Study finds female mayors three times more likely to be physically attacked

A new study finds that women who are mayors are more than twice as likely as men in the same office to be subjected to psychological abuse and nearly three times as likely to be the victims of physical violence, according to the State and Local Government Review.

Researchers surveyed 238 mayors of cities with populations more than 30,000 and found gender, age and city size were all risk factors for abuse and violence, but that being a woman was the only factor associated with increased risk of both physical violence and psychological abuse.

“We’re seeing more women get elected into political office everywhere at the same time that there are increasing threats against all public officials,” Mona Lena Krook, a political science professor at Rutgers University who was not involved in the study, told The New York Times. “Men also face violence, but women face more, and more types of violence.”

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Heather McTeer Toney, who from 2004 to 2012 was the first black woman and first woman in general to serve as mayor of Greenville, Miss., as well as its youngest mayor at 28, told the Times that she received rape threats in her mailbox. “It’s 15 years later and I can still remember that,” she told the Times. “Trust me, this is something that I want to forget.”

Serving as mayor is particularly fraught with difficulties because of how often they come into direct contact with constituents compared to state-level or national officials, Krook told the Times. “People at the local level are left more vulnerable to attack, and it’s more likely that people can reach you,” she said.

Further complicating the issue for women is that speaking about issues that some may assume come with the territory can lead them to be perceived as weak, she said.

“Politicians have an image to keep up,” she told the newspaper. “That’s particularly hard for women. If you potentially show some weakness, people can really jump on that.”