Campus violence and sexual harassment is a significant issue in the USA. According to Mengo and Black (2015), 32.4% of students are experienced physical violence every year, with 16% having faced at least one form of sexual harassment and victimization. The repeat rates for victims are staggering, with 47% of them experience it more than once during a standard academic year. In criminology, there are numerous theories to identify the predictors of violence and assaults to help solve and moderate the crimes occurring on campus. One of these theories is the lifestyle theory, which claims that confident lifestyle choices can expose the potential victim to perpetrators.
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Some of the basic premises of the lifestyle theory are as follows (Siegel, 2017):
- Crimes do not occur proportionately throughout time and space. The majority of violent and sexual crimes occur in suspect places at times of low social activity (at night).
- Offenders and offenses are not equally distributed across the population. Approximately 80% of all violent crimes committed are made by 4% of the total population.
- The victim has a degree of agency in reducing the chances of exposure to personal victimization.
- Victimization is based on exposure and association with high-risk persons connected to high-risk times and high-risk places.
This framework can be used to identify risky lifestyle choices in college students that could lead to a higher chance of being victimized. One of the most dangerous lifestyle choices for individuals is “nightlife” (Wooten & Mitchell, 2015). College years are typically the first years spent away from the parental home, with the complete freedom of choice and activity enabled for young individuals. Nightlife is associated with high-risk times, places, and activities. Club parties start after dark, alcohol and drugs are involved, and the location itself allows for crimes to be committed (Wooten & Mitchell, 2015). Clubs are famous for high-risk individuals looking for another victim. In addition, the conventional party fashion suggests exposure, skimpy clothing, and promiscuous behavior, which further enhances the chances of an individual being chosen as a victim by the perpetrator.
The second high-risk lifestyle choice associated with college students is the participation in high-risk groups, such as gangs (Wooten & Mitchell, 2015). By their nature, these groups suggest a degree of conformity, secrecy, and violence. High-risk individuals are typically leaders of such groups. Participation in gang activities increases the chances of getting involved in victimization either as a victim or as a perpetrator.
The third lifestyle most associated with victimization is the solitary lifestyle typically adopted by antisocial students who have difficulties interacting with others (Wooten & Mitchell, 2015). While this type of behavior minimizes exposure to potentially risky behavior, it also removes the social support network of friends and acquaintances that could potentially lookout for a person and prevent abuse or inform the law enforcement agencies about a crime being committed. The majority of crimes relating to that lifestyle typically occur in dorms, where it is impossible to avoid contact with perpetrators altogether. This trend is also supported by the findings that 80% of all victims know their abuser (Wooten & Mitchell, 2015).
In order to avoid being victimized, the students should avoid the traits associated with the lifestyles presented above. Club-related activities are not prohibited, but it is essential to go with a group of close friends and remain mindful of one’s own drink. Getting involved in gang activities is absolutely prohibited, as there are no positives sides to such a borderline criminal lifestyle. Lastly, every student should cultivate a supportive network around themselves ad watch out for signs of victimization in other students.
Mengo, C., & Black, B. M. (2015). Violence victimization on a college campus. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 18(2), 234-248.
Siegel. L. J. (2017). Criminology: Theories, patterns, and typologies (13th ed.). New York, NY: Cengage.
Wooten, S. C., & Mitchell, R. W. (Eds.). (2015). The crisis of campus sexual violence: Critical perspectives on prevention and response. New York, NY: Routledge.