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Are women of all age groups equally affected by the shadow of sexual assault? Evidence from Germany

Hirtenlehner, Helmut; Farrall, Stephen; Groß, Eva

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Helmut Hirtenlehner

Eva Groß


Ample evidence suggests that women are more fearful of crime than men. The ‘shadow of sexual assault hypothesis’ offers a possible explanation for this gender gap: in patriarchal societies females are more afraid of sexual violence, which, in turn, drives their fear of other types of criminal victimization. Although the shadow hypothesis has received some empirical support, knowledge on the role of age in this context has remained scant. Therefore, the present study examines whether fear of sexual assault translates into fear of other offenses in all age segments of the female population, and whether the magnitude of this shadow effect varies with age. Statistical analyses are based on a large-scale random sample of women living in Germany. The findings suggest that although the proportion of women who are fearful of sexual assault declines with age, a shadow effect of this fear can be observed in all age groups. The ‘radiation effect’ of fear of sexual violence on fear of other crimes increases slightly with age. We interpret this interaction as result of older women's heightened vulnerability to many sorts of harm.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 2, 2023
Online Publication Date Mar 7, 2023
Publication Date 2023-05
Deposit Date Jan 5, 2023
Publicly Available Date Jan 5, 2023
Journal European Journal of Criminology
Print ISSN 1477-3708
Electronic ISSN 1741-2609
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 3
Pages 834-855
Keywords Fear of crime; shadow of sexual assault; perceptually contemporaneous offenses; age
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