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Getting Jumped in Vacationland: the Complicated Rhetoric and Realities of Assault in a Small Town

Published onMar 15, 2022
Getting Jumped in Vacationland: the Complicated Rhetoric and Realities of Assault in a Small Town
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Getting Jumped in Vacationland: the Complicated Rhetoric and Realities of Assault in a Small Town
Description

Crime research often fails to recognize the context of small-town crime as meaningfully different from urban and rural crime contexts. Furthermore, non-urban spaces serve as the symbolic counterpoint to problematized urban areas. Even now, research fails to provide the detail and nuance needed to explain how complex local perceptions of small-town crime disprove the monolithic assumption of idyllic small towns. This study interrogates the disconnections between the realities of assault in a small town and the rhetorical constructions of perceived offenders. We analyze available police report data from the town of Sandusky, Ohio, comparing it with local social media commentary to identify and explain gaps between the reported incidence of assault and related perception and rhetoric among area residents. We find that area residents construct their town as violent, crime-ridden, and beyond hope. Discourses surrounding reports of violence reinforce cynicism, assign blame, and rely on race, youth, and poverty tropes. This study constitutes a divergence from previous crime literature that considers small towns as generally less prone to violent crime than big cities and treats public perception of small towns as positive overall. We contribute important axes for comparison between institutional and locally constructed rhetorical spaces and address localized anomic perspectives on small-town crime.

 

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