The astonishing secret success of campaigns around violence against women


In what is becoming an annual ritual here at HetPat, let me point out what the media is not telling us about the detailed analysis of statistics on intimate violence and homicide, released yesterday by the Office of National Statistics, because once again it contains some remarkable – and remarkably good – news. 

But first the bad. Domestic homicides rose a bit for both men and women, up to 84 (from 76 last year) for women and 23 (from 16) for men. Overall there was an ongoing decline in homicides with male victims but a rise in deaths of women and girls, from 170 to 183. However this rise follows the two lowest years on record and even with the rise, the new figures are the third lowest on record. As homicides are such exceptionally low frequency events (in statistical jargon) they can jump around a bit on the graph from year to year, even when the overall trend is flat or (slightly) downwards

homicide graph

There is much better news everywhere else. The Crime Survey of England and Wales shows that the number of domestic violence incidents to be at the lowest level since records began. Note, these are not police recorded crime statistics, they come from a huge survey of 50,000 people, each of whom is asked whether they have experienced such-and-such over the past 12 months. As discussed many a time before, there are problems with CSEW, it can never provide an accurate total number of crimes, but since those shortcomings have always been there, what CSEW does do very well is capture trends over time. As shown here, the incidence of domestic violence has plummeted over the past twenty years, down by more than 75% from its peak in 1993.

DV Incidents

 

But for my money, the most encouraging news of all is with sexual offences. For many years, even while other forms of violent offences against (mostly) women were plummeting, sexual offences showed only modest reductions, if any. The last two years have seen substantial reductions in all sexual assaults (again, using CSEW figures, not police recorded crime). The latest figures show a 27% reduction year-on-year. Last year 2.2% of women suffered any kind of sexual offence. As recently as 2005/6 that figure was 5%. Since then it has declined 56%. Other intimate violence crimes, including non-partner family violence and stalking, are continuing to decline, but less spectacularly.

VAWgraph

 

What is going on here? First and foremost, the decline in sexual offending should be seen as part and parcel of the broader precipitous decline in violent crime of all types, which remains one of the most spectacular and fascinating sociological phenomena of our times. Debating the myriad explanations on offer has kept many of us occupied in recent years and will doubtless continue to do so.

However the most recent and arresting detail within the broader trends is on sexual offending. We should probably ask ourselves what has been happening in the UK over the past two to three years which might have driven this development? I would offer the suggestion that our media and accompanying public debate has been dominated by high profile prosecutions of sex offenders, and the consequent massive rise in victims’ willingness to report offences to the police. Personally, I have sensed a sea-change in public attitudes – it feels like we are no longer prepared to stay quiet, to stay ashamed about rape, abuse, molestation and sexual assault. We are no longer prepared to accept sexual harassment and sexual abuse as inevitable facts of life or forces of nature.  It doesn’t seem remotely far fetched to me that (actual or potential) sex offenders are noticing this too and are less inclined to think they might get away with an offence they might have committed a few years ago.

The other contributing factor (not just to sexual offences but to the broader decline in crime) has been the civilising effect of what Steven Pinker, in Better Angels Of Our Nature, called ‘The Rights Revolution.’ Since roughly the 1970s, entire generations have grown up with the rights of women, the rights of the child, the rights of all races, the rights for all people to live without fear, without violence, without bullying, without abuse. Of course we still have a hell of a long way to go in this country, never mind around the world, but nonetheless the impacts of the revolution are flowering all around us.

Strangely, this appears to be a message almost no one wants to hear. Continuing from the discussion on yesterday’s post, nobody has much to gain from trumpeting the truth about the decline in crime. Media consumers generally believe the world is going to hell in a handcart, so that is what editors tend to provide. It is striking that not a single media outlet has reported the spectacular decline in sexual offending in yesterday’s statistics. The BBC splashed, rather bizarrely, on one obscure detail of the release, that around 20% of rapes are committed when the victim is asleep or passed out. It then made a passing remark that “the number of victims in the crime survey fell slightly.” To be fair to the media, even the summary put out by the ONS themselves describes it as “a small fall.”

