Remembering the women who are killed though male violence does not mean forgetting those who live

Most women who are victims of male violence don’t get killed.  I’ve been writing – a fair bit – about the UK women who are killed through  male violence; women who were killed by their partners, ex-partners, sons, grandsons, fathers, rapists, robbers, friends and more. But the women who are killed by men are only part of the story.

The government estimates that around 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and 85,000 women are raped every year. Most women live to tell the tale, except, according to the same report, around 28 per cent of women who are raped never tell anyone.  That means almost 24,000 women in the UK were raped last year, and no-one, except them – and the man or men who raped them – knows. It means that you may know one, or more woman, who was raped in the last year and have no idea. Others might tell a friend, or an organisation like Rape Crisis, but only around 15% tell the police.

UK police receive an average of one phone call per minute about domestic violence, that’s around 1,300 calls a day, or 570,000 a year.  Over eighty per cent of these calls are from women.  Most, through certainly not all, are still alive. There are various estimates of what proportion of domestic violence that occurs is reported to the police, it is usually stated that something between 26-40 per cent is reported. This means that between 60 and 74 per cent of domestic violence is not reported to the police. Even if you assume that one phone call means one incident and take the higher estimate of reporting: 40%  (and therefore the lower estimate of under reporting) and so assume that for every one incident reported, 1.5 are not, this would mean 855,000 domestic violence incidents happen – and are not reported – every year.  Most, but not all, of the women who experience these violent assaults from them men they share their lives with, are still alive.

Between 11th and 15th June 2012, Women’s Aid members reported that approximately 11,380 women were supported in non-refuge/community-based services.  In addition there were an estimated 2,095 calls to local and regional domestic violence helplines. Most, but not all, of the women who used these services and made those phone calls, are still alive.

Women’s Aid estimate that 19,510 women and 19,440 stayed in refuges last year. Around 69% of them had sought help from the police, around two thirds of them had been experiencing violence for at least two years before they contacted the police. Around a third of women living in refuges had never contacted the police. Most of them are still alive.  More than half had spent more than five years living with an abusive man before leaving him, more than half had left him at least once before.  Not dead.  But you don’t live through domestic violence until you reach the point where – for your own safety and well-being, and/or that of your children – you choose to move in to a refuge, and remain unaffected.

Some of the women who have been raped in the last year, or who have experienced sexual assault, or who reported male violence to the police, or who stayed in refuges, or who phoned helplines, or visited outreach services, who took out injunctions, whose situation was discussed at a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference, who were visited by social services because of safeguarding concerns about their children, who told only a friend, or who told absolutely no-one at all, some of these women will be dead this time next year. Most will not be.  Some of the women who will be dead this time next year, are living in fear of death now, as you read this.  Some of them will have told a friend, a family member or a professional that they ‘know’ that ‘x’ is going to kill them , that it’s just a matter of time. Some of them don’t expect to die, because that sort of thing happens to someone else.  Most of them will be right, but some will be badly and sadly wrong.  Some of the women who have told someone that they are afraid that they are going to be killed will be wrong, too many of them will be right.

I want us to know about the women who are killed through male violence, I want us to commemorate them and to learn lessons from their deaths that might prevent other women being killed.  That doesn’t mean I ever forget those that live every day  with male violence, or its after-effects.  Portia Smart wrote a painfully honest blogpice: Being is Bewildering  on living with PTSD after multiple experiences of male violence and a woman left this comment on my petition asking the government to properly record and analyse all forms of fatal male violence.  They say so much about living with male violence even after the violence itself has stopped:

“My father beat my mother even after she divorced him, he beat my mother when I was a child and that’s all I knew! My brothers thought it was ok so they beat me, it didn’t stop until we moved away, so I know all about male violence and what it does to children and women, it demoralizes them, makes them feel like they deserved it, that they started it, that they didn’t wear the proper dress or didn’t have their make up right or didn’t get the tea in time, or didn’t clean up after the kids…male dominance was a part of my life for a very long time and the police did nothing for a very long time, my mother is 70 odd years old now and still she gets afraid when people shout…..that’s my father’s legacy.”

Most male violence against and abuse of women doesn’t kill women, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. It doesn’t mean that those affected are not profoundly affected

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Funny Old World

I’m pleased to see the widespread media coverage and condemnation of violently misogynistic social media, including the death and rape threats to Caroline Criado-Perez and Stella Creasy, both women that I respect and who are working to make changes for women.  I’m pleased to see that so far two arrests (of men) have been made in relation to these threats.

