The effects of a high risk environment on the sexual victimization of homeless and runaway youth

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Tyler, Kimberly
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Dan R. Hoyt
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This study examines the effects of a high-risk environment on the sexual victimization of 311 homeless and runaway youth. Based on the structural-choice theory of victimization, it was hypothesized that the daily routines and lifestyles of these young people would enhance contact between potential offenders and potential victims. It was also expected that the subjective utility of potential targets would determine whether they would potentially become victims. Taken together, these two propositions are expected to determine who is most likely to be at risk for sexual victimization. Three sets of logistic regression models were run using three different dependent variables. Results from the first set of models revealed that survival sex, age, gender, and grooming were all significantly associated with total sexual victimization. Findings from the second set of models indicated that the amount of time youths spent sleeping on the street, the age at which they first ran away, participating in survival sex, and gender were significantly related to stranger sexual victimization. Finally, deviant subsistence strategies, survival sex, gender, and grooming were all related to being a victim of friend sexual victimization. The results from a series of interactions also revealed that the effects of deviant behaviors on sexual victimization varied by gender and age but only for total sexual victimization and friend sexual victimization. The findings from the current study provide support for the structural-choice theory of victimization. Due to the difficulties of survival in a hostile and exploitative street environment, the lifestyles and daily routines of homeless and runaway youth may put them at increased risk. However, their likelihood of becoming victims depends upon the motives of the offender. Those who have characteristics that are congruent with the sexual offender's needs are more likely to experience sexual victimization. This suggests that it is the interaction of both structural components and choice components that determine who will become a victim of sexual assault.

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Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 1999