The public discussion about violence is a gendered one. We talk, tweet, write, protest, study and fear Violence Against Women almost every day. But while violence is most definitely a gendered issue, when we talk about it in terms of violence against women, we are concentrating on gender of the victims and ignoring the offenders; it’s an obscure form of victim blaming. The term means that violence is enacted against women; what we need to concentrate on is that violence is committed by men.
The evidence of this is stark and appalling.
Around 80% of violent crime in Australia is committed by men.
The gendered nature of non-sexual assault is in the perpetrators, not the victims. Only 7% of physical assaults against male victims were committed by female perpetrators, but 87% of non-sexual assaults against women were committed by male perpetrators.
85% of homicides last year were committed by men, 65% of the victims of homicide were men. 80% of the perpetrators and 60% of the victims of physical assault were men.
When we consider sexual crimes, the gendered nature of crimes is even more horrific. 95% of the perpetrators of sex based crimes in Australia last year were male, 82% of the victims were female.
There is also a gender difference in the location of crimes and relationships to the victims. Men attack each other predominantly at work or in the street, they attack women in their homes. Men are more likely to attack male strangers than male friends or family, but more likely to attack female friends, partners and family than female strangers.
The gender of victims is more diverse. If we look specifically at victims of crimes against the person in Victoria last year, the gender of the total victims was about 50/50. But breaking it down into individual crime shows the gendered nature of specific types of crimes. Assault not related to sex crimes is almost gender neutral – 51% victims, 49% female. Sex related crimes were much more skewed – 83% female, 17% male. Men are much more likely to be the victim of homicide, but our homicide rate is actually very low, only 0.3% of total crimes against the person. Assault makes up over 80% of the total.
Crime statistics need to be viewed with some caution. These are the numbers of reported crimes, obviously there are issues with the number of unreported crimes, particularly with crimes where the victim may feel some stigma is attached. Homicide statistics are reliable in the sense that underreporting is not an issue, but the relatively small number of offences can skew data when it’s measured against a much more prevalent crime like assault. Also these are not records of crimes where an offender was convicted, these are incidents reported to police. All these factors must be taken into account when we’re analysing crime stats.
However, when statistics are remain steady over time, are reinforced by comparable measurements in other jurisdictions, and backed up by other unrelated measurements (such as the Personal Safety Surveys), we can reasonably assume they are probably quite accurate.
And just to head off the Not All Men brigade (although I suspect very few of them will still be reading at this point), no, not all men, of course not all men. It is a completely ridiculous proposition to suggest that all men commit violent crimes. The same statistics quoted above also show that only 3 out of every 10 men in Australia committed a violent crime last year. That’s 7 in 10 leading peaceful, non-violent lives. The issue here is not that all men commit violence, the issue is that if a person is going to commit violence, that person is almost certainly going to be a man.
(Note: the 3 in 10 figure quoted above is not as robust as the other data provided in this article. Corroborating data is difficult to find and the figures could be distorted by duplication or under-reporting. The Tribune is investigating and will post updates when more detail is available.)
Men, for reasons we don’t fully understand, commit physical violence in ways that women do not. We need to know why it is that men are so prone to violence because it is impossible to fix a problem when you don’t know what is causing it. We need to understand what is happening to our men and boys that makes them view violence as an option in moments of rage, fear or frustration. We need to understand what we are doing for our girls and women that they are far less likely to use violence against each other, or against men. We need to understand the offenders. We need to concentrate counselling services and research on the men who have or do commit violence; not excusing their behaviour, but attempting to understand the cause of it and, from there, how we can prevent it.
We need to understand all these things and, while we continue to focus on the gender or circumstances of the victims, we are effectively refusing to acknowledge the source of the problem.
Violence against women, in so far as it is a women’s issue, is only about helping the women who are victims to understand that they are not responsible in any way for the violence someone else chose to enact against them. And ensuring that they have the financial, social and emotional support to escape and recover from what was done to them..
The problem is not violence against women. The problem is violence committed by men.