It doesn’t feel too long ago we wrote about a report produced by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) entitled “Violence against Women and Girls Crime Report”. It was an odd thing to write about on a site that is about men and it would be odder still if we wrote about it twice but the CPS have just published their 2015-2016 edition and we have to talk about it.
Our original reason for writing was that the data used to produce this report on violence against women and girls included men and boys. Unfortunately the same problem persists but we have seen some progress. Last time you could have missed that the data included men and boys if skimming though. On the front cover of the 2015-2016 edition at the bottom of the page, in brackets, you will find the phase: “Inclusive of data on men and boys”. This is slightly better anyone reading the 112 page document dense in statistics and legal definitions is far less likely to miss that what they are reading includes men and boys.
Still, not very many people are going to read the thing and headlines will bubble up from it. Indeed: “Violent Crimes against women are at all-time high” or so writes the Metro quoting a figure of 117,568 offences against women (actually the “volume of violence against women and girls crimes prosecuted” according to the report itself) but the truth is we don’t know what the actual number is. We don’t know how many of these women and girls were actually women and girls.
In some cases we know the gender of at least some of the victims for example under honour crimes a full 40% of victims were male. 17% of the victims of domestic abuse who had their case referred to the CPS and had their gender recorded were male. In many cases the gender of the victim has not been recorded. So for victims of sexual violence or child abuse there is no official gender ratio (though Ally Fogg writing in The Guardian has calculated some rough figures).
Perhaps the worst part of all this is that the CPS is in publishing a document that implies it is something it isn’t with full knowledge of that. In doing so it undermines what it says and reduces its own meaning. Are convictions for crimes against women up or are the numbers of convictions for crimes against men that the CPS counts as women up? We can’t be sure so we don’t know if the right things are being done or where we are making progress. In this uncertainty people may misstep and miss the opportunity to help those who need help.
Male victims of these crimes often struggle not only with the crime but also an idea that men cannot be a victim of this type of crime. We accept that women can be victims of these crimes yet they often have to battle the idea that they were asking for it by wearing a revealing outfit or maybe being a bit flirty. A man in the same position has to not only overcome these sorts of questions but also questions about his masculinity. A man should, or so the myth goes, be able to fight off any unwanted advances.
Decisions like those of the CPS don’t help. They write the stories of male victims out of history and prevent a message getting out to victims that they are not alone – there are other survivors and support networks that are there for them. Lack of clear data makes it harder for charities and other organisations to appeal for funding to help male victims.
The CPS are knowingly causing harm and have persisted in doing so. We need better data so we can do our best to help those who need it. Hopefully we won’t be back on this topic next year.