I’m genuinely grateful for this post on your blog Economista Dentata which delves into the ONS statistics on domestic abuse. After the week I’ve had, I really hope this gives me the opportunity to establish some recognised consensus as to the best available knowledge on some controversial questions, and the fact that you identify the sources of your claims and ‘show your workings’ (forgive the cliché) gives me hope that this could be a really constructive exchange. I hope you would be willing to consider this an ongoing dialogue, so I will make no apologies for asking you some questions and I’ll very much look forward to your answers.
I will go through what I take to be your main points, if you think I have missed anything significant or misrepresented your points, please correct me, I assure you it will be inadvertent.
Before diving headlong into some data, let us clearly define our terms. In theONS definition, domestic violence has a narrower definition than domestic abuse….
The two terms are not interchangeable – domestic abuse covers the entire x- axis: domestic violence excludes non-physical abuse. As the title suggests, Mankind’s video focuses on the physical, but over and over, the statistics Ally cites refer to all abuse. The effect is to muddle the eye of the reader.
I willingly accept that the ONS draws a distinction between ‘domestic abuse’ and ‘domestic violence’ – the latter being a narrower category which excludes non-physical abuse. You make a valid criticism that I use the two terms interchangeably without clarification, which could cause confusion.
However as you know, I was addressing points made by Polly Neate from Women’s Aid. Women’s Aid, and indeed the Home Office, define domestic violence as:
Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:
That was also the definition I was using (for the record, it is one I accept and agree with.) You will notice that this definition of domestic violence is wider than the ONS one, indeed it is pretty much identical to the ONS definition of domestic abuse.
So I hope you would agree that by the definition quoted above, the claim made by Mankind Initiative about the percentage of victims of domestic violence who are male is not categorically inaccurate.
Are we agreed so far?
That said, it is fair to point out that we now have two operating definitions of domestic violence, one which includes non-physical abuse, and one which doesn’t.
It is important to note that victims can experience more than one type of abuse. Unless I’m missing a trick, it is therefore impossible to know from the figures on your graph (and here) exactly how many men and women were subjected to domestic violence by the strict ONS definition.
Your graph is partnered by this ONS table (click to enlarge)
There were 700,000 male victims of domestic abuse and 1.2 million female victims of domestic abuse last year. We do therefore know how many men and women were subjected to each of the subcategories of abuse.
If we’re to be exact with our sums, I make it 37% of victims of domestic abuse are men, not 40%. I’ll accept those corrections.
From Table 4.11 we can also say that:
Men make up only small percentages of sexual violence and stalking victims. No argument from me there, although they are much, much smaller groups than the non-sexual abuse category.
There were 392,000 male victims of non-physical (emotional and financial) abuse (56% of 700,000) and 612,000 women (51% of 1.2m). That means 39% of victims of this type of abuse were male.
We can repeat this calculation to find that 329,000 men and were subjected to threats or force compared to 588,000 women, so 36% of victims of this type of domestic abuse were male.
Within that category:
17% of those subjected to threats were male.
31% of those subjected to minor force (‘pushed you, held you down or slapped you’) were male.
41% of those subjected to severe force (‘kicked, hit, bitten, choked, strangled, threatened with a weapon, threats to kill, use of a weapon or some other kind of force’) were male.
Looking at those statistics, especially the last one, while we can probably agree that it is never possible to capture a complex phenomenon like intimate partner abuse in a single statistic, would you not agree it is reasonable for a campaigning charity like the Mankind Initiative to tell a general, public audience that 40% of victims of domestic violence are male?
If not, can I ask you directly, what do you think would be a reasonable calculation, from all available evidence, of the proportion of victims of domestic abuse / violence who are male?
We might all want to take a breather here, before I move on to your next point!
So, to the data: there are several sources for this, which rather unhelpfully from our viewpoint have different methodologies. This notwithstanding, the ONS is pellucidly clear in its Summary and throughout: “Women were more likely than men to have experienced intimate violence across all headline types of abuse asked about.” Note: they do not say the likelihoods are of a comparable magnitude.
Yet this is the argument, that over and over again, Ally, in his defence of Mankind Initiative’s video, tries with more or less subtlety, to push.
I have very little to say about this beyond the fact that it is not true. I’ve said (and continue to say) that men make up a significant minority of victims of abuse but nowhere, in my recent blog or anywhere else, have I ever said that men were equally likely to face abuse. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, has the Mankind Initiative. 40% versus 60% is not “comparable magnitude” of likelihood. I simply do not know where you have got that from and I would respectfully ask you to withdraw it, or at least explain what it is I’ve said to give you the wrong idea, so I can be careful not to say it again.
