Quick stats – sexual violence is unusual?

// 9 January 2008

Clothesline ProjectI just put this together quickly for something else put thought it worth sharing here. You know those moments when people claim that violence against women is rare and the majority of men are being harshly and unfairly judged on the basis of a very small minority….

Here’s my potted reply:

Male violence is part of the everyday (the alltag in sociological terms) for women see Betsy Stanko’s Everyday Violence. Violence has become routinized in the lives of women and it should be seen as a social issue.

C Wright Mills, in The Sociological Imagination, highlights the difference between a personal trouble and a public issue. He uses unemployment as an example but it can be adapted.

In a city of 100,000 people, 1 woman being raped is a personal trouble. In a country of roughly 27 million women, 1,323,000 rapes is a public issue (figures taken from the British Crime Survey question asking whether women had been raped since the age of 16 and 4.9% said yes).

Statistics from Women’s Aid show that:

1 in 4 women experience domestic violence in their lifetime and between 1 in 8 to 1 in 10 women experience it annually. Less than half of all incidents are reported to the Police, but they still receive one domestic violence call every minute in the UK.

British Crime Survey found that there were an estimated 12.9 million incidents of domestic violence acts (that constituted non-sexual threats or force) against women and 2.5 million against men in England and Wales in the year preceding interview (Walby & Allen, 2004). (Italics mine – they highlight a problem in data collection – because sexual threats and force are counted as a different crime we can’t assess a true figure for domestic violence including sexual threats and force yet we know from women’s testimony that sexual threat and force is often a part of domestic violence).

Every minute in the UK, the Police receive a call from the public for assistance for domestic violence. This leads to police receiving an estimated 1,300 calls each day or over 570,000 each year. (Stanko, 2000). However, according to the British Crime Survey, only 40.2% of actual domestic violence crime is reported to the Police (Dodd et al, July 2004).

The self-completeion module of the 2001 British Crime Survey research found that “women are most commonly sexually assaulted by men they know”. When the researchers asked women about the last incident of rape experienced since the age of 16, they found that 45% were raped by current husbands or partners, 9% by former partners, and a further 29% of perpetrators were otherwise known to the victim. Only 17% were raped by strangers (Walby & Allen, 2004).

Of women who had experienced domestic violence, 25% had never lived with the partner who had committed the worst act of violence against them. (Walby & Allen, 2004).

In a study of 200 women’s experiences of domestic violence it was found that 60% of the women had left because they feared that they or their children would be killed by the perpetrator (Humphreys & Thiara, 2002).

Elsewhere in research we know that women are mostly likely to be killed by a present or former spouse or partner than by any other act of homicide.

And as for it being a very small minority of men…..assuming there are 27 million women in the UK (created by halving the 54 million population count)…

We’re taking about 1,323,000 rapes, 6,750,000 experiences of domestic violence and 1,377,000 other acts of sexual violence. I see no statistical or logical evidence that all of those are being carried out by a handful of men. If they are then they are pretty damn busy men. Add to which this doesn’t include non-legally defined issues of sexual violence like street harassment of women.

So even if we assume that each of the rapists rapes four women, each domestic abuser has two relationships and each man commiting other acts of sexual violence does it ten times we are still talking about 3,843,450 men or almost 15% of men or 1 in 6 men (I think that ratio is write but correct me if it isn’t). And that’s being very very generous to men statistically and still excludes street harassment and other forms of sexual violence not deemed illegal.

You begin to see the scale of the problem?

EDIT: I realised last night this also excludes multiple perpetrators of the same crime. But I guess that might cancel out notions of multiple offences by the same person.

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