Who are we killing
Only 6 percent of prisoners in Germany are women (2016). Women are also convicted significantly less often than men: in 2016, 594,952 men were convicted and only 142,921 women.
Prof. Dr. Birgitta Sticher is a psychologist. At the Berlin School of Economics and Law, she mainly teaches police officers in their Bachelor's and Master's degrees and deals, among other things, with women's crime.
Ms. Sticher, which crimes do women commit most often?
Police crime statistics say that women account for around 30 percent of theft, fraud, embezzlement, embezzlement and abuse. For serious violent crimes, such as murder, manslaughter and robbery, they are almost negligible, at around 12 percent - men too 88 represented.
Women are much less likely to be suspected, are convicted much less often than men and are much less likely to be in prison. Why is that?
That is a question that has many answers. First of all, I would like to differentiate between bright and dark fields, because very different statements apply to each of them. The bright field comprises the sum of all offenses that are known to the law enforcement authorities: the police crime statistics, the convict statistics and also the prison statistics. The unreported areas include the offenses that are not reported, which do not end up with the police, not in the investigation. Results can be obtained in the dark field, in which, for example, surveys are carried out with test subjects on crimes they have committed themselves or they have suffered.
With regard to the offenses in the bright field, it must first be established that women are only minimally represented in marked violent crimes such as murder, manslaughter or robbery. But then there are also offenses, such as theft and defamation, where they are represented a little higher at around 30 percent. This begs the question: Why are women so poorly represented in serious violent crimes?
If I answer this question, there is a risk of making sweeping statements about women and men that do not do justice to reality. There are many different models of how women live womanhood and how men live their role. But with regard to violent crimes such as murder and manslaughter, we are dealing with such a blatant difference between the sexes, for the explanation of which the recourse to traditional gender roles is important: We have to ask ourselves: What learning experiences are typical for women? How did these women learn to deal with conflicts and special burdens in their life stories?
Apparently women tend to resolve conflicts more by moving the aggressions inward, suppressing them or directing them against themselves. Men, on the other hand, direct their aggressions more outwardly, attacking other people primarily physically.
Are crimes committed by women more likely to go undetected?
Here I would like to go into the family social space. Imagine a man being beaten by his partner. What reason does he have to report this action to the woman, whether it is physical or psychological violence? When a man tells his friends and colleagues - "My wife hit me" - it is more likely that he will receive support and understanding. First he will be asked: Why did you accept this? Telling others that they experienced violence from a woman is rather embarrassing for men, because that does not fit the image of masculinity that men have of themselves and we have of them. For this reason, the violence experienced by the partner in this domestic area is rarely reported.
With regard to violence against children, from child abuse to infanticide, women are heavily overrepresented as perpetrators. Why is that? The main burden of bringing up children is still borne by women today, even if there are more and more fathers who deal intensively with their children. Criminologists speak of an "incident structure": This means that if I have a lot to do with something and experience stress and a lot of frustration in this context, the probability that it will act out aggression is much greater.
The next area in which women are more strongly represented as perpetrators is also a domestic one: women predominantly care for relatives, their own parents, the parents of partners and sick children. Here, too - often from an extremely stressful situation - aggression up to violence is a possible consequence that affects women more, because they also have more to do with it.
So here is the dark field very large?
Yes, children and those in need of care do not report violence because they often cannot. Partners often do not discover them and even if they do, there are "good" reasons not to report the perpetrator: If the woman were dropped, if she were to go to jail, that would not serve them either, because who would then take on the woman's tasks has performed so far?
The crimes of men are more often in the brightfield?
Yes, that is true. If we go back to the domestic sphere: In the meantime, there has been an argument about violence by men against women in the domestic sphere for many years. The women are consciously encouraged to no longer see these experiences of violence in the domestic sphere as a private matter. Feminists have stood up for women and their self-determination: There are women's shelters, there are opportunities for advice and support to help women get out of this spiral of violence. When a man is caught in this spiral of violence, and it can also happen, there are relatively few options for help. The perception of violence by women against men as well as the perception of the victim role of men is still socially distorted.
How can you imagine the typical delinquent woman? Like the postal robber Colpan K., who couldn't repay the money and then committed two bank robberies? Or completely different?
Instead of speaking of the delinquent woman, it makes more sense, as already mentioned, to differentiate between social spaces. What social rooms are there? And what are the possible motivations in these social spaces that apply more to women than to men?
With women, we often have a situation of being overwhelmed or victimized in the private environment, which is then reversed, so that the woman becomes the perpetrator in order to free herself from this victim role. Then she may eliminate someone who has abused her or someone who has been violent under the influence of alcohol for many years. This is a more typical motive for women. The action, for example killing the partner, is planned for a long time and then experienced as a break free.
But we also find numerous other motives in women that we also find in men, such as greed or the desire to get rid of the old partner. We also find actions in affect. So there is a multitude of motifs that often appear together. Each case is ultimately unique. Even if we recognize certain patterns that may occur more frequently in women than in men, it is important to me that ultimately each case is unique, so that we then find it difficult to give each other generally valid answers.
They say, "Women murder to get rid of and men murder to keep." Is that true?
Yes, there are quite a few cases for this sentence that prove it. But it also becomes clear that women kill for a wide variety of other motives: out of hatred, jealousy, greed. But I know of few cases in which the woman kills the man in order to hold him.
I can't say that for men. With regard to the intimicide, i.e. the killing of the intimate partner, there is often a narcissistic dynamic in men: their pride is injured and because of this insult they kill their partner. And often they kill themselves after killing their partner.
There is relatively few murders of women in relation to murders of men in this area of intimate partner violence.
Were there times when women were more likely to commit offenses than they are now? For example, when there were certain laws that only applied to women, such as the ban on night work for female workers.
What is very clear: the crime rate of women is higher in war. Women then presumably become criminals out of caring for family members. The question is: what emergency is there to remedy through crime?
And of course you are right, the crime rate depends in part on the law. For example, in times when prostitution was still forbidden, women committed offenses when they prostituted themselves. Today women are supported much more in their right to self-determination. As a result, the tightening of sex criminal law leads to an increasing criminalization of men.
Many feared that with increasing emancipation - which one would expect - women would become more likely to commit crimes. This fear has not been confirmed. The numbers have remained similar over the years.
Interview: Stefanie Mnich
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