Introduction to criminology

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'The most serious threats to personal safety occur not on the street but in the home'. Discuss
Hasn't the phrase "safe as houses" been an important principle to many from such an early age and onwards? Well is this necessarily true?

Often the topic of personal safety with a home environment raise immediate issues of domestic violence, although this plays perhaps the most significant part of 'home violence', it is necessary to look into other areas to present a clear picture. It is estimated that by 2021, 19.2% of the total population of the UK will be aged over 65 , thus being the UK has a clear aging population which brings about issues of stretched resources and other social implication, but are the Government doing enough for the elderly. The government have attempted with extreme difficulty to project figures to attain a more recent diagnosis of the extent of the problem.

According to a 2003 report from the House of Commons Health Committee 'elder abuse occurs in institutional settings, but more often in the home' . Statistics showed that elder abuse in their own home accounted for 67%, compared to 12% in the nursing home and 10% in a residential home. The committee announced the perpetrators to include carers, relatives, friends and strangers. What makes studies on elder abuse so sparse is the lack of awareness in the area? There is no question that it is under-reported, the committee itself made that very clear and the charity support group 'help the aged' described elder abuse as 'an extremely hidden topic'.

It may be argued that there are problems quantifying statistics due to the social nature of the issues, as with any reason. Firstly there is no clear legal definition, and secondly due to possible natures of the victims being frail and vulnerable, thus insufficient to face interview. A 2000 report called 'No Secrets' categorised elder abuse into six categories: physical abuse (including misuses of medication and restraint), sexual abuse including assaults and acts where consent has not been given on the victims own grounds, psychological abuse (including isolation), threats and emotional abuse. Neglect and acts of omission such as the withdrawing the basic necessities of life and discriminatory abuse being abuse distinguishable upon race, sex, orientation or disability.

According to the House of Commons Select Committee victims are unable to report the crimes, due to immobility or poor general health, there are also issues of embarrassment and fear for any repercussions. The nature is very similar to that of a domestic violence case where the victim will try to condone each and every action of the perpetrator. Local authorities often have elderly care schemes whereby carers and community staff monitor the well-being of elderly people, but the report established that community staff are poorly trained when it comes to awareness of abuse within the generation.

Moving into the realms of sociological perspectives, it is necessary to apply the thinking of feminism to develop a more comprehensive opinion. According to Whittaker (1995) 'elder abuse appears to have been screened out of the (gender) debate on the grounds that women have been found to abuse their elders too'. However according to McCreadie (1991), the majority of victims of elder abuse appear to be female. Though there is agreement that the majority of abusers are men, and most victims are female, 'research does demonstrate that frail, vulnerable old men are also victims, while women are also perpetrators'. So in summary, there is a contested view that elder abuse holds a credible place in feminist studies.

The study of domestic violence is a necessity to establishing the extent of personal violence threats in society. A definition of domestic violence can be:

    'any violence between current and former partners in an intimate relationship, wherever the violence occurs. The violence may include physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse'.

It can be noted that to the 1 in 4 women who will suffer domestic violence throughout their lifetime , would certainly suffer less outside of the home. But to what extent is this the case. According to the World Report on Health and Violence (2002) between 10-69% of women reported a physical assault by an intimate partner during their lifetime. According to the WHO study, domestic violence is the most common form of violence against women, and violence inflicted by a close partner is much more common than rape/assault by strangers or acquaintances . The study was conducted in 2005 and although its main purpose was to compare female crime around the world, it was conclusive that women have more to fear in the home or in the presence of intimate partners than strangers.

Another side to domestic violence is sanctioning and intervention by the state, it is argued that domestic violence persists a much more serious crime than which would be witnessed on the streets due to its nature of being covert and hidden from society. In fact according to a statement from the Association of Chief Police Officers 'in the majority of cases the role of the police is negative, it is important to maintain unity between a couple who are bound in marriage'. It goes on to say that 'precipitated action could aggravate the situation'. So whereas is a street offence the police would charge the offender and investigate the problem, this immediately removing the future proposed threat. In a domestic situation, there are complex social implications of marriage, thus making the situation a lot more difficult for the police in fear of worsening the situation. Perhaps that is why domestic violence only accounts for 16-25% of recorded crime , when in fact in reality it is a lot higher.

When it comes to the sentencing of the offender, there can be immense difficulties. According to the sentencing guidelines, training for magistrates shows that domestic violence is rarely a one-off offence , but a sentence for continuing abuse can only be issued if the other accounts of domestic violence have been reported, charged, proved or admitted. This results in the sanction rarely fitting the extent of the abuse committed. After studying sentencing patterns issued at five specialist domestic violence courts in 2003, only an extreme few offenders were subject to an imprisonment. Only 4% were imprisoned, whereas 59% had to pay some form of compensation and 30% were let off with a conditional discharge. I believe this to show the underlying harmful problems intertwined with domestic violence cases due to social factors of society, police attitudes and the nature of the intimacy commonly held between the victim and offender.

In conclusion it would appear that the ordinary problems and hurdles appear when measuring and reporting crime, such as the dark figure of crime and definition problems. Although the current findings show the extent of elder abuse to be fairly low compared to crimes of other ages and other settings, it is necessary to consider the amount that goes unreported, also due to no recent studies, the problem is certainly more of a problem than once thought joined with the fact that the elder generation only keeps increasing. Domestic violence is still as bigger problem as it always has been, but the majority of offences committed by an intimate partner, the kind one would find in a home environment, there is certainly a higher percentage of ongoing threatening and violent behaviour going on in the home from a domestic point of view. The implication of street crime do show that many more forms of violence can take place on the street than in the home, such as robberies, muggings, sexual offences, anti social behaviour, violence and other threatening behaviour. But it is evident that institutions that deal with the removing of the threats are suggesting that crimes that go on in the home certainly have by no means controlled as strictly as they should be in regards to the real figures of threatening behaviour which goes on.

To conclude evidence is inconclusive to draw links between threats in a domestic compared with a street context. But there is evidence suggesting that there is a high number of threatening acts going on in the domestic environment and these can have longer lasting effects than a simple street crime.



  • L O'Toole, J Schiffman, 'Gender violence: interdisciplinary perspectives',(1997, Hew York University Press) (Terri Whittaker (1995) Page 294.


  • Office of Health Economics: Accessed: 23/12/09
  • Home Office: Accessed: 23/12/09
  • Women's Aid: Accessed: 23/12/09
  • Women face worst abuse at home': - BBC NEWS. Date accessed 23/12/09
  • Sentencing Guidelines for Domestic Violence, Part 1, Sect 9
  • Home Office, 2004; Dodd et al., 2004; BCS, 1998; Dobash and Dobash, 1980.

Journals & Reports

  • House of Commons Health Committee, 'elder abuse', 2nd report 2003-04 Vol 1
  • Heise LL, Ellsberg M, Gollemoeller M. Ending violence against women (population reports, series L, no 11). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Center for Communications Programs, 1999.
  • ACPO - p366 - Women, Policing and Male Violence: International Perspectives - J Hamner, J.