The Guardian meanwhile reported the figures under the following title and subheading:

“1.4 million women suffered domestic abuse last year, ONS figures show

Office for National Statistics survey shows that rates remain stubbornly high, while violent crime rates more generally continues to fall.”

Nowhere in the report does the Guardian mention that the estimated prevalence of domestic violence incidents last year was the lowest since records began in 1981. Nowhere in the report is it mentioned that sexual assaults plummeted 27% in a single year. In what universe is that remarkable news not even worthy of a mention?

Compare that to the reaction back in January when it was revealed that the numbers of rapes reported to police had soared (actually very good news, as it means far fewer rapes are going unreported.) Here’s a little screen capture to give you a flavour of how the media reacted that day.

violent crime cap

And now, by of comparison, here is a screen capture showing all the media coverage to the unprecedented decline in sexual offending

fall cap

Comments

  1. karmacat says

    I suspect that the media has determined that they get more attention when reporting bad news than good news. It’s the difference between “OMG, look at all the violence!” Vs “OMG, look at the lack of violence.”

  2. says

    Heartening news indeed. Though at the risk of sounding persnickety, search terms can be troubling things–did you search for things like “decline in sexual offending,” “drop in sexual offenses,” etc. (with keeping an eye on the use of quotes as well)? Small variations might have netted you different results.

  3. Ally Fogg says

    I’ll admit that was a slightly dramatic flourish to make my point, Gunlord, but the simple matter is that there were only the Guardian and BBC reports mentioned above, a Press Association report which appeared in various places including the Mail which only talked about figures for alcohol-related violence and nothing else, and then a few local papers who cobbled together plagiarised versions of all of the above.

    I tried various ways of searching and nobody reported the stats.

  4. says

    Hm, I suppose that cinches it, then. Pity there’s not more coverage of this good news, then. Hopefully more people will take your example, in that case ;D

  5. 123454321 says

    “Compare that to the reaction back in January when it was revealed that the numbers of rapes reported to police had soared (actually very good news, as it means far fewer rapes are going unreported.)”

    But could be bad news for some men where a proportion of the increase in reported rapes turns out to be false accusations (I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on the rise due to alcohol abuse and other cultural reasons). Let’s not forget about these!

  6. says

    But could be bad news for some men where a proportion of the increase in reported rapes turns out to be false accusations (I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on the rise due to alcohol abuse and other cultural reasons). Let’s not forget about these!

    Actually, if insinuations like this are made with no regard to any actual evidence of false accusations, we probably should forget about them.

  7. Rick Bradford says

    The universe in which reducing violence and sexual assault goes unmentioned in favour of talking up these problems is the universe in which there is a vested interest to do so. It is the same universe, and same vested interest, as that in which the bar is ever lowered in defining criminality in these areas. The bar must be lowered to counter the reducing statistics. Because the vested interest acquires money and power via these statistics.

  8. says

    Unfortunately, the universe in which successful sexual-assault-reduction policies are splashed all over the headlines, ends up being the universe in which certain other vested interests use such good news as an excuse to pretend the problem is solved, and stop listening to anyone who says otherwise. So in addition to pretending we’re a “post-racial” society, we’ll also pretend we’re a “post-rape” society.

    I know it’s both wrong and frustrating when news of real progress is muted — but can you really blame the activists for doing it?

  9. 123454321 says

    “Actually, if insinuations like this are made with no regard to any actual evidence of false accusations, we probably should forget about them.”

    Yeah, I thought that would prompt a dumb response like that from you, RB, because you really don’t give a fuck about men and you’re a dip-shit, too. So according to you, anything which doesn’t as yet have a well-understood, close to the truth, set of evidence with stats to back it up should get dumped in the garbage alongside where your pea-brain resides?

