Male victims, the CPS and the latest chapter in the saga


[The first few hundred words here are something of a recap, feel free to jump ahead if you know the story!]

 

Just a little over two years ago, the Crown Prosecution Service published their annual review of their performance in prosecuting crimes of violence against women and girls for the year 2014/15.

According to the press release, dutifully reprinted by pretty much all mainstream media, there had been over 107,000 violent crimes against women and girls that year, including rape, domestic violence, child abuse and modern slavery.

Buried in the small print, however, was a curious detail. Around one in six of these victims were neither women nor girls. They were men and boys. Somewhere around 17,000 male survivors of sexual and intimate crimes were being officially designated by the UK authorities as “women and girls.”

To cut a long story short, I phoned a few friends and between us we corralled around 30 charity leaders, writers, academics and activists and we co-signed a letter to the Guardian calling on the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders,

“…and all public bodies to affirm their commitment to addressing and eliminating intimate violence against human beings of any gender and to take care not to compromise the dignity and public understanding of any survivors.”

This was apparently too much for some representatives of the women’s sector, who replied a few days later with their own multi-signatory letter condemning ours and (in effect) demanding that the CPS should continue to compromise the dignity and public understanding of male survivors.

So far, so depressingly predictable.

But the story – much to my surprise, I’ll confess–  didn’t end there.  A few weeks later Alison Saunders published a column in the Guardian acknowledging our issues and agreeing to recall the report and republish it with greater clarification that the statistics included male victims.

By the time the next annual report came around, there were additional words on the front page specifying “Inclusive of data on men and boys.” Those words were a significant step forward, but more useful was that the report itself finally, for the first time, reported the data they had on male and female victims, allowing us to know that one in six victims of domestic violence crimes had been men, almost a quarter of victims of so-called honour crimes and 40% of victims of crimes in the category of ‘trafficking and prostitution’ were male. But perhaps most significantly, this gender breakdown revealed that there were several other categories – including rape and child sexual abuse – where the data gathering was so scandalously inadequate they could not even tell us what proportion of victims were boys.

All of the saga above will be old news to regular readers of this blog. What you probably didn’t know is that over recent months, representatives of the Men and Boys Coalition (which I am proud to say was formed, in large part, out of the original signatories to the CPS letter) began a series of meetings and correspondence with the CPS. In particular, Mark Brooks from Mankind Initiative and Duncan Craig from Survivors Manchester spent considerable time and energy talking the CPS through the myriad ongoing problems with their approach to male victims.

The results were published this week, and undoubtedly represent the single greatest step forward for male victims in the justice system that this country has ever seen.

Before I go through the detail, just take a moment to ponder the very first sentence of the CPS press release that came out this week.

The Crown Prosecution Service has published its first ever public statement recognising the needs and experiences of male victims of offences including rape, domestic abuse, harassment, stalking and child sexual abuse.

Its first ever public statement recognising the needs and experiences of male victims.

Its.

First.

Ever.

Public.

Statement.

Anyway, once the horror of that confession has subsided a little, let’s look at what it actually says. I will come on to the shortcomings before I’m done, but first appreciate what is there, much of which is excellent, essential and overdue. Please read the policy in full here.

The policy makes eight specific commitments to improve the service CPS delivers to male victims, along with a commitment to report back annually on progress in delivering them. These are:

  • Provide information for our prosecutors to help challenge myths and stereotypes; understand the experience of male victims within the criminal justice system and provide details of support services for male victims;
  • Explore issues that may arise because of multiple forms of discrimination such as that faced by BAME or LGBT victims;
  • Ensure all relevant policies, guidance, training and case studies for prosecutors contain details on the experience of male victims and outline any unique barriers to reporting;
  • Work with NGOs and Communications to consider ways to dispel societal myths, especially around masculinity, as well as respond to media issues;
  • Involve more national men’s groups in the scrutiny of CPS policies, guidance and training and within the VAWG External Consultation Group;
  • Establish a stakeholder forum on child sexual abuse to specifically ensure that work expressly includes boys as well as girls;
  • Reflect the male experience of these crimes, in relevant media communications, by working closely with men’s groups, to increase confidence in reporting; and
  • Provide data on male victims where possible and, with our partners, strive to improve the gender and relationship breakdown of CPS relevant data.

