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Journal Article


Marshall CE, Webb VJ. J. Interpers. Violence 1994; 9(1): 45-74.


(Copyright © 1994, SAGE Publishing)






VioLit summary:

The purpose of this article by Marshall and Webb was to examine victims' physical responses during violent victimization.

The authors utilized data from the National Crime Survey (NCS) to examine the violence used by victims to ward off perpetrators. The authors focused on three categories of victim defense: (1) those who used a gun; (2) those who used a weapon other than a gun; and (3) those who used no weapon but fought back by kicking, hitting, and biting. The core research question was this: What influences a victim to use a particular form of defense? The authors explored this question using the following as explanatory variables: (a) Ascriptive characteristics (e.g., sex, race, age); (b) Achievement factors (e.g., education, income); (c) Victim Insecurity factors (e.g., moves in last five years, history of victimization, distance from home when the incident occurred); (d) Incident Environmental factors (e.g., light, time, presence of others during incident); and (e) Offender Environment factors (e.g., possession of a weapon, violence against victim, threats, relationship to victim, race of offender). The NCS data covered the first period of the first quarter of 1987 through the second quarter of 1990. The sample size was 1,273. The authors used bivariate analyses and descriptive statistics to explore victims' violent responses by the above variables.

The authors found that, of the 56,442 criminal incidents reported in the NCS, 7,507 respondents said "Yes" when answering the question: "Was there anything you did or tried to do about the incident while it was going on?" of theses, 83% reported fighting back using verbal tactics, threats or other. The authors cut these out of the sample, being interested only in those who fought back with weapons or kicking, hitting, or biting. The authors found that 29 victims had fired a gun, 106 used a weapon other than a gun, and 1,138 either hit, bit, or kicked their assailant. Of the 29who fired a gun, most were White males between the ages of 27 and 45. Most had not moved within the last five years, and the incident was not part of a series of victimization. Victims were not more likely to respond with a gun at any particular distance from home. The incident was most likely to occur between 6:00 p.m. and midnight, and no other household members were present. The victim and offender did not typically know one another (78%) and in 57% of these incidents, the offender threatened the victim. Of those who fought back using a weapon other than a gun (n = 106), most were White males (74%) and younger than 26 years of age (57%). This category of victim moved around a great deal in the five years preceding the incident, and the incident occurred at night. Twenty-nine percent reported being threatened by their attacker. Those who fought back by hitting, biting, or kicking tended to be young, White, and male. The members of this group tended to be less educated and fall into lower- and middle-income categories. In most of these incidents (81%), the offender had not threatened the victim, but had hit him or her (81%).
The authors found that age significantly influences victim response. Older persons were found more likely to fire a fun or hit an offender than younger victims. It was also found that older non-Whites appear less likely to fight back without a weapon than older Whites. For males, race was not found to be a statistically significant predictor of variance in violent responses. Sex was not found to be related to the type of physical response. The "number of moves in the past five years" did show a statistically significant relationship to response, revealing that the more moves a victim had made, the more likely he or she would fight back with a weapon. No significant relationship was found for series victimization and distance from home. Male victims were most likely to bite, kick, or hit the offender when the offender did not have a weapon. Controlling for race did not affect this relationship. In 93% of the cases, the victim was most likely to hit, kick, or bite the offender when the offender had physically attacked them. Victims were more likely to use a gun or other weapon when they were threatened by the attacker than when they were not threatened. When the offender threatened the victim, non-White persons were about three times more likely than Whites to fire a gun, and about two times more likely than whites to use a weapon other than a gun when threatened. Where the offender was known to the victim, a gun was more likely not to be fired. The authors concluded by noting that the actions of both the victim and the perpetrator varied by age, race, and sex. They stated that none of these findings should be surprising, given that blacks are more likely to be victims of serious violent crime, and black victims are more likely to be faced with an armed offender.

(CSPV Abstract - Copyright © 1992-2007 by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Institute of Behavioral Science, Regents of the University of Colorado)

National Survey
National Victimization Survey
Adult Victim
Juvenile Victim
Adult Male
Adult Female
Juvenile Male
Juvenile Female
Female Victim
Male Victim
Victim Self Defense
Victim Aggression
Victim Characteristics
Violence Victim
Crime Victim
Adult Firearms Use
Firearms Use Causes
Firearms Violence
Firearms Self Defense
Weapons Use Causes
Weapons Violence
Juvenile Weapons Use
Adult Weapons Use
African American Adult
African American Female
African American Juvenile
African American Male
African American Victim
Racial Differences
Racial Comparison
Caucasian Adult
Caucasian Female
Caucasian Juvenile
Caucasian Male
Caucasian Victim


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