Gender Interaction Effects on Reporting Assaults to the Police

Keith L. Hullenaar, R. Barry Ruback

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study used two theoretical perspectives—coercive power and gender norms—to examine how gender affects victims’ decisions to report physical assaults to the police. The coercive power perspective attributes gender differences in reporting to sex-linked physical coercive power differences that affect the harm of the crime and victims’ personal safety. The gender norm perspective attributes gender differences in reporting to specific gender norms that influence crime reporting decisions. Using a sample of 18,627 nonintimate partner physical assaults from the National Crime Victimization Survey (1993–2015), crime reporting models demonstrated significantly better fit when they included the interaction between the victim’s gender and the offender’s gender than when they included only the main effects. In the sample, (a) female victims were 21.9% more likely to report to the police when the offender was male (vs. female) and (b) male victims were 45.8% more likely to report to the police when the offender was female (vs. male). Victims’ tendency to report an opposite-sex offender to the police was strongest in simple assaults and absent in aggravated assaults. We conclude that male and female victims’ reporting behaviors were most consistent with gender norms that encourage the use of self-help violence and discourage police reporting in intragender assaults. Consistent with this explanation, self-help violence was negatively related to crime reporting in assaults. Victims were more likely to use self-help violence and avoid reporting to the police against a same-sex offender than an opposite-sex offender. Finally, the offender’s gender had a relatively stronger influence on assault victims’ decisions to use self-help violence than on victims’ decisions to take no action against the offender (i.e., not reporting to the police or using self-help violence).

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology

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