These are highly significant commitments which will have real practical impacts. My friends on the frontline of survivor support are delighted with them, and I think the commitment to educate prosecutors about myths and stereotypes around male victims is particularly important.

The campaign, however, remains unfinished.

In terms of what policies I would have liked to see spelled out in the document, there is one area that remains apparently off-limits, which is the issue of sexual abuse of men by women – including forced and coerced penetrative sex.

Over the summer two highly significant reports were published on this, either side of the Atlantic. Research by Lisa Dario pretty much blew away the old myth that for a male to be sexually abused by a female was no big deal or even some kind of blessing. She broke down the data & found that men who had experienced forced sexual activity (including but not exclusive to female perpetrators) were as likely to be psychologically traumatised as women who had been sexually assaulted.

A few weeks later, Siobhain Weare (one of our signatories to the original CPS letter) published the first ever British academic research study into the appalling experiences of men who had suffered forced sexual intercourse.

You will probably notice I’m not using the R-word in the paragraphs above. In UK law the crime described is not classified as rape. That is another battle for another day, but that one is with the statute books, not the CPS.  What the CPS can and should do, is begin the process of educating prosecutors, police and ultimately the public that this crime is a serious form of sexual assault and victims/survivors need to be informed and assured that this crime will be prosecuted. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a single prosecution or conviction of a woman for forcing an adult-age man into sexual activity in the UK.

Above and beyond that, despite the immense progress that has been made over the past two years, our original complaint is still in place and still valid. All of these concessions, caveats, acknowledgements and policy changes we have wrung out of the CPS in the past two years, they still continue to categorise intimate and sexual crimes against men as “violence against women and girls.”

Why they are so wedded to this misleading construct remains something of a mystery. It appears to be some kind of bureaucratic manacle – at some point in the past, some bureaucrat has decided that all intimate crimes should be classified as VAWG but nobody knows who did it or when or why, so nobody can work out how to change it. We should note that the Home Office and (presumably) the rest of HM Government apparently operates to the same definitions, so we have even bigger battles ahead.

The good news is that the CPS’s commitment to continue to engage with the men’s sector means that we can continue to dig at this, to chip away at it and hopefully make progress on that final, huge obstacle to fair treatment and justice.

One final point I will make in closing. This ongoing dialogue with the CPS has been one of the first major initiatives of the Men and Boys Coalition and certainly our greatest success so far. Considering we are still in the process of establishing ourselves as a charity and have thus far been operating with literally zero budget and no staff, this should be considered quite a coup.  It goes to demonstrate what can be achieved with good campaigns, good arguments, patience and a blend of noisy nuisance and quiet diplomacy. We have plenty other campaigns on our radar. Just think what we’ll be able to do when we’re able to splash out on a few stamps and a fax machine.  Watch this space.

Comments

  1. says

    One thing I experienced as a kid was white women in the stores being very slow to assist my mom, my sister and I when the three of us were shopping, a problem we didn’t have when my white father was along.

  2. Marduk says

    It isn’t really a mystery, VAWG comes EVAWC. The reason for this was to associate certain crimes with a wider human rights framework; its advocates believe this increases the pressure of the duty on Government to develop an integrated strategy (which is what VAWG is). They talk about this in their publications, but its most clearly explained in their submission to the UN Rapporteur.

  3. Ally Fogg says

    No, it predates that, Marduk.

    Can’t find the details offhand but I tried to trace back the details through govt docs once, from memory the Major govt signed up to a UN document about VAW as a category of crimes in about 1994, there was a whole load more documents from around 1998, so the early New Labour years.

    But I failed to find a single document anywhere that specified that male victims of those crimes should be included within the definition. As far as I could work out it just kind of emerged from a series of crossed wires and misunderstandings.

    You may be right that the EVAWC are key players in keeping the definition in place though. However, here is the interesting thing. I don’t think they either know or care that male victims are defined that way. What they really care about is protecting the category of violence against women as patriarchal gender crimes, so that domestic & sexual violence are understood as evidence of, and a pillar of, a patriarchal society.