I’m pleased to see how many women and men have spoken out in support of Caroline and Stella and against the cowardly bullies who seek to silence and intimidate them and many other women who dare to raise their voices.

I’m hopeful that we might be reaching a point when misogynistic abuse is no longer accepted as an inevitable consequence of women’s use of social media.

Ironically though, I haven’t seen one headline about actual rapes.

  • Maybe I missed the headline telling us that 350 rapes were reported to London’s  Metropolitan Police last month (June 2013).  A 40% increase on June 2012.

Ironically, I haven’t seen much coverage of actual murders of women through male violence.

Maybe I’ve missed the media coverage that looks at death and rape threats in the context of femicide and sexual violence against women.

I’m fed up that connections are not being made. Male violence against women and girls is not just about threats through social media.  It is a reality of life across the world. What is it going to take before we all say that male violence against women and girls needs to end?

Just a typical week in June – ignoring men’s abuse of women and children

135,000 tickets were sold for the Glastonbury Festival this year. How many of those attending will have complained that one of the main stages was named after a child abuser? How many even knew? What is the conspiracy of silence that allows a man who has been directly and publicly quoted as saying  “Girls used to queue up outside oral sex they were particularly keen on, I remember one of my regular customers, as it were, turned out to be 13, though she looked older.” And “All they wanted me to do was abuse them, sexually, which, of course, I was only too happy to do.” to continue to be so venerated? John Peel’s Festive Fifties may indeed hold treasured memories for many of the music industry’s agenda setters but given that he happily admitted shoving his dick in the mouth of a 13 year old girl, isn’t it time to shove him off his pedestal?

It’s not even a week since Linzi Ashton was found dead in Salford, Greater Manchester.  She died from strangulation and multiple injuries resulting from severe beating.  Her former boyfriend, Michael Cope is currently wanted by the police for her murder, before she died, he was wanted for raping her.  Yet the Police,  who confirmed that Cope has  a history of violent and aggressive behaviour and represents a risk to the community, have described their relationship as ‘acrimonious’ and this has been picked up and repeated – not challenged and not identified as victim blaming- in multiple press reports.  Acrimonious means “caustic, bitter, harsh”, it implies duality.  It does not describe a man with a history of physical and sexual violence.

The bodies of a family of three from Ireland, living in Spain were discovered after reportedly being dead several days. It is thought that Philip Wood  shot dead his wife Sheila and their daughter Sophie before shooting himself. Press reports have included details of the pressure that Philip Wood was under, of money problems, of Sheila Wood’s ill health and Sophie Wood being disabled, none have looked at the deaths within the context of male violence against women.

FBI files seen and reported by a British newspaper revealed that dead pop star Michael Jackson paid out over £23million to buy the silence of at least two dozen boys he abused over 15 years.  The FBI has allegedly held files – which included private investigators’ reports, phone transcripts and hours of audio tapes dating back to 1989 – since 2002.   Jackson was cleared of a charge of abusing a child before his death in 2005.  The files, despite being in possession of the state,  were not passed on to  the prosecutors.  The state knew and the state kept quiet.

The process of grooming in child sexual abuse has gained  wider awareness though the trials of groups of men with multiple victims, including cases in Oxford and Derbyshire.  Earlier this month,  Jeremy Forrest, a teacher aged 30 was found guilty of five charges of underage sex with a pupil, then 15 years old.  Now aged 16, she has spoken to a newspaper and claimed that it was she who groomed her teacher, not the other way round.  The interview has been widely reproduced and sensationalised  across the press.  Grooming is a process by which an abuser gains trust and establishes an emotional connection, making a potential victim feel special as a preparation for abuse,  the perpetrator progressively sexualises the relationship.   The girl is legally a child and her adult teacher had a duty of care for her.  Press reports of a child grooming an adult are collusion with the adult abuser.  The collusion suggests that grooming is something that the press can only identify if the perpetrators are groups of Asian men.

35% of women worldwide have experienced male violence

38% of all murders of women worldwide are committed by intimate partners

There are an estimated 78,000 rapes in the UK every year

Last year at least 114 UK women were killed through male violence

The number of people convicted of sex offences on children aged under 16 in England and Wales increased by nearly 60% between 2005 and 2010.

But rather than the increasing awareness of the true extent of male violence against and abuse of women and children leading to an increased condemnation of perpetrators and an increased commitment to end gender based violence, the rising voices of the naysayers,  the pointing fingers of the victim-blamers and the deafening silence of those that look the other way seem to me to be getting louder.