Ally says: “If you go to the Women’s Aid page of statistics, the very first fact stated there is that one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. This statistic comes from the exact same ONS data set from where we get 40% of victims being male.” (Ally’s blog)
“But, seeing as 40% of domestic violence victims in the UK are men…”(HuffPo)
Not only is that NOT the first fact stated on the Women’s Aid page…
Whoops, my fault. It is the first statistic quoted on the domestic violence page of the Women’s Aid website. I hold my hand up and apologise for the error.
but he has compared a statistic about domestic violence to one about domestic abuse, in order, it seems, to minimise the violence women suffer and exaggerate that suffered by men.
See above. I maintain that according to the definition of domestic violence used by both the Home Office and Women’s Aid, it is not inaccurate to say that around 40% of domestic violence victims are male.
The time frames are also different: Ally cites Women’s Aid ‘in her lifetime’ – but the ONS data refers to reported incidents in the last year; the sample sizes are not the same: Women’s Aid’s statistic refers ALL women in the adult female population not the percentage of victims referred to by the ONS.
This is a fair point, in that I did switch between annual and lifetime figures, which is sloppy. However the Women’s Aid statistic of lifetime prevalence does indeed come from the BCS/CSEW – the exact same data that provide annual figures. To be accurate, the latest CSEW gives the figures of “30% of women and 16.3% of men had experienced any domestic abuse since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated 4.9 million female victims of domestic abuse and 2.7 million male victims” – which is slightly more than one in four women. But the key point is that this estimate refers to victims experiencing any one incident, not a repeated pattern.
As this page demonstrates, Women’s Aid themselves acknowledge that the “one in four women” figure (like the “one in six men” figure) is indeed based on single incidents, not repeated and prolonged patterns. So while I didn’t make my case very carefully in the original blog, the point very much still stands. Women’s Aid use single incident statistics when they want to demonstrate how commonplace domestic violence against women is, then discount single incident statistics when they want to claim domestic violence against men is rare.
Ally and Mankind also leave unaddressed that men will be perpetrators of violence against men in relationships, as well as being victims (it’s worth noting that of all incidents of all kinds of violence in society, the majority are committed by men); domestic violence and abuse against men will not take place solely in heterosexual relationships (the same caveat, of course, applies to women).
It is true that some partner violence against men can occur in same sex relationships, as of course can some partner violence against women.
Thankfully, the ONS have also considered this so we do have the data (albeit the most recent is from 2008/9) It is here, on Page 76. I appreciate the table is sideways on the pdf, so to save you some contortionism, the main points are that partner abuse victimisation among:
- Heterosexual men = 4.1%
- Heterosexual women = 5.9%
- Gay/ bisexual men = 8.9%
- Lesbian/bisexual women = 17.3%
I would advise not reading too much into the gay / lesbian / bi categories which can be complicated by all sorts of factors (not least margins of error with small groups). The key statistics are the first two. Among purely heterosexual populations, there are (very slightly more than) four male victims for every six female victims. Another way to put that is that about 40% of heterosexual victims of partner abuse are male. If we include same sex relationships in the analysis the proportion of victims who are male does not go up, it falls.
His attempt to redefine domestic violence by volume of incidents a victim suffers is puzzling at best: to quote Mankind’s own slogan ‘ViolenceisViolence’ whether it’s once or a thousand times.
Forgive me if I’m being dense here, I don’t understand this point. I think you may be referring to my responses to Polly Neate’s attempts to redefine domestic violence by volume of incidents. It was her doing that, not me. She appeared to be suggesting that domestic violence is only real domestic violence if it happens repeatedly, as a pattern.
If you’re puzzled by that, hey, join the club. I quite agree, #ViolenceIsViolence whether it happens once or a thousand times.
In order to end male violence in society against women, we need to understand and name the problem.
I don’t disagree with that. At no point have I denied male violence, and I am on a lifelong mission to attempt to understand it. I’m also quite happy to name male violence as male violence.
However male violence is not the only type of violence in society and I have spent much of the last week fielding angry attacks from those who would appear to demand that I accept it is, against all evidence to the contrary.
Ally Fogg calls himself an ally to feminists.
Actually he doesn’t. I am sometimes called that by others, but believe me, I’m called a lot of worse things too.