • 01:26

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: Well, my area of specialty in criminologyis violence against women.And I was inspired to pursue research and teachingin violence against women way back in the 1970s whenI was in graduate school.I started learning about the problem of domestic violence

    • 01:48

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: and sexual assault, about how these problems occurredfar more often than official statistics indicated.I learned about how perpetrators oftenweren't held accountable, that most victims are women,

    • 02:08

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: but that unlike other crimes, in these crimes,it's the victims who are often blamed for what's happenedto them, and they're treated very badlyby the criminal justice system.And quite frankly, I was shocked,and I was upset by what I saw as real injustice.And at this same time, I began meeting

    • 02:31

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: some very courageous women who were addressing this issue,speaking out about this issue, many of whomhad been victims themselves.But they were working to advocate for victims,and to help victims, and to effect policy change,and lobby for legislative reform.

    • 02:53

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: So I was sort of caught up in all of this,and I saw the problem, but I saw peopleworking to address that problem, and Iknew I wanted to be part of that movement,and I wanted to make a difference.So I was truly inspired by all of this,and I ended up devoting my entire careerto the study of violence against women,

    • 03:13

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: especially the violent victimizationexperiences of socially and economically marginalizedwomen.Some of the most interesting and important workin the area of gender and crime right nowlooks at the intersection of victimization and perpetration.

    • 03:38

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: And so what we know, for example,is that women have different motivationsfor offending than men do.And so, for example-- they also commitdifferent types of crimes.But, for example, I've just collected datafrom a national community sample of men and womenthat asked them to report on their perpetration

    • 04:01

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: of intimate partner violence, and their victimizationexperiences with regard to intimate partner violence.And what the analyzes are showingis that for women who have used force or violenceagainst an intimate partner, their previous victimizationis a significant predictor of their use of force.But it's not showing up as a predictor for men.

    • 04:24

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: So what that tells us is that thereare very different motivations underlying that behavior.Now, you might say, well, that's interesting in and of itself,but what's really important about it is that then itinforms policy and practice.So if we know that the motivations aredifferent for behaving that way, then thatcan help us inform how we respond to those behaviors.

    • 04:47

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: So that tells us that when we respond,we have to take those gender differences into accountif our responses are going to be effective.So when we study any aspect of gender and crime,we need two things.

    • 05:09

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: We need strong, rigorous methods,and that's whether we're doing quantitative research,or qualitative research, or both, mixed methods.And we need good theories.And by good, I mean accurate.So you want theories that accuratelyexplain what you're observing.

    • 05:33

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: That's what theories do.Theories are explanations.They answer the question why.And that's really why we do the work we do, right?We want to explain why people behave the way they do.What's the most fundamental-- why did somebody do that?Why did somebody who claims they really love this person just

    • 05:55

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: kill them?So what we want to do with our researchis we want to explain why people commit the crimes they do,what motivates them to behave the way they do.So in order to do that, we need to be guided by science.And scientific research involves systematic observation

    • 06:18

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: of the social world.We know from our everyday experiencesthat common sense isn't always the bestguide to why things happen.We know that finding out about why something is true,or what makes something true, that the best way to dothat isn't trial and error.

    • 06:39

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: So we use systematic observation, that'swhat data collection is, to test our theories,but also to generate theory.And that way, our work is guided by science,which in turn produces accurate explanations that ultimately

    • 07:01

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: inform best practices, and hopefully improvepeople's lives.One of the major challenges in studying not just generallygender and crime, but violence, in

    • 07:23

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: particular violent victimization,is how we measure it.Because how you measure somethingdetermines how much of it there is.And your measurements are informedby how you define the problem.So a measurement is really what wecall an operational definition of a concept.So let's say we want to measure sexual assault. One way

    • 07:48

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: to define it is by using a legal definition.And so if you look at some of the surveys on sexual assault,like some of the campus surveys of sexual assault on collegecampuses, one way of asking studentsif they've had this experience isto define sexual assault for them in the question.

    • 08:12

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: Most people if you just say, haveyou been sexually assaulted, they'llsay no, because they don't think that what's happened to themis sexual assault. To them, sexual assaultmeans a stranger coming out of nowhere at nightand assaulting them.They don't think of sexual assaultas being perpetrated by someone they know.

    • 08:32

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: And yet, we know most campus sexual assaults are perpetratedby someone the victim knows.In fact, that's the most likely scenario.So you don't ever ask, were you sexually assaulted?But if you ask did x, y, or z happen to you,and you define it legally, you'regoing to find that that's very different in terms

    • 08:52

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: of the amount of disclosure you get,or the frequency of disclosure, than if you define it much morebroadly to include even just unwanted sex,or unwanted touching.And some of these surveys that ask about sexual assault

    • 09:14

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: include very broad definitions, because theywant to capture as much unwanted behavior as possible,but that may not be sexual assault.It won't rise to the legal definition of sexual assault.And so what we find is that we have to really think throughhow we measure these very complex phenomena.