This thing about male victims

A couple of weeks ago, The Independent ran an article on male victims of domestic violence. There were some factual inaccuracies in the report along with the use of the statistic that one in three victims of domestic abuse in Britain is male. I challenged these on twitter. I received the response below from a professional referenced in the article

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But I’m not going to move on. I’d prefer to talk about this statistic because it is unhelpful at best, it is derailing and dangerous at worst.

The claim of gender parity in domestic violence, or at least of much less difference than is conventionally believed, is nothing new, in fact it’s been popping up – and out of the mouths of Men’s Rights Activists – since at least the 1970ies.  No matter how often or how robustly ‘gender symmetry’ claims are rebuffed and refuted, its advocates continue to regurgitate their position.

‘A third of all victims of abuse are male’

The data referenced, that approximately a third of victims of domestic abuse in the UK are male comes from data from the British Crime Survey. It contrasts significantly from data from police crime reports which estimate that between 80-90% of violence against the person reported is by women assaulted by men.

The main problems with the statistic that a third of reports are by men are

    • It is about domestic abuse and/or conflict, not domestic violence
    • The data does not differentiate between cases where there is one incident of physical conflict/abuse/violence or those where violence is repeated. If we look at the data for where there have been four or more incidents, then approximately 80% of victims are women
    • The data does not differentiate between incidents where violence and abuse are used as systematic means of control and coercion and where they are not
    • The data does not include sexual assault and sexual violence
    • The data does not take account of the different levels of severity of abuse/violence, ‘gender symmetry’ is clustered at lower levels of violence
    • The data does not take account of the impact of violence, whether the level of injury arising from the violence or the level of fear. Women are six times more likely to need medical attention for injuries resulting from violence and are much more likely to be afraid
    • The data does not differentiate between acts of primary aggression and self-defence, approximately three quarters of violence committed by women is done in self-defence or is retaliatory.

In fact, if these issues are taken into account, research consistently finds that violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women and levels are consistent with data of reports from the police. This is supported by data from the Crown Prosecution Service that shows that across the five years between 2007/8 and 2011/12, 93.4% of those convicted for crimes relating to domestic violence were men.

Looking at sexual offences

43,869 sexual offences were recorded by police in England and Wales in 2011/12.

In the same year:

    • 96.7% of cautions issues for sexual offences were to males
    • 98.2% of prosecutions for sexual offences were against males
    • 99% of convictions for those found guilty of sexual offences were male

54% of UK rapes are committed by a woman’s current or former partner.

But that doesn’t mean that there is gender parity if sexual offences are excluded from consideration.

‘It’s harder for men to report, there’s much more of a taboo for men’

Exactly the opposite:

    • men are more – not less – likely to call the police
    • men are more likely – not less – to support a prosecution
    • men are less likely – not more – withdraw their support of charges.1

Another way to get round the issue of unrepresentative reporting is to look at who gets killed, dead people don’t get the choice of whether or not to inform the police. UK Homicide records between 2001/2 and 2011/12 (11 years) show that on average 5.7% (296 total) of male homicide victims and 44.2%(1066) of female homicide victims are killed by a partner or ex-partner. Expressed as an average of those killed by a partner or former partner over 11 years, 22% were men, 78% were women.

Note, the domestic homicide figures do not tell us the sex of the perpetrator, nor is the sex of the perpetrator revealed for all other types of homicide. Men are overwhelmingly killed by other men – regardless of the relationship between victim and perpetrator. Women are overwhelmingly killed by men – regardless of the relationship between victim and perpetrator

‘Maybe the police see what they expect to see, gender stereotypes mean that men are more likely to be perceived as the aggressor’

Except that they’re not. Research by Marianne Hester (2009), found that women were arrested to a disproportionate degree given the fewer incidents where they were perpetrators. During a six year study period men were arrested one in every ten incidents, women were arrested one in every three incidents.

When women do use violence, they are at risk of greater levels or retaliatory violence.

Women are penalised, not excused, not invisible, if they transgress gender stereotypes.

‘Women make false allegations’

Except when they don’t and in the vast majority of cases they don’t.

The Crown Prosecution Service recently released data from a 17 month period in which there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 111,891 for domestic violence in England and Wales. Over the same timescale, there were only 35 prosecutions for making false allegations of rape, six for false allegations of domestic violence and three that involved false allegations of both rape and domestic violence.