  10. says

    Your report of the latest figures on the Violent Crime and Sexual Offences data is interesting, but wholly lacking in logical rigour I’m afraid. Your headline commits the most basic of logical fallacies – cum hoc ergo propter hoc – the mistake of assuming correlation is causation.

    You cannot reasonably say the precipitous decline in violent crime is due to ‘The astonishing secret success of campaigns around violence against women’ anymore than you can say the concurrent precipitous decline in inflation is the cause, or the reduction in police manpower in the same period was because perhaps policemen were committing violent crime whilst on duty? Come on Ally, you’re better than that. You might be right, but you can’t claim this is the result, either wholly or in part, to the success of campaigns – secret or otherwise.

    There is an upside of what you are saying, however. Maybe the likes of RapeCrisis will just shut up shop and take their false whipping up of a rape culture elsewhere. Women’s Aid too? Maybe we will see the end of them writing government policy like they did for Theresa May in the recent extension of criminality in domestic violence.

    But there again, maybe not. After all, they are substantial businesses, leveraging massive amounts of funding to continue the universal hate campaign against men – and they’re not going to give that up are they?

  11. says

    There is an upside of what you are saying, however. Maybe the likes of RapeCrisis will just shut up shop and take their false whipping up of a rape culture elsewhere. Women’s Aid too? Maybe we will see the end of them writing government policy like they did for Theresa May in the recent extension of criminality in domestic violence.

    And so my point is proven.

  12. Ally Fogg says

    Yep, I have to say Herbert Purdy, you did do a spectacularly good job of winning Raging Bee’s argument for him there,

  13. Ally Fogg says

    that said, I can’t go along with that argument, RB.

    It is basically saying that the public can’t be trusted with the truth so we’ll feed them bullshit for the greater good.

    That logic never ends well, IME

  14. 123454321 says

    “But there again, maybe not. After all, they are substantial businesses, leveraging massive amounts of funding to continue the universal hate campaign against men – and they’re not going to give that up are they?”

    You’re right. Did you know that all these businesses with a vested interest in pro-female/anti-male are going to invest in pink buses? Apparently, it’s to be the mascot for all male hate campaigns in the future! Harriet Harm-man was made a fool of today on Woman’s Hour about this (IMO) – the temerity of the woman is quite astonishing.

  15. says

    I’m not advocating that anyone actively conceal the truth, or feed anyone bullshit. I’m not even advocating the mild de-emphasis you’re speaking of here (which isn’t even close to “feeding bullshit” to anyone) as a matter of conscious editorial choice. I’m merely saying that we can’t exactly blame certain activists for being concerned about how their most relentless and dishonest opponents might misuse good news for evil ends.

  16. MadHatter says

    Not really surprising in the era of sensational 24 hour news that good news is not what’s reported. I don’t see reporting on any trends in crime stats that aren’t “OMG everything is bad” so I don’t see why sex crimes should be any different.

  17. Marduk says

    I was thinking about this earlier when I was driving home, the ONSS is also reporting a fall in binge drinking in the young.
    A spokesman from an alcohol charity was invited to discuss the findings and it was clear, simply couldn’t process that reality was at variance with his beliefs. Whatever the interviewer asked, he just kept talking about how it was getting worse and basically did an interview assuming diametrically opposed findings. At one point he stated that his advice for people who don’t drink was to drink in moderation, there was the definite sense he was suffering some sort of neural event at the news.

    I think the same applies to stuff like this. Does. Not. Compute.

  18. David S says

    @Ally

    The Guardian meanwhile reported the figures under the following title and subheading:

    “1.4 million women suffered domestic abuse last year, ONS figures show…

    Well, that was the online title. In the print version they decided to count men as well, and the title is “Two million people suffer domestic violence in a year”. If I was cynical I might suspect that they left men out of the online version deliberately to encourage clicks, but realised that you can’t click on a piece of newsprint.