    • 09:38

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: Because, yes, we do want to know about unwanted touching,and we do want to know about unwanted sexual conduct,but that doesn't necessarily mean that we should group itunder the heading of sexual assault,that those are different behaviors.And we'll understand the problem better,and we'll develop better responses to the problem

    • 09:59

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: if we really know what it is we're dealing with here.So I would say that measurement is very much a challenge.And with regard to violent victimization,that's just one example.But it's certainly the case with regardto other types of criminal behavior as well.

    • 10:24

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: One of the most important developmentsin the study of gender and crime has been the recognitionthat gender intersects with other social locating factorsto produce differential outcomes or results for people.So what we've learned is that you can't justlook at gender, you have to look at race and ethnicity,

    • 10:48

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: and how gender intersects with race and ethnicity,with social class, with age, with sexual orientation,and gender identity.This is what some theorists call the matrix of inequalities,or matrix of domination I think some theories refer to it as.

    • 11:09

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: Because what we now is that all of these thingsaren't additive, that they all interact with one anotherto affect people's life chances.So they affect people's risk of victimization,they affect people's likelihood of offending,they affect people's risk of arrest and incarceration even.

    • 11:30

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: So, for example, you hear people say all the time every woman isat risk of being a victim of domestic violence,every woman is a potential sexual assault victim.That's true on one level, but risk isn't equally dividedacross all social groups.

    • 11:52

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: So the risk for a white middle aged middle classwoman of being assaulted by her partner, or sexually assaulted,is significantly lower than the risk that an 18 to 25-year-oldAfrican-American woman living in a disadvantaged neighborhood

    • 12:13

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: faces.So this recognition of intersectionalitywe owe to feminist criminologists of color.And it hasn't just affected the study of gender and crime.I would say it's had an impact on the entire disciplineof criminology.And so in that sense, it's not only one

    • 12:35

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: of the most exciting developments,it's also something that I think is reallygoing to move the entire field, not just the gender and crimestudies area, but the entire discipline of criminologyforward in the future.

    • 12:59

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: In this particular area, there are so many waysthat research has influenced policy and practice.We just go, again, to the problemof violence against women, which happens to bewhere I do most of my work.We can look, for example, at the Violence Against Women Act.So that's a law that was first passed in 1994.

    • 13:21

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: It's been reauthorized several times since then.But that's a law that was passed, because researchersprovided the data that showed what the problems were,that documented the prevalence of the problems, the severityof the problems, and also indicatedwhat was needed for victims, as well as in terms

    • 13:45

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: of responding to offenders.So research informed the passage of that law,but at the same time, when the law was passed,it has a provision for funding more research in the areaof violence against women.So there's kind of a reciprocal relationship therebetween research and policy.Some of the research that was funded, one of the areas

    • 14:09

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: was arrest.And what that research initially showedwas that arrest was a good deterrent for preventingrecidivism, and domestic violence,and intimate partner violence primarily.So a number of jurisdictions adopted mandatory arrest laws.

    • 14:30

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: Well, what happened as a result of thatis that more women started gettingarrested for domestic violence perpetration.What the research was showing wasthat those women were primarily acting in self defense.They weren't primary aggressors.So more research was needed to showthat there are differences here in terms of what's going on.

    • 14:53

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: In fact, we found out that some batterers, some violent men,were actually injuring themselves, and then callingthe police on the woman, so that she would get arrested.And then she would have a record,and she would be mandated to batter intervention programs.So that research helped inform police trainings

    • 15:18

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: to help them understand how to identifythe primary aggressor when they respond to a domestic violencecall.And that's been extremely important.Another example would be in sexual assault.So the research shows that when you have sexual assault nurseexaminers, what we call SANEs in an emergency room

    • 15:41

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: with a sexual assault victim, you end up with better evidencecollection, but also you have better cooperationby the victim in the criminal justice process.And so what that means is that you'llget better criminal justice prosecutions in those cases.

    • 16:01

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: But in addition to that, victims have better outcomes.They tend to feel better, and they're treated better.And they feel like they're more a part of the process,instead of being kind of left outof what is probably one of the most traumatic eventsof their lives.And they want to participate in this,

    • 16:22

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: but they're treated as a witness only.And having the SANEs there provides themwith some advocacy, and also with an empathic listener.And that's really very, very Important.And it was research that has basically informed that policy

    • 16:42

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: and practice change.When I think about the impact of my research in the field,one of the first things I think aboutis a study I did of intimate partner violence in lesbianrelationships, back in the late 80s and early 90s,

    • 17:06

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: which Sage published in 1992.This was the first national studyof intimate partner violence in lesbian relationships.And up until that time-- and one of the reasonsthat I did the study was that I was approached by a supportgroup that had been formed of lesbian victims who

    • 17:27

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: had experienced intimate partner violence.And basically, they said no one's listening to us.No one cares about what happens to us.Nobody believes us.People just dismiss it as like, well, it's two women fighting.It was fueling so many stereotypes.

    • 17:50

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: And they needed somebody, they wanted somebodyto empirically document that it was a real problem.And it was a really interesting study,not only because of the fact it was the first national studyof this problem, but also because Iused a participatory action model for the research project.

