Domestic abuse an issue which has been on the rise in the society; the most affected are women and the girl child. This has not well addressed well because a majority of the women prefer keeping this issues to themselves. They are suffering in silence it is the high time for the state to be responsible and protect women that are victims of violence. As victims, battered women often have a high fear of retaliation from their perpetrators and as much as 50% of all women who are victims say that they fear that they will be subject to revenge because of their participation in the prosecution process (Hart, 1992). The National Crime Survey estimates that about 32% of all women were victimized again within 6 months following their participation in the prosecution process. This data is disheartening given that women need to have a voice in times where they are victims of domestic abuse and other crimes. Women who suffer from domestic abuse and report it to court are at an increased risk of being victimized again by the offender. This is mainly because the criminal may use violence as a way to coerce the women into reconciling with them. If the women refuse this reconciliation, the offender may find ways to retaliate against the women for exposing their crimes (Hart, 1992). On the other hand, women as offenders should also be given attention in the literature. According to Greenfield and Snell (1999), 14% of all violent crimes in the United States were committed by women. Of this number, it is estimated that 28% of the female offenders were juveniles. Population estimates show that women outnumber men. Therefore, this subset of society must be given special consideration when it comes to dealing with crimes done to them and crimes done by them.
Women as Victims
The rate of violence committed against women and which prompts them to seek the help of law enforcement agencies is growing. According to Rollins (2002) estimates, it is true that most of the women in custody are victims of physical abuse. The numbers regarding violence against women cannot be ignored since the vast majority of female offenders are the perpetrators of physical abuse (Rollins, 2002). Additionally, 29% of female offenders have reported that they committed a crime due to threats from a perpetrator. It is believed that drug and alcohol addiction stem from the women’s need to cope with stressful, threatening situations of which they are victims. Thus, it is important to consider that the use of alcohol and illicit drugs contributes to the crime rate for women but that it stemmed from their prior victimization (Rollins, 2002). In addition to the issue of drug and alcohol abuse is the issue of mental health among women who have suffered abuse and have come into the criminal justice system. Mental health services for these women are oftentimes lacking and needs to be revamped in order to give better support for the needs of these women. Women who suffer sexual and physical abuse are likely to suffer from stress, mental illness and anxiety disorders as a result of their experiences (Rollins, 2002). Thus, mental health services for these women need to be strengthened, especially as it was noted that victims that help the prosecution process is more liable to be victimized again following the end of the prosecution. These issues surrounding women in the criminal justice system as victims are relevant to providing the needed support in the criminal justice system. Now is the time to help change how justice is served to the arising issues. This will help these women and prevent them from becoming victims again or becoming perpetrators themselves.
Women as Offenders
Public policy has increased the propensity by which women offenders are taken into the criminal justice system. This has been contributed by, current public policy which tends to ignore the particular context of women’s lives. In addition to that, women have suffered more than men from the ill effects of bad public policy (Beattie, Owen & Covington, 2000). Most of the women incarcerated in the criminal justice system have been incarcerated because of the use of illicit drugs. It is estimated that 35% of all women serving prison sentences were serving them for drug-related reasons (Beattie et al. 2000). There are several key differences between men and women offenders. Women offenders tend to be poor, uneducated, and unskilled, with bad employment histories and they tend to be women of colour. Additionally, women offenders are less likely to be incarcerated due to violent crimes. They are usually incarcerated due to reasons of property- whether it is the use of alcohol or drugs or theft, which is driven by poverty (Beattie et al. 2004). The characteristics of women offenders tend to show that they are marginalized by race, class and gender. An example of this is that women represent 50% of the women in correctional, and this are incarcerated than white women. In addition to this, 44% of women on probation are there because of property crimes, and only 9% were incarcerated due to violent crimes (Beattie et al. 2000). These issues regarding the disproportionate number of women in the criminal justice being arrested is due to property crimes and issues regarding race. This class should not be ignored because they are issues that should affect the way public policy is made. Public policy should be more gender-sensitive in order to provide these women with the support that they need and prevent them from being incarcerated again. Additionally, economic support for women should be strengthened since it was mentioned that property crimes are usually due to poverty. Lessening the number of women in the criminal justice system involves changes in public policy as well as restructuring the criminal justice system.
Women in the criminal justice system, whether as victims or offenders, need special help and support because of their circumstances. Thus, policy-makers should pay attention to public policy in order to make it more gender-sensitive to cater to the needs of these women. Women as victims are more likely to be victimized again by the same perpetrators to the crime. Mental health services in the criminal justice system are oftentimes lacking or insufficient. This is the reason why these women do not get the support that they need. Women should be given more attention when they are incarcerated due to the fact that, most women who commit crimes were also victims of physical and sexual abuse in the past. Clearly, in order to decrease the number of women in the criminal justice system, policies need to be made or changed in order to prevent the cycle of victimization and perpetration.
Greenfield, L.A.(1999). “Women offenders”. Retrieved from http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/wo.pdf
Hart, B.J. (1992). Battered women and the criminal justice system. Retrieved from http://www.mincava.umn.edu/documents/hart/justice/justice.pdf
Rollins, C. (2002). Battered women offenders in the criminal justice system. Retrieved from http://web.multco.us/sites/default/files/domestic-violence/documents/batteredwomenincjs.pdf
Beattie, L. (2000). Sisters in pain, Battered Woman fight back. Lexington University press of Kentucky.