    I think it was quite telling that the letter of response they sent to the Guardian after our letter about the CPS didn’t actually engage with what we were complaining about and instead angrily demanded that crimes against women be defined as crimes against women – something we never challenged in the first place.

    SO while I don’t think for a moment that EVAWC or their constituent members are ever going to be useful friends to male survivors, I don’t think they are necessarily an insurmountable obstacle either. The main hurdle is their extreme mistrust of the men’s sector.

  4. That Guy says

    This is incredible news, and I’m so glad that there has been a clean, straightforward acknowledgement of the divergence in experience of male and female victims.

    I hope that is the first of many steps towards providing victims with support that they need, where it is not currently available.

    I’m obviously still disappointed that these crimes still fall under the VAWG umbrella, (which only appears in it’s un-abbreviated format in the title of the statement, I’m hoping because CPS are beginning to realise how daft this position is) but progress is progress.

    I did find interesting some of the bulletpoints- I was not aware that men and boys are more likely to be abused by an external authority figure than a member of the family (or friend thereof). ditto the disclosure rates peaking at different ages.

    IMO these are exactly the kinds of discrepancies that are worth investigating, hopefully they’ll tell us about the way in which society conditions boys differently or how predators view potential male victims, all of which will be a boon for developing policies and safeguards to prevent these crimes occurring.

    tl;dr, +10pts, 1up and bonus star to all involved.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a single prosecution […] of a woman for forcing an adult-age man into sexual activity in the UK.

    Joyce McKinney?

  6. sonofrojblake says

    (I might add that in his 2002 book “Scandal: A Scurrilous History of Gossip”, Roger Wilkes said the extensive media coverage of the case – in which the male victim’s name was, of course, made public – “cheered Britain up no end.” Because what’s funnier than someone being abducted and raped, amirite?)

  7. Ally Fogg says

    Ooh good call, sonofrojblake, you have a very, very long memory!

    Although to be really pedantic, I think she might have been charged with kidnapping rather than sexual assault? I’ll check.

  8. Ally Fogg says

    I stand corrected, convicted in absentia of sexual assault.

    But then it was 1977, so I think we can say such charges are rare 😉

  9. sonofrojblake says

    From the very report you complained about:
    “11,995 defendants were prosecuted in 2015-16 for sexual offences, excluding rape; a rise of
    22.5% from 9,789 in 2014-15; reaching the highest volume ever recorded.
     Of those defendants where gender was recorded, 97.3% were male and 2.7% were female”

    That’s over 300 women in one year. Obviously, because the CPS is demonstrably uninterested in male victims, there’s no data showing whether those 300+ women prosecuted had victimised men, boys, or other women or girls. And obviously 2.7% matches the descriptor “rare”. It’s a good distance from “never been a single prosecution”, though.

    I only remember McKinney because it was the perfect storm for the tabloids – the victim (named of course) was American (exotic), a Mormon (exotic and nutty), and the convicted perpetrator was slim blonde who had worked as a prostitute and had a cracking pair of knockers which she had obligingly shown to a photographer, so the papers could publish the pictures as “news”. The added bonus of the suggestion of bondage only spiced things up further.

    I’d bet my house there have been hundreds if not thousands of prosecutions for sexual assault by women on men since then, it’s just that as you’ve pointed out (and demonstrated), nobody knows or cares.

  10. Ally Fogg says

    Obviously I don’t know because, as you’ve noted, we don’t have the data.

    My best guess would be that of those 300+ or so sexual assault offences by women:

    – Some will be women assaulting other women

    – Some will be women convicted alongside a male co-defendant

    – Quite a lot will be women convicted of groping men in bars or on the street (groping police officers & bouncers seems a surprisingly popular activity amongst drunk women on hen nights).

    – Approximately zero will be women convicted of forced or coerced penetrative sex. (The only exception to this might be women being convicted of a range of domestic violence offences, but again, I don’t remember ever hearing of one of those.)

    Would be very interested to be proven wrong on this though, if anyone can find any cases from the UK.

  11. Holms says

    Wow, that’s quite a result. Accoring to well established precedent, this is the point where Mike Buchanan arrives and denigrates the result you achieved, touts JM4B as the real mover and shaker of male advocacy, and brags about his myriad achievements (that don’t amount to squat compared to this one).