‘Women exaggerate’

Women overestimate their own use of violence but underestimate their victimisation. Women normalise, discount, minimise, excuse their partners’ domestic and sexual violence against them. Women find ways to make it their fault.

In contrast, men overestimate their victimisation and underestimate their own violence.2 Men are more likely to exaggerate a women’s provocation or violence to make excuses for initiating violence and, where retaliation has occurred, in an attempt to make it appear understandable and reasonable. Paul Keene, used the defence of provocation for his killing of Gaby Miron Buchacra. His defence claimed that he was belittled by her intellectual superiority and that he lost control after rowing with her by text over a twelve hour period. That a jury accepted his defence is a further example of how men’s violence is minimised and excused. Not only by men and the women they assault, but by the legal system. The right to claim abuse as a mitigating factor in domestic violence homicide cases was vitally important for women like Kiranjit Aluwahlia, Emma Humphreys and Sara Thornton, all of whom had suffered years of violence and abuse at the hands of the men they killed. That such a defence could be used in Paul Keene’s case only illustrates how differently women and men who use violence are treated.

A feminist perspective, based on an understanding of socially constructed gender roles and differences within the framework of patriarchal society does not mean that all men are violent to women, or that men are genetically pre-disposed to violence. It means the opposite. It means that women and men are socialised and that – within the limits of choice permitted by the social environment – we can choose to be different.

Whether coming from an anti-feminist Men’s Right Activist perspective, or from a
genuine desire to support those men who are victims of domestic or sexual violence, those who use statistics that overstate similarities between male and female violence are either doing so wilfully, to pursue their own agenda, or because they genuinely haven’t taken the time to – or have failed to – understand the statistics.

I have no desire to deny any man’s reality. Denying women’s much greater suffering as victims of domestic and/or sexual violence is a political act. The differences between men and women’s use of violence and experiences of victimisation do not need to be denied or minimised for all victims to be deserving of safety and support. It is quite possible to believe that no woman, child, or man deserves to be a victim of sexual or domestic violence (or indeed of any other type of violence) whist maintaining a feminist agenda to end women’s oppression.

Footnotes

1 Kimmel 2002

2Dobash et al. 1998

Any man experiencing domestic violence can contact the men’s advice line

The BBC, the myth of false allegations and culpability

On 12 March 2013, The Crown Prosecution Service published a report by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, into so-called false allegations of rape and domestic violence. The report – showing that false allegations are rare, and probably rarer than most people think1 –   is part of work being undertaken by the CPS to improve its handling of cases involving violence against women and girls

Rapists and abusers are the ones who need to be held responsible for the crimes that they commit. Yet we all share a responsibility for creating a culture that either supports victims, or one that supports abusers. Doing nothing permits rapists and abusers to hold a sense of entitlement and impunity; ultimately, to carry on raping and abusing.

The BBC, in their coverage of the DDP’s report, on both Radio 4’s Today programme and Newsbeat, decided to focus on the ‘extent’ of false accusations and the trauma of being falsely accused. They chose to take this position despite Starmer’s stated aim of wanting to dispel damaging myths about false allegations. Damaging myths that, if held, make it less likely that victims of rape are going to be believed. Damaging myths, so often internalised by victims of rape and abuse, that make them fearful that they will not be believed and so less likely to report.

Like many others, I was angry and disappointed. I complained to the BBC. I asked the BBC to ask themselves whether their coverage of the report made it easier or harder for women and children to report abuse. I suggested that in peddling the myth of false accusations, they were demonstrating that they had learned nothing from what we have come to know about their role in the widespread abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile.

I’ve now received a reply from BBC Complaints. They explained that they were fulfilling their role as impartial observer. The full response is reproduced below2 but these two paragraphs in particular warrant special attention:

I’m sorry if you objected to this approach, and for your concerns and misperception linking this fundamental approach to the Jimmy Savile case. Within a democratic society, however, the BBC would be failing in its duty if it didn’t take such an approach. This may include hearing opinions or observations which you personally disagree with, or counter-statistics you would dispute, but which individuals may be fully entitled to hold in the context of legitimate debate.

We understand there is always room for debate about particular news judgements, but the principles are pretty clear. To depart from them would open the BBC to justified complaint, and would eventually undermine the public’s trust in our reporting as a whole.

