WASHINGTON — Women commit about 2.1 million violent crimes each year in the United States, three-quarters of which are simple assaults on other women, the Justice Department said Sunday.
By comparison, men commit about 13 million violent crimes each year, more than half of which are simple assaults, and 70% of their victims are males, the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics reported.
The figures were based on averages for the years 1993 to 1997 as measured in the annual National Crime Victimization Survey of about 100,000 people.
The remaining violent offenses by both sexes were more serious: aggravated assaults, robberies, rapes, murders.
"This report shows that women are where men were during the 1960s and 1970s, using their fists when they commit violent assaults," said Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology who directs the Brudnick Center for Violence at Northeastern University in Boston. "The men have graduated into aggravated assaults and murder. The women haven't followed."
The violent offense rate has been declining among both men and women since 1994 peaks. From 1994 to 1997, the violence rate has fallen by 29% among men and 25% among women, the bureau said.
Additionally, the rate at which women commit murder has been falling since 1980. In 1998, it hit its lowest point since 1976, the bureau said, citing FBI figures based on police reports. Murder is the crime most fully reported to police.
The 1998 murder rate was one female murderer for every 77,000 women, 40% below the rate in 1976. For males in 1998, the rate was one murderer for every 8,700 males. That was a decline from one murderer for every 4,800 males at the peak in 1991.
For murder, "the gender gap hasn't closed" significantly, Levin said.
"The reduced level of criminal behavior in this country has affected both men and women," Levin said. "It's unlikely that women will graduate into the more dangerous violent offenses like murder and aggravated assault."