  12. Carnation says

    @ Ally

    “The main hurdle is their extreme mistrust of the men’s sector.”

    What do you think drives this mistrust, and what can do done about it?

  13. Ally Fogg says

    holms (11)

    Remember, it’s like Candyman, don’t say the name.

    Carnation [12]

    Lots of things drive it, with fault in many places.

    But as for what can be done about it, being blunt, our approach at the moment is, wherever possible, to work around them. As time goes by and we do more that genuinely helps men in need without in any way trampling over the needs & concerns of women in need, the more the objections fade into irrelevance.

  14. mostlymarvelous says

    One thing is still glaringly absent. The relationships between victims and perpetrators are not mentioned. It seems that the compilers/designers of the reports think that the fact that the crimes are within families and intimate relationships and they’ve gone so far as to identify some as honour-based crimes. Congratulations are in order?

    It should be as clear as a vuvuzela blasting through your window on a calm, clear night, that a few, some, many, most (who knows!) of the perpetrators of violence against men and boys would themselves be male. And it should also be equally clear that a few-some-many of the violent crimes inflicted on women and girls are perpetrated by women or girls. We know that this is quite common in honour-based violence. (Most people I know are unsurprised when it turns out that a young couple were attacked by mothers, aunts or grandmothers along with other family members or those senior women relatives organised other family members into an attack.) But without good records and statistical analysis or other processing of _all_ family violence incidents, we can’t know whether this is unusual or specific to such attacks or if it’s much the same proportion as in other family/intimate relationship violence.

    Something else I didn’t spot* in the 2017-2020 strategy was any mention of mental health services. A small but significant number of – and often avoidable – attacks and killings of family members are committed by people in the grip of delusions or a psychotic episode. The people they attack are the people expected to provide ‘care in the community’ to a patient who is, obviously once someone’s in hospital or dead, a danger to those who try to care for them. People try to tell doctors-psychiatrists-hospitals that a family member needs to be admitted to hospital, or to be kept there. Far too often they finish up literally risking their lives by agreeing (for want of a better word) to take their uncooperative (deluded, deranged, dangerous in some other way) relative back into their home. The same problem applies to some suicidal patients, but here we’re concerned with violence against others.

    *Perhaps these details are somewhere in plain sight, maybe in some document that I just haven’t looked at. Links would be appreciated if there are any.

  15. Ally Fogg says

    I think you’re broadly right about that, MostlyMarvellous. The CPS reports do give some detail about perpetrators including some gender breakdowns, but not much – their focus (quite rightly, I think) is about the performance they deliver to victims – it is not meant to be a complete exercise in criminological epidemiology.

    The ONS are really the body who should be producing the data you are asking about, sometimes they do it quite well, other times not so well!

  16. Demosthenes XXI says

    Baby steps, Ally…baby steps.

    This is a big thing to get them to at least admit it and be willing to discuss it openly.

    Well done, sir.

  17. Ally Fogg says

    Ah yes, the old perpetrator programme thing.

    That paper has been out for a while now Marduk.

    I read it when it came out & remember what struck me was the extent to which programmes which are nominally (and formally) Duluth-style in origin have quite comprehensively adopted a lot of anger management, relationship management & a whole load of other stuff which shouldn’t really be relevant under Duluth but lo and behold seem to be necessary.

    Still the huge problem that no one anywhere has been able to produce any evidence that perpetrator programmes – any of them – actually work better than doing nothing.

    The other striking thing about that paper was the admission that a lot of ideologically feminist organisations delivering programmes refused to co-operate with the study at all. It’s almost as if they know something…

  18. Marduk says

    18.
    I agree, but this isn’t because they couldn’t find the evidence as such, its because there is an absence of really good quality study here to be quite honest. Its difficult and very expensive of course, this isn’t the fault of anyone in the sector, there are huge barriers.

    What you can say for some interventions is that we can get a feel for efficacy from where they have been used in settings that appear to have commonalities, be it common etiological factors or that phenomenally appear similar (e.g., other forms of behaviour in a family setting or other forms of violent crime). Of course the relevance of that comes down though to whether you believe, as Duluth proponents do, that IPV is a unique social phenomena. So its a bit of a catch-22. Either way, good data is a feminist issue.

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