Why the least victimized by violence (e.g., women and elderly) are most fearful is a central paradox in the fear of crime literature. Four attempts to resolve the paradox are discussed: hidden victimization of women; greater tendencies of women to recall early life-course experiences, and to generalize fear from one context to another and from one type of victimization to another; vulnerability of women; and male discounting of fear. Empirical evidence from a Stockholm survey is used to argue that the hidden victimization strategem does not seem likely to succeed in explaining fear levels. Tendencies for women to generalize differently from men across time, space or type of victimization experience are not found or weak. Results are consistent with the vulnerability hypothesis, specifically the greater ‘ecological vulnerability’ of women (Sparks 1982), but there is also evidence of male ‘discounting’ of risk and fear. Further research is needed to assess the extent to which female vulnerability is more important than male discounting in accounting for risk perceptions and fear of crime.

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