Violent Femmes: Girls get ugly

Violent Femmes: Girls get ugly

In Germany, more and more violent crimes are being committed by women

BY URSULA SAUTTER | BONN

One pleasant spring afternoon last year, a group of teenagers attacked a 15-year-old girl on a playing field in the Berlin district of Köpenick. They punched her in the face and pushed her to the ground. When the victim refused to hand over her money, some of her assailants held her down and burned her arms and cheek with a lighted cigarette. The attackers were not a gang of rowdy boys, but a band of 13- to 15-year-old girls.

While men are still responsible for the vast majority of crimes in Germany, female violence is on the rise. “Young girls and women of all age groups are becoming more violent,” says Winfried Roll, head of the crime-prevention division of Berlin’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation. “That’s been a nationwide trend for several years.” Last year in Berlin, the number of female suspects of violent crime under the age of 21 increased by almost 8%, while the number of male suspects dropped slightly. Violent crimes like robbery and grievous bodily harm have even shot up by 18% and 25% respectively among young women, who are banding together more often in all-female gangs.

Why are German women becoming more violent? Gender equality may have something to do with it. Today’s “ladettes” are drinking and smoking more, and raising all sorts of hell. “Girls and young women are generally less inhibited in adopting male forms of behavior, whether it’s assertiveness, talking tough or using one’s elbows,” argues psychologist Arnd Stein, who specializes in the treatment of young people. “Unfortunately, the same goes for the use of brute force.” The members of all-female gangs tend to be especially cruel. “When particularly humiliating methods like burning or undressing are involved, the perpetrators will usually be girls,” says Roll. “It seems to be all about showing the boys, ‘Hey, we can do better than you.'”

Domestic violence is not a male monopoly either. According to a study carried out at the Institute for Gender and Generation Research at the University of Bremen, women are the first to use physical force in six out of every 10 cases of relationship breakups. “Human aggressiveness is not gender-specific,” argues Michael Bock, professor of criminology and penal law at Mainz University. “When you know your partner’s weaknesses, physical strength plays an extremely minor role.” The situation is complicated by the fact that few of the men who are victims of female assaults dare make it public. “There’s a large gray area here,” says Detective Inspector Cordula Albrecht, who conducts courses for Berlin police officers on how to handle victims of domestic violence.

Most men, she explains, fear ridicule if they talk about or report their partner’s behavior. “When my wife started screaming, I used to lower the blinds and close the windows,” recalls Uwe, a 46-year-old manager, who was abused by his wife for several years. Although awareness of the problem is growing, “it’s still largely glossed over, regarded as a peccadillo — or even legitimized,” says Bock. Until German society faces up to its deep-rooted gender stereotypes and acknowledges that aggression is committed by both sexes, the problem will continue to grow. Violence, both domestic and public, is neither a male nor a female issue; it’s a human one.

Posted by on Aug 11 2003. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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