    • 18:10

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: So the women in the support groupwere really co-researchers researchers with me.And that was critically important,because I am not a member of the lesbian communitythat invited me to do the research.And I really was worried, because I said,I'm a heterosexual, and nobody's going to talk to me.And they said, no, it's not goingto make any difference at all.Everybody just wants to be heard.

    • 18:32

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: But this was an educational process for me.I mean, we spent nine months developingthis-- we did a survey first, and thenwe followed up with interviews.We spent nine months on the survey,and then I think an additional four months on the interviewquestions.We met at least once a week, sometimes twice a week.We met at different people's houses,

    • 18:54

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: and we would have dinner, and catch upon what everybody had been doing,and then we would work on the project.I did all the data analysis, but they alsoparticipated in the interpretation of the findings.And we also co-presented the findings.So this was really, to me, a contribution,not only in terms of what we found

    • 19:14

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: in documenting the problem, but also a contribution in termsof methodology, because it reallywas an example of reciprocity in research.I mean, here are people telling mevery private things about their lives,and I was essentially a stranger to them.

    • 19:36

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: And by bringing them into the research process,I was able to give back.We developed skills together.I think.The amazing thing about this is that someof the women who were co-researchers of the projectI'm still in contact with.And in fact, I was just teaching about this,about part-- I did a seminar, I taught a seminar

    • 19:57

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: on participatory action research,and I used this as an example.And I emailed one of the women from the project,and I said, oh, I was just talking about you today.And she e-mailed me back, and she said,I'm sitting at my kitchen table, and I'mremembering all those meetings, and I rememberwhen your son was born.And I wrote back and said, I rememberwhen you adopted your daughter.

    • 20:17

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: And so we kind of went through these major life eventstogether, which was really an incredible processto maintain those relationships over all those years.And the research itself had such an important impact,because now, if you looked at pretty much any bookon domestic violence, it includes

    • 20:39

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: lesbian and gay intimate partner violence.There are now services for lesbianand gay victims of intimate partner violence,and there weren't any before.And pretty much all service providersare now trained with regard to lesbianand gay domestic violence.So when I think of the impact of my research historically,

    • 21:01

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: that's the first thing I think of.My current research, one of the things I'm doing right now,is I'm evaluating training programs on sex trafficking.The training programs are for law enforcement officers.And one of the things that we've been seeingis that victims of sex trafficking

    • 21:22

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: often get arrested as prostitutes,and they don't get treated as victims at all.They get treated as offenders.This is not only unfair to them, and retraumatizing to them,but it also doesn't do us any good in termsof arresting traffickers.But what we found is that police officers,

    • 21:43

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: they're on the front lines, and they have to respond quickly,and they have to make decisions very quickly.They don't know how to identify a sex trafficking victim.What they see is a prostitute.They see someone selling sex.So what we're trying to do is figure out, not justthe content of the training, but also the method, the best

    • 22:06

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: method for training.Like, what will help officers retain the information?What will be most useful to them?And so I'm evaluating a couple of different trainingmodels, one of which is a form of participatory actionresearch, where I'm having a meeting with the officers ahead

    • 22:26

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: of time, and saying to them, OK, you'reout there every day, what do you need to knowthat will make your job easier?What do you need to know to help you identify a sex traffickingvictim?And then building that into the training,doing the trainings with them, and then coming back to them

    • 22:48

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: again and saying, OK, what do you think-- like six monthslater-- what do you think worked?What was really helpful?And I'm comparing that to an evaluationI did of another training model, whichis a much more standard traditional model, whereyou go in and you give the information, and you leave.And you do a pre-test and a post-test.

    • 23:08

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: Did they learn it?What did they know before?Did they learn it?And that evaluation showed that retention was not high,and that passing the information on through a departmentdidn't happen very well.So those trainings were for upper level officers,

    • 23:29

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: higher ranking officers.The idea was that it would be passed down to line officers,to patrol officers.So we not only did a pre-test, post-testwith the officers who received the training,we also did a survey of the line officers,the patrol officers, in the departments.And many of them didn't even knowthat a training had occurred.

    • 23:50

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: So that tells you that model probablyisn't the most effective model, and weneed to do something else.The bottom line is that the research that I do,and that I want to keep doing, is usable.That it's not just satisfying some idle curiosity,or some basic scientific question,it's research that can actually translate into usable knowledge

    • 24:15

      CLAIRE RENZETTI [continued]: in the field.And I really feel like if my research can contributein even a small way to the goal of improving people's lives,then I'll be very satisfied with my career.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Claire Renzetti Discusses Gender & Crime

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Professor Claire Renzetti discusses the field of gender and crime, which encompasses how gender interacts with crime perpetration and victimization. Researchers have found that the motivation for crime differs depending on gender. Renzetti highlights issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, intersectionality, and sex trafficking.

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Claire Renzetti Discusses Gender & Crime

Professor Claire Renzetti discusses the field of gender and crime, which encompasses how gender interacts with crime perpetration and victimization. Researchers have found that the motivation for crime differs depending on gender. Renzetti highlights issues of sexual assault, domestic violence, intersectionality, and sex trafficking.

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