Women not often source of violence

Rebecca Carton

On Aug. 25, 2007, Catricia Shelburn was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the stabbing death of Larry Brown, following what Ames Police believe was a domestic dispute. She pleaded guilty to the crime in a court hearing Tuesday.

The incident was an extreme exception to the general rule that violent crimes in Ames are rarely perpetrated by women.

“I do not have statistics on our community, [but] I would venture to say that the majority of our violent acts are committed by males,” said Cmdr. Jim Robinson of the Ames Police Department. “An exception to that would be Catricia Shelburn.”

According to the 2006 Iowa Uniform Crime Report, the most repeated offense for women was shoplifting, followed by liquor law violations. The third most common offense was simple assault.

Robinson said a common cause of violent offenses among women is substance abuse.

“I think the majority of arrests we see involving females involve alcohol – public intoxication or driving drunk. The majority of contacts for arrest are alcohol-related, [which can] fall over to assault, vandalism and ultimately theft like shoplifting,” he said.

Sgt. Vincent Valdez of the Des Moines Police Department agrees the majority of violent offenders are male.

“I would say – just because the population is more white people – it would probably be more white males,” he said.

Although women are rarely violent offenders, they are more often involved as victims.

Lt. David Lekwa, support services commander at the Story County Sheriff’s Department, said domestic violence is the most common type of violence involving women in Iowa and across the country.

“I think that’s probably prevalent across the United States – that, when law enforcement is involved in taking reports from women, quite often it has to do with domestic violence,” he said.

Valdez added that “just little domestic spats between them and their boyfriends or husbands or just other women” were common.

Robinson also said, during instances in which females are arrested for crimes such as domestic assault, it is usually the male in the relationship that initiates the dispute.

“Usually, if we have an arrest due to a domestic assault, it is the male who was the aggressor. We have had instances where the female has been the primary aggressor,” he said.

Lekwa agreed and said that women in violent situations rarely resort to acting with violence.

“The abuser doesn’t cause the other person to become abusive – they become victims and become withdrawn and less likely to get help,” he said.