Victimization Risks of Female Gang Members

               The risks of victimization for female gang members have grown in number since young women have gone from being just appendages of their male counterparts to becoming a respected member of a gang.  An immediate risk of becoming involved with a gang is how a female may be initiated into the gang.  Initiation usually involves some sort of humiliation or pain to ensure that the individual is serious about becoming part of the gang and is not engaging in gang activities to spy for rival gangs.  As Molidor (1996) states, there are four common initiation practices that females may have to endure to become part of a gang. 

The first is called “walk the line,” which means that the young woman has to walk through a tunnel made by two rows of her fellow gang members and face repetitive beating while in the tunnel.  The second rite, known as “pulling a train,” is when the female has to have sex with multiple male members in a single night.  “Pulling a train” is also called “sexing in” in certain gangs (Molidor, 1996).  When girls are “sexed in,” they lose respect and can only rebuild their reputation within the gang by showing their toughness through violent actions or behavior (Miller, 1998).  The third practice is to have the female commit a violent crime herself or at least participate in one.  The last rite of passage involves the female identifying herself as part of the gang by acquiring a tattoo that represents either the gang’s symbol or street name (Molidor, 1996).

After females are initiated into the gang, they are then faced with multiple risks that are a result of their association with the gang.  An interesting fact stated by Molidor (1996) was that although female gang members felt a sense of power by making other non-gang members afraid, there was a consistent feeling of fear of being victimized because of their association with a gang.  In the 2001 study conducted by Miller and Decker, of the young women interviewed in St. Louis, 48% had been attacked, 44% had been victims of sexual assault, 59% had been threatened with a weapon, 41% were stabbing victims, and 4% reported being shot.  Other risks that females undertake as part of gang involvement include drug addiction, a decrease in academic standards, low employment opportunities, possibility of spending time in jail or prison, and a decline in family relations (Archer & Grascia, 2006).

In some gangs, mostly those that are predominately made up of men, women are named 'house mouses' or 'cash cows' because of their role in the lives of the men they are around.  The women are suppose to work or commit crime to support the man, who more than likely does not have steady employment (hence the cash cow term).  In addition, since women in some gangs are considered strictly housewives (even if they are not married) who are suppose to available for anything (sex, food, laundry, etc.), they are actually victims of marginalization because of their seclusion from society (Hopper, 1990).

There is an interesting argument made by researchers that states male gang members may purposefully exclude female members from some gang activities.  Males may do this to keep the females from being victims of serious physical crimes or to protect them from being caught by the police (Miller & Decker, 2001).  If plans were made that only included the males of the gang and female members unexpectedly showed up, then the intended event was usually called off or at least delayed (Miller, 1998).  Although these arguments may be true to some extent, the most recent research available shows that female gang members are beginning to commit more violent offenses, which then increases their chances for victimization (Archer & Grascia, 2006).