Women have long been considered the nurturers of society. Men are regarded as the hunters and aggressors. Those gender profiles have been substantiated in the judicial system by the greater number of men versus women arrested for violent crimes. That concept, however, is changing.
Females increasingly are committing violent crimes according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Bureau of Justice Statistics data show that violent offenders accounted for 49 percent of the increase in the female prison population from 1995 to 2001. The number of women per capita involved in corrections overall has grown 48 percent since 1990, compared to a 27 percent increase in the number of men per capita.
Specific statistics for Clay County are not available but local officials agree that the number of females committing violent crimes is increasing.
Drug use was the most common reason given for the in-crease. Superior Court Judge Blaine Akers, Sheriff Rob Car-ter and Bra-zil Police Chief Mark Loudermilk believe a big part of the female violent crime growth is due specifically to the use of methamphetamine.
"Methamphetamine is a plague on our society," Loudermilk said. "It absolutely can cause violent behavior."
Domestic Violence Investigator Lisa Ratcliff doesn't discount drug use as a major factor but adds another reason for increased female violence. Women have been victims over and over. Ratcliff thinks some are just getting fed up and they're fighting back.
Patterns of violence seem to be showing up at a younger age. Juvenile Probation Officer Cathy Judd said she is seeing more fights involving females in the schools.
The breakdown of the family was also seen as a reason for increased female violence.
Although no scientific research was found to support it, some think the declining presence of the nurturing, stay-at-home mom has had an impact.
With or without drugs in the home, the role model many young girls see is a tired, angry, overwhelmed mother whose main coping mechanism is striking out at those closest to her with verbal and physical violence.
Dr. Tom Henderson of Hamilton Center agreed that may be a factor.
"People model behavior," Henderson said. "There's more violence on TV, too. Young kids watch it and think that's a normal way of life. We've become a more violent society."
The push for women's liberation was suggested as an element. Girls now have the right to be as aggressive as boys.
Another major factor believed to be responsible for increased aggressiveness in girls is sports, said a local law enforcement official who asked not to be identified. To be a competitive athlete a player must be aggressive. Girls are now encouraged to participate in sports with the carrot of a college scholarship held before them as incentive. Many parents feel if their daughters don't start at a young age, they can't be competitive.
Circuit Court Judge Ernest Yelton gave another possible reason for the increase of violence in women.
"As our society grows toward greater equality with rights in consideration of gender, there's a greater tendency to charge females with a crime," Yelton said. "In the old days, officers were reluctant to arrest a female.
"There were five females in jail today," he continued. "That's low. There are usually about eight. When I first took the bench 25 years ago, it was rare to have one."
Most people interviewed agreed that there is an increase in violent crimes by females even though their reasons differed. Unfortunately, they also agreed they knew of no solutions for the problem.
"Crime has existed since the beginning of time," Yelton said. "There will always be crime. If there is a solution, I'm not aware of it. If there is one, I think it will only be a partial solution."
But everyone also concurred that, as a society, we must continue to actively pursue finding a solution.