Who seems to be the target of the violent offenders, and What can we do about it? I'd like various opinions.
Victims of violent crimes tend to be those that the perpetrator saw as weak. Sometimes this means women. Women are generally smaller in stature and often unable to physically resist an attacker. The same could be said for someone with an injury or disability. A person with a disability is more likely to be a victim of violent crime because they are often vulnerable in some way. Children can become the victims of violence for the same reason. They are far more trusting and gullible than an adult. They are also easier to control and manipulate because of their small size and inexperience. Predators prey on the weak (or those that they perceive as weak).
Now, remember that violent crimes tend to follow patterns and that these patterns are often inherent to a specific population, or a region, or a culture, etc. Crime is crime, of course, but my argument is perhaps partial to the returning military troops and the increasing number of recently committed violent crimes perpetrated against their spouses. This being said, I honestly think that women are often the biggest target.We see women as the target in rapes, domestic violence (not always but more often than men), stalking, and harassment. Like KP pointed out, children would be the second most vulnerable. However, if we are going to move this to another scenario, like for example my hometown of PR, it is young men who are targets of crime due to their unfortunate meddling with illegal drugs, and because of gang-related vendettas.
The story is as old as man: There are the weak and there are the strong. William Golding writes of this basic nature of man in his allegory, Lord of the Flies. There is one passage in which a predatory boy named Roger wants to throw stones at an innocent young boy who sits by the shore. But, because his arm has been "conditioned by a civilization that knew nothing of him...." Roger does not strike the boy. However, later in the narrative as the boys are still isolated on the island away from their civilized country, Roger becomes more and more sadistic until he partakes in the killing of two of the boys and the assault on another.
In such a permissive society that makes excuses for people's savage behavior, there is more and more crime and sadism as the weak are preyed upon. These weaker constituents of society are children, women, elderly, and anyone else who tends to be vulnerable. What can be done about such crimes against the weak? A stronger, stricter and moralistic society. When a person can commit murder and be released in a few years, there is clearly a problem.
According to the Bureau of Justice report linked below, while African-Americans comprise 13% of the US population in 2005, they were the victims of nearly half of all homicides. To sum up the study, it suggests that young, black men from urban areas and homes with low annual incomes are (or were--it is from 2005) the most likely victims of violent crime, especially murder. The report goes on to say that 93% of black murder victims were killed by a black person.
I would have to say that not only are women targeted by violent offenders, but minorities receive a goodly portion of the violence that is perpetuated today. Sexual crimes are heinous in and of themselves, but hate crimes rate amongst the vilest of crimes.
I think one of the things we can do about these crimes is the education of our youth. We have to teach them that no one race of people is better than another and that we should use the Golden Rule, which states, "Do unto others as we would others do unto us," (paraphrasing) when dealing with each other. We also have to teach our children to not be prejudiced by setting a good example ourselves. Children mimic the actions and take on the attitutudes of their parents. Until adults show tolerance, acceptance, and kindness to minority groups, their children will never learn it. "Children Learn What They Live," (by Dorothy Law Nolte) and "Attitudes aren't taught; they're caught" (author unknown) are both maxims I learned while growing up that pertain to how we should treat each other.
We also need to teach our children to cherish, honor, and respect women. At the same time, women need to take stock of their actions and make sure they aren't enticing others to want to take advantage of or harm them. I believe a whole new generation of people would rise up who would never have a desire to molest women, children, or those considered to be a minority race.
http://www.noogenesis.com/pineapple/Kristone.html has the entire text of Dorothy Law Nolte's poem "Children learn What They Live."
I have no background in criminology or in law, but since you want opinions, I'll venture to express one. It seems the targets of violent offenders, using physical force against persons, are of a few categories, such as the weak and vulnerable, including women and children; other violent offenders; those who are targeted for revenge. It seems that what we can do requires, at least in part, a retrogressive answer, which is a very unpopular stance and point of view.
The retrogressive solution starts with children, which means schools. A return to discipline and order and respect is required. While violent crime will never cease to exist (it always has existed), a society steeped in orderliness and respect has less violence than a progressive society where individualism hits levels bordering on cultural disintegration as measured by youthful offenses and disregard for lawfulness.
A retrogressive answer also includes a return to a general moral code where questionable practices are safeguarded against by a generalized moral conscience. I don't mean to advocate a society that acts like an episode on "Star Trek," yet progressivism, especially in schools, has gone hand-in-hand with progressively worsening problems, while retrogression might give us a society reminiscent of times when the majority of people abhorred violence, respected other people, felt free to leave doors open, and free to give eye contact and a smile to passers-by on the street.
Like I said, a very unpopular opinion and stance, but, as it is America, I'm allowed to be unpopular.
To the extent that any one group is the target of violent offenders I'd guess it would be women. They are the ones most likely to be sexually assaulted and to be victims of domestic violence. The only way I can see to combat it is through education of both women and men.