Women crime victims in Utah County are significantly more likely to be assaulted and to suffer other negative effects than male crime victims, according to a Brigham Young University researcher.

"Women experience significantly more physical and emotional symptoms shortly after a crime as compared to before the crime," said Wanda M. Spaid, an assistant professor in the BYU School of Social Work, in a preliminary report prepared at the request of the Utah County Victim's Rights Committee.She was to present her findings, based on surveys and interviews with crime victims in the Utah County area, during the International Gender and the Family Conference Thursday at BYU.

The women in Spaid's study reported increased episodes of trembling, loss of appetite and tension after being victims. They also complained of greater difficulty in making decisions and doing normal activities shortly after the crime.

"They also reported experiencing more nightmares and being significantly more depressed, irritable and suspicious of others, as well as experiencing a more pronounced sense of helplessness."

Male crime victims reported no significant reactions to the crime.

Spaid offered two possible explanations for the gender differences in reactions to crime.

"One is that female respondents are most often victims of assault, as compared with male respondents, who are generally victims of theft or burglary," she explained. "It would seem reasonable to assume that assault will be more traumatic than burglary or theft, especially when it results in physical injury, as was the trend for women.

"Another possible explanation is that men may be more reluctant to acknowledge physical or emotional reactions to victimization."

Men and women also differed in their levels of satisfaction with the criminal justice system, Spaid found. Males were less satisfied with how well-informed they were kept by the police and prosecutors. Both men and women were particularly unhappy over their limited opportunities to express their views on the sentencing of perpetrators, she said.

She said that because of the greater emotional reactions reported by women, it seems odd that men reported greater dissatisfaction with the system. "It could be that, based on traditional gender roles, men expect to have an active role in all aspects of their lives, whereas women expect to have a more passive role."