Linking their coverage of the CPS report to their role in the abuse by Jimmy Savile is “my misconception”? Savile is one of the country’s most prolific sexual abusers of women and children. The BBC need to ask themselves what they did, and what they did not do, to allow his role with them to give him almost unrestricted access to women and children. The BBC harboured and protected Savile from 1964 -2012. The extent of Savile’s abuse; the claims that his abuse was not only widely suspected but also known of, and the shambles around Newsnight’s decision to drop the probe into his predatory sexual abuse, illustrate systemic failings of the most profound nature. The BBC is worried about failing in its democratic duty. Have they considered their duty of care to women and children? Is that less important? When being a “devil’s advocate” and promoting legitimate debate makes it easier for rapists to carry on raping, whilst making it harder for victims to seek support and justice, where should their priority lie?

And what about undermining the public’s trust in the BBC‘s reporting? Police are now aware of alleged sexual abuse of hundreds of women, children and young people over five decades by Savile. What about the public’s trust in the institution through which much of this abuse was conducted? Again, surely it is this that merits their concern.

I’d suggested that the BBC were using the myth of false reporting to justify their own failings. Their response to my complaint suggests that they are now using the myth of (their) objective reporting to deny that they have any culpability in creating a culture in which women and children are disbelieved. It’s no coincidence that Rape Crisis helplines across the country saw a huge increase in the volume of calls as the extent of Jimmy Savile’s sexual abuse became clear. People who were being abused, people who had been abused as children, suddenly had reason to think that someone might listen to them. Someone just might believe them. Someone was saying that it wasn’t their fault.

Savile was raping and sexually abusing women, girls and boys between 1955 and 2009, with the first recorded reports to police in 1964. The myth of false reporting and fear of not being believed denies victims of sexual violence access to support and justice and enables perpetrators to carry on abusing. The real story was that women and children need to be better protected by the criminal justice system. The BBC wants to patronise me for failing to understand the democratic process. After-all, I’m ‘just (one of) the women’. The BBC wants me to know that any link between their broadcasts emphasising false rape reporting, and through Savile their responsibility to protect either abusers or the abused, is my misconception. If they cannot see how wrong they are, any misconception is wholly theirs, not mine.

1During the 17 month reporting period covered by the report, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 35 for making false allegations of rape. It’s estimated that 21% of rapes are reported to the police. We know that 82% of reported rapes do not come to trial. So if there were 5,651 prosecutions, something like, 31,394 will have been reported and a further 118,101, a total of would not have been reported. In other words:

  • Of 5,651 prosecutions for rape, 35 or 0.6% resulted in a prosecution for false allegation
  • Of 31,395 rapes reported to the police, 35 or 0.1% resulted in a prosecution for false allegation
  • 35 expressed as a percentage of the 149,495 estimated rapes that took place, is 0.02%

2 Dear Ms Ingala Smith

Reference CAS-1975481-VXRQK9

Thanks for contacting us regarding Radio 4’s 0800 News Bulletin on 13 March.

I’m sorry to note you were unhappy with the BBC’s reporting on the extent of false allegations of rape reporting.

As you acknowledge yourself however, our coverage heard directly from the head of the CPS, Keir Starmer QC. It was prompted by the release of statistics, widely covered in our coverage and given to the BBC by the CPS, which showed two people a month were being prosecuted for making a false claim, and wasting police time.

That we may have heard opposing views or had presenters playing devil’s advocate with Mr Starmer, during an interview, is simply part of our role as an impartial observer. It would be remiss of us not to acknowledge if such figures are disputed and the arguments and information provided by other contributors, including those who might challenge the CPS view, can only improve the debate or awareness of an issue. Our role is to provide the range of views for listeners and viewers and to hear informed argument from different sides, providing more context on a subject for our audience and more information for them to make up their own minds.

I’m sorry if you objected to this approach, and for your concerns and misperception linking this fundamental approach to the Jimmy Savile case. Within a democratic society, however, the BBC would be failing in its duty if it didn’t take such an approach. This may include hearing opinions or observations which you personally disagree with, or counter-statistics you would dispute, but which individuals may be fully entitled to hold in the context of legitimate debate.

We understand there is always room for debate about particular news judgements, but the principles are pretty clear. To depart from them would open the BBC to justified complaint, and would eventually undermine the public’s trust in our reporting as a whole.

Nevertheless, I’d like to assure you that we’ve registered your comments on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback we compile daily for news teams, programme makers and senior management within the BBC. The audience logs are important documents that can help shape future decisions and they ensure that your points, and all other comments we receive, are made available to BBC staff across the Corporation.

Thanks again for contacting us.

Kind Regards