The study by Laurel Watson from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, offers an explanation for why women fear face-to-face crime more than men, despite being less likely to experience most crimes."The findings support the theory that women may have a greater fear of crime due to the potential of also being raped during these encounters," said Watson.

The study involved 133 African American and 95 white female undergraduates. African-American women reported more sexual objectification experiences and fear of crime than white women and were affected by greater links to psychological distress.

"Women at college experience rates of rape five-to-seven times higher than women of comparable age outside college. One in five American women are raped in their lifetime," Watson noted. Many measures such as avoiding walking alone at night or carrying a method of protection - a sharp object or pepper spray - place the onus of maintaining safety on women rather than on the perpetrators of violence.

Women bear the scar tissue of a socio-cultural context where rape is epidemic."Partnerships with men in stopping violence may help transform unequal power distributions between men and women - a chief reason why violence against women occurs in the first place," Watson concluded. The study is forthcoming in the journal Sex Roles published by Springer.

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