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US women’s choices of strategies to protect themselves from violence
  1. Carol W Runyan1,2,3,
  2. Carri Casteel1,4,
  3. Kathryn E Moracco6,
  4. Tamera Coyne-Beasley1,2,3,5
  1. 1Injury Prevention Research Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  3. 3Department of Pediatrics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  5. 5Department of Internal Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  6. 6Chapel Hill Center, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr C Runyan
 137 East Franklin Street, CB 7505, University of North Carolina, Injury Prevention Research Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7505, USA


Objectives: To examine the extent to which US women’s self-protection strategies are associated with either their personal or vicarious victimization experiences.

Design: A cross-sectional random digit dial telephone survey.

Setting: Continental United States.

Subjects: Non-institutionalized, English-speaking women, age 18 and older.

Outcome measures: Women’s self-protection strategies.

Results: 1800 US women were interviewed (response rate 73%). They were found to use a wide variety of strategies to protect themselves. Their reported self-protection strategies did not vary relative to their assessment of the safety of their neighborhoods, but 47% avoided doing things they needed to do and 71% avoided doing things they wanted to do because of their fear of victimization. Victimization experiences, either personal or vicarious, were associated with increased weapon ownership and carrying. Compared with those with no victimization experiences, those with both personal and vicarious experience were more likely to have guns (OR = 1.58, 95% CI = 1.08 to 2.29), carry weapons (OR = 2.67, 95% CI = 1.66 to 4.28), carry devices (OR = 1.57, 95% CI = 1.09 to 2.26), and use home strategies (OR = 1.92, 95% CI = 1.33 to 2.78), suggesting a cumulative impact of multiple types of exposure to violence.

Conclusions: Ultimately, this research may help to guide women in making decisions about their choices of self-protection strategies and may help to inform policies about what approaches US women will support. Examining women’s patterns of strategy selection in other cultural contexts could be valuable for identifying and promoting interventions acceptable to women.

  • women
  • violence
  • self-protection
  • safety

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  • Competing interests: None.