A total of 298 women detained in the Cook County Jail (Chicago, IL) were administered a survey to determine the extent of prior abuse in the inmate population, to identify the nature of the abuse, and to identify women to participate in in-depth, life-history interviews. A significant number of the women had been violently abused by multiple perpetrators; the abuse had serious consequences and in some cases was directly linked to the women's involvement in illegal activity. Thirty-three of these women were recruited to participate in in-depth, life-history interviews. Analysis of the qualitative results showed a clear pattern of the impact of conditions in low-income communities on the violence experienced by the women as they grew up, as well as the link between such abuse and their later criminality. In addition to community conditions, victimization was shaped by racial and gender identity as well as social position. Recommendations pertain to a shift in intervention strategies, policy reform, and further research.