Risk Factors for Major Violence Among Homeless Women

Published in: Journal of Interpersonal Violence, v. 16, no. 8, Aug. 2001, p. 739-752

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2001

by Suzanne L. Wenzel, Barbara Leake, Lillian Gelberg

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Violence against women is a significant public health, criminal, and social problem, but survey research with a focus on homeless women's experiences of violence is limited. Using self-report data from a probability sample of 974 homeless women in Los Angeles County, California, this study examines severity of homelessness, social and family characteristics, subsistence activities, and alcohol and drug abuse or dependence as predictors of major violence (i.e., being kicked, bitten, hit with a fist or object, beaten up, choked, burned, or threatened or harmed with a knife or gun). One third of the women experienced major violence during the year before they were interviewed. Greater severity of homelessness, engaging in subsistence activities, and victimization during childhood were significant predictors of major violence. Analyses suggested that drug dependence might influence victimization risk through sex trade. Major violence against homeless women requires attention from multiple service sectors.

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