This study examined how gang involvement shapes young women's risks of victimization.
Data were obtained from survey and semistructured in-depth interviews with 20 female members of mixed-gender gangs in Columbus, Ohio. The interviewees ranged in age from 12 to 17. The survey interview was a variation of several instruments currently being used in research in a number of U.S. cities and included a broad range of questions and scales that measured factors possibly related to gang membership. On issues related to violence, it included questions about peer activities and delinquency, individual delinquent involvement, family violence and abuse, and victimization. The goal of the in-depth interview was to gain a greater understanding of the nature and meanings of gang life from the perspectives of its female members. The study found that gang participation exposes youth to victimization risk, and it does so in gendered ways. Young women can use gender to decrease their risk of being harmed by rival gangs or other street participants by not participating in "masculine" activities such as fighting and committing crime; however, the consequence is that they are viewed as lesser members of their gangs and may be exposed to greater risk of victimization within their gangs. The author suggests that more research is needed to examine whether and how gang involvement enhances youths' exposure to victimization risk and that researchers should maintain a recognition of the role of gender in shaping these processes. 9 notes and 62 references