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Does Victim Gender Increase Sentence Severity?: Further Explorations of Gender Dynamics and Sentencing Outcomes

NCJ Number
Crime and Delinquency Volume: 50 Issue: 3 Dated: July 2004 Pages: 319-343
Theodore R. Curry; Gang Lee; S. Fernando Rodriguez
Elizabeth P. Deschenes
Date Published
July 2004
25 pages
This study examined how the gender of crime victims affected the sentencing outcomes of offenders.
Prior research on the influence of gender on sentencing outcomes has focused primarily on the gender of offenders, while few studies have looked at victim gender effects on sentencing outcomes. The few studies that have explored the relationship between victim gender and criminal justice outcomes have provided inconsistent results. This study hypothesized that not only will offender gender affect sentencing but that victim gender will affect sentencing as well, as will the interaction between victim gender and offender gender. Data for this study came from a random sample of 7,729 offenders convicted of felony between January 1 and September 30, 1991, in the 7 largest counties in Texas. Because victim gender was the primary concern of this research, the data analyses were restricted to the 1,242 offenders convicted of assault, robbery, and homicide. In this sample, 28 percent of the victims were female and 10 percent of the offenders were female. In addition, 24 percent of the sample had a female victim/male offender combination, 4 percent were female victim/female offender, 6 percent were male victim/female offender, and 66 percent were male victim/male offender. The female victim/male offender combination was predicted to have the harshest sentencing outcome. Two alternative conceptualizations of sentence severity were used: incarcerative, where offenders received prison or jail time; and nonincarcerative, where suspended sentence, fine, probation, or some other intermediate sanction was used. Data were analyzed using both logistic regression and OLS regression. Results of the analyses showed that victim gender effects on sentence length were conditioned by offender gender, such that male offenders who victimized females received the longest sentence of any other victim gender/offender gender combination. The study also showed that whereas victim gender effects were observed for sentence length, no such effects were observed on whether offenders received an incarcerative or nonincarcerative sentence. This research highlights a largely unrecognized source of sentencing differentials and argues for the importance and relevance of victim gender to theory and research on the effects of extralegal variable on sentencing decisions. Study limitations are discussed. 2 tables, 5 notes, and 55 references