Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Gender is all too relevant in violence statistics

We fully endorse this open letter to Alison Saunders of the Crown Prosecution Services. Violence against women and girls is one of the biggest human rights abuses globally. Far too often this reality is subsumed under meaningless statistics which erase the perpetrators, who are almost always male, and assume that men and women are equally likely to be victims of violence. We need to be clear that the perpetrators of violence against women and girls are men and that men commit the vast majority of violence experienced by other men. We have a serious problem in the UK with male violence and we need to be clear on who the perpetrators and victims are:

Your correspondents call on the director of public prosecutions to “affirm [her] commitment to eliminating intimate violence against human beings of any gender” and criticise the Crown Prosecution Service’s presentation of statistics in its annual violence against women and girls report for being so explicitly gendered (Letters, 2 July).

It is established fact that these crimes are massively disproportionately committed against women and girls (female genital mutilation exclusively so) and that they are related to women’s broader inequality with men. Your correspondents claim without citation that “one in six of all victims” are male. This is disputed, and certainly does not apply equally to all the forms of abuse in the CPS report. Eminent sociologist Professor Sylvia Walby was recently reported in this newspaper calling for an overhaul of the current methods of recording violent crime which are leading to gross understatement of the proportion directed at women (Report, 10 June).

Furthermore, it is also critical that we retain gender in our naming and analysis of these crimes because of the gender of the perpetrators, whom your correspondents do not mention at all. Many male victims of domestic violence, and the vast majority of men and boys who suffer sexual violence, are abused by men. We need to understand who these men are, why they choose to do what they do, how they target their victims by preying on other inequalities including age, sexuality and social class, and the gendered excuses for violence and abuse, if we are ever to eradicate it.

Over the last few years the CPS has brought together its reporting on the prosecution of crimes of violence against women and girls in recognition that there is a serious justice deficit in relation to them. This contributes to impunity and ultimately perpetrators’ confidence that they will get away with their crimes (as shown powerfully in the Rotherham child sexual exploitation inquiry report). The CPS report enables us to hold the prosecution service to account for the efforts it then makes to improve these justice outcomes.

The UK’s lack of “a consistent and coherent approach to tackling violence against women” was criticised in an official report on the UK by UN special rapporteur Rashida Manjoo recently who also raised a concern about a shift from gender specificity to gender neutrality.

In searching for recognition and then for justice and support for male survivors of abuse, it is a grave mistake to suggest taking gender out of the naming and analysis, and neutralising these crimes into Orwellian “intimate abuse”. A failure to name and call out the abuse of power in these crimes is what kept them invisible for so long.

Baljit Banga Newham Asian Women’s Project
Sara Browne Iranian ad Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Donna Covey Against Violence and Abuse
Naomi Dickson Jewish Women’s Aid
Sarah Green End Violence Against Women Coalition
Heather Harvey Eaves
Viv Hayes Women’s Resource Centre
Jacqui Hunt Equality Now
Karen Ingala Smith Nia Ending Violence & East London Rape Crisis
Nicole Jacobs Standing Together Against Domestic Violence
Professor Liz Kelly Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit, London Metropolitan University
Marai Larasi Imkaan
Dr Helen Mott Bristol Fawcett
Pragna Patel Southall Black Sisters
Belinda Phipps Fawcett Society
Emma Scott Rights of Women

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One thought on “Gender is all too relevant in violence statistics

  • Fran Luck says:

    Thanks so much for this post. “Gender neutral language” in these sorts of areas does nothing but obscure the reality of who is doing what to whom. We can’t fix it unless we understand the real dynamics at work. Violence against women by men is a long-time tradition. Only recently in history has it been made illegal and it continues to exist as a sexist “institution” despite the law (which is often difficult to “prove” in court, as evidenced by low conviction rates in rape). Men-as-a-class (although there are also male allies) are fighting back against feminist research and truth-telling in order to not be seen as perps and to maintain their privilege and control over women. Now is not the time to “blur” the truth of the ongoing epidemic of violence against women BY MEN. Thank you sisters.