  19. McNee says

    What happened in 1993?!

    Did the question being asked change, or is a genuine leap for unknown reasons?

  20. karmacat says

    Did some of you miss the fact that males are also victims of intimate violence? this is not a male vs female issue. This is an issue of abusers vs the rest of us. The more we can identify who is an abuser (no matter who or what they look like), the better it is for all of us. The more we can challenge the culture of minimizing abuse and violence the better it is for everyone, male and female

  21. mildlymagnificent says

    1993?

    That’s basically when the full effect of no fault divorce laws finally kicked in (along with a couple of other things). The one spectacular effect of no fault divorce laws around the world was the precipitous drop in men being murdered by their wives. The presumption being that once it was easier for women to walk away from an abusive man, they no longer saw killing him as their only way out. The decline in women being murdered by their partners has, on the other hand, been a fairly steady decline.

    One thing we should never forget. Non-violent child raising methods (and school practices) first became really widespread in the late 70s and 80s and have now become the norm. We’re now seeing whole communities of people who never experienced violence as children and never learnt it as a behaviour to adopt in any of their dealings with others. This can only be a good thing. How much it is or isn’t contributing to the decline in violent crime generally I don’t know.

  22. Ally Fogg says

    McNee

    What happened in 1993?!
    Did the question being asked change, or is a genuine leap for unknown reasons?

    that is a really good question and there is no agreed answer. No fault divorce didn’t come in until 1996/7 in the UK, so (in an almost unprecedented step) I am going to disagree with MildlyMagnificent.

    What is true is that most types of violent crime started similar declines around the same time – albeit mostly not quite as dramatic. There were also similar trends in most developed countries, irrespective of governments, judicial policies or anything else..

    Although as I’ve argued before we should really not just ask about the decline, but ask about the rise too. Violent crime was almost certainly declining constantly from sometime around the mid to late 19th Century, Then sometime around 1960, crime (especially violent crime) began rising for reasons that were never fully explained, accelerated rapidly through the 80s and then suddenly started reverting back to the long-term historical trend in the mid 90s.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2013/07/19/goodbye-baby-boomers-the-most-criminal-generation-of-them-all/

    As I argue in that link, I suspect part of it may be that the war-babies and baby-boomers were a deeply traumatised generation, growing up with almost incomprehensible war, violence, hardship, bereavement, emotional and physical neglect etc etc etc, and with parents who had experienced the same.

    There is also a theory about lead in petrol and the environment, which sounds pretty wacky but the more people have looked at it, the stronger the evidence seems to get. About 5-10 years after lead pollution levels rose (post war) the levels of crime and delinquency began to rise. About 5-10 years after lead began to be reduced then banned, they began to decline rapidly.
    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/lead-crime-link-gasoline?page=1

    There are likely to be many other factors as well, including as MM says (and on this I couldn’t agree more) kids who were born from the mid 70s onwards being subjected to far less physical violence, bullying and cruelty in schools and homes – the type of Rights Revolution I mentioned in the piece above. Various other theories are also floating about.

    My own personal feeling is that there is probably some truth in all of the above, and they kind of came together in a positive feedback loop – as people experience less violence they inflict less violence which means other people experience even less violence and so inflict less violence etc etc etc.

  23. Holms says

    11 Herbert Purdy
    You cannot reasonably say the precipitous decline in smallpox is due to ‘The astonishing secret success of smallpox vaccination campaigns’ anymore than you can say the concurrent precipitous decline in inflation is the cause, or the reduction in medical manpower in the same period was because perhaps doctors were committing biological crime whilst on duty? Come on Ally, you’re better than that. You might be right, but you can’t claim this is the result, either wholly or in part, to the success of campaigns – secret or otherwise.

    Seems justified to me, actually.

  24. Archy says

    When lead was banned, the next generation’s violence dropped dramatically.

    So is violence against women dropping, but violence against men is still rising, especially perpetrated by females?

  25. Ally Fogg says

    No, Archy, violent crimes of all types are dropping, the great majority of which involve male victims.

    Graph here

    We don’t have much info specifically on offences committed against men by women, because the ONS did not even bother to ask about male victims of domestic violence (which accounts for almost all such attacks) until about 10 years ago, but there is no particular reason to believe that women are becoming more violent towards men than they were, and over the past 10 years male victimisation has fallen a bit.

  26. Lucy says

    “No, Archy, violent crimes of all types are dropping, the great majority of which involve male victims.”

    And male perpetrators. Let’s not misreport that.

    Punching yourself in the face more often than other people’s isn’t a recognised equaliser.

  27. Lucy says

    “What happened in 1993?”

    The 80s teenagers entered their 20s. It was that sweet period when feminist pop culture came to fruition and lad pop culture, chain bars and lap dancing clubs kicked in.

    And in the same way that shopping and dating has moved online so town centres and chain bars have emptied, sexual abuse has gone from analogue to digital. Now a great deal of the sexual abuse takes place in porn and in sexting. And people are morally relativistic enough and/or intimidated out of reporting it by the threat of online take downs.

  28. says

    Lucy wrote:

    And male perpetrators. Let’s not misreport that.

    Punching yourself in the face more often than other people’s isn’t a recognised equaliser.

    Again Lucy demonstrates that to her men arent’ people – they’re just a collective mass and if one of them are a victim of violence from another man it’s akin to him punching himself in the face. Which makes me wonder what she is getting out of this blog.

  29. says

    Ally @26:

    (…) the ONS did not even bother to ask about male victims of domestic violence (which accounts for almost all such attacks) until about 10 years ago, but there is no particular reason to believe that women are becoming more violent towards men than they were, and over the past 10 years male victimisation has fallen a bit.

    I think you are being a bit too quick here Ally.

    It’s a bit dated, but this article from 2011 tells that the number of women convicted for domestic violence has more than doubled in in the past 5 years (2005-2010):

    Some experts say it is a worrying sign of the growing culture of violence among women, while others believe that men are now more likely to report that they have been beaten up by their wives and girlfriends than in previous years.

    Although this increase may solely be caused by men being increasingly more likely to report DV from wives and girlfriends I think one should have more data before one conclude that there is “no particular reason to believe that women are becoming more violent towards men than they were”.

  30. Ally Fogg says

    Tamen, well we’re not quite lacking all the data.

    For starters, we do know what has happened over the past ten years or so. Graph here

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/resources/figure43_tcm77-394651.png

    (that is the graph for male only victims of intimate violence, it is not labelled)

    Around 7-10 years ago it was hovering just under the 5% mark (for non-sexual partner abuse) whereas for the past couple of years it has been below 3%.

    And while we don’t have data for the 1990s, we do know from other research that a large proportion of partner violence happens in reciprocally violent relationships, so when the total for domestic violence incidents tumbled so spectacularly through the 90s it would be almost impossible I think for that to have happened if women’s violence towards men wasn’t falling as part of the trend.

  31. Archy says

    Most stats I’ve seen have domestic violence rates against men, by women, as rising, not falling. Although it’s possible the violence has always been there but it’s only now we see men reporting it.

  32. samgardner says

    “If it bleeds, it leads”

    The media, even when they’re trying to be honest, is not always an objective view.

  33. Lucy says

    Official statistics are drastically downplaying the scale of violent crime against women, the UK’s top statistical body has been warned.

    The Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) fails to account for nearly half the attacks on women, particularly when the assailant is known to the victim, as it caps the number of separate crimes that can be reported by a single respondent at five, a meeting at the UK Statistics Agency (UKSA) was told on Tuesday.

    Sylvia Walby, professor of sociology and Unesco chair of gender research at Lancaster University, said the cap should be lifted.

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