The false assumptions that insult all men

Melanie Phillips - COMMENTS The Sunday Times
February 20 2000

Women are now so afraid of being raped or sexually assaulted that they will not leave their homes, says Lady Jay, the Cabinet Office minister. Home Office figures last week informed us that the number of women who were raped or sexually assaulted was likely to be up to 295,000 in 1996, rather than the official figure of 23,600.

What tripe. This is no new study. It is just bits of previously published reports and old crime figures cobbled together with some wild extrapolations to produce a figure alarming enough to justify the 6m being poured into women's aid bodies who have been invited to bid for the cash.

It is true that there is a "dark area" of crime that happens but, for one reason or another, does not appear in the statistics. So rates of domestic violence, like other crimes, are likely to be higher than reported. What the Home Office has done, though, is to produce a skewed account that is not only alarmist but a group libel upon men through statistical jiggery-pokery of a high order.

It arrives at its inflated figures by reference to two "dark areas" of crime. The first covers those rapes and indecent assaults that are reported to the police but which the police decide not to record as crimes. The second covers the difference between the number of rapes or sex assaults that are reported and the rate at which people themselves claim to have suffered them.

So the Home Office has calculated the "true" reporting rate and then multiplied that again by reference to the victims' own accounts.

Yet this is deeply flawed. Citing a report that showed the police decided in 1996 that 25% of reported rapes were not crimes at all, the Home Office says it is "safe to assume" that those dismissed complaints should be added to the reported figures. This completely ignores two crucial points. First, the report cited dealt only with rape. So it is wrong to use it to calculate the figures not only for rape but for other sexual assaults, too.

Second, the report pointed out that the most common reason why the police decided not to record these reports as crimes was that they believed the women's complaints were false or malicious. So it is certainly not "safe" to add these dismissed reports to the rate of reported crime, since it is likely that at least some, and probably most, of these rape claims were lies. Yet the Home Office has assumed they were all true.

It then multiplies this deeply suspect new statistic, this time using figures drawn from "various studies", which say that only 10% to 25% of women claiming rape report it to the police.

These studies were published in the 1980s, when women were far less likely to report rape than in 1996. So it is misleading to use their figures to multiply the 1996 statistic.

The fundamental assumption beneath this inflationary calculation is that women claiming sexual assault are always telling the truth. Not so. Only recently Martin Garfoot, a pharmacist, successfully sued his former colleague Lynn Walker for libel after she had falsely accused him of raping her. Some women do make such false accusations.

Nevertheless, the assumption that women are always victims and men their victimisers underpins government policy. It is the rationale for giving public money to women's aid.

The striking fact is that the Home Office has chosen to ignore altogether its own research, which reported an equal number of men and women saying they had been assaulted by their companions. Indeed, as I show in my book, The Sex-Change Society, there is now a huge body of international research showing that women initiate often serious violence against their companions as frequently as men initiate it against them - and sometimes more often.

The crucial point is that these studies ask both men and women whether they have been at the receiving end of violence from the opposite sex.

Most British domestic violence studies - the ones on which the Home Office relies - are effectively rigged. They ask only women, often in self-selecting samples, about their experiences as victims. They also absurdly broaden the definition of violence to include "ridicule" or "control" or "shouting".

Such worthless "research" has produced the risible claim that one in four women experiences domestic violence. Yet there was Jay regurgitating this old chestnut last week, as she did last year when she launched the Women's Unit campaign to "change the culture" of violence against women.

When challenged about her strange omission of the victimisation of men by women, she admitted that domestic violence was not "gender-exclusive", but said the government could not get involved in such "subtle issues". Anyway, it was women, not men, who mainly got injured.

Well, of course some women are grievously injured by men. Yet the remarkable fact is that, despite men's superior strength, about one third of people injured through domestic violence are known to be men and this is likely to be a gross underestimate. Male victims overwhelmingly say their complaints are not taken seriously by the police. Worse, they are likely to find themselves arrested by officers who cannot believe that women can injure men.

So few ask for help or report what has happened. Data analysed last year by Professor Kevin Browne, of Birmingham University for the Dispatