Volume 91, Issue 49

Tuesday, November 25, 1997



Violence by women

By Ryan Parks and Sandra Dimitrakopoulos
Gazette Writer

The arrest of eight youths aged 14 to 16 from the South Vancouver Island community of Saanich, has sent shock waves across Canada as British Columbia's police investigate the brutal murder of a 14-year-old girl. But perhaps even more surprising is the fact seven of the eight suspects are young women.

Judith Knelman, a professor in the faculty of communication and open learning at Western with a research specialty on the topic of women and murder, said she is surprised with the characteristics of this particular crime. "In the past, most crimes committed by women did not possess such physically violent elements."

The apparent increase in violence among women could be attributed to various changes within our society and the blurring of traditional expectations placed on gender, Knelman said.

"Women can be just as vicious as men. The emancipation of women in the abstract is good, however, in specific instances such as these it can be fatal."

Knelman said she believes an increase in violent acts perpetrated by women seems to be the trend over the past 20 years. Studies of 19th century crime involving females tended to be individual acts or carried out by a woman and her husband or lover. These group acts of violence are a more recent phenomenon, she added.

"One rarely reads about teen pressure taking such a pathological twist," said assistant professor of psychiatry at Western, Sam Sussman. The scapegoat theory in which one group is pitted against another was suggested by Sussman as one possible explanation of the situation he believes simply got out of hand.

This act was also seen as distinct because of the number of females involved. Women typically tend to verbalize or take things out on themselves rather than act out, he added. "Women are not as violent as men in a statistical sense."

As for the prevalence of teen crime, Sussman said it may have increased in recent years yet it is still not a phenomenon read about every day. The age of adolescence has also shifted in society where more teenaged behaviour is being exhibited at age 11 or 12 rather than 15 or 16, which could also account for crimes being committed at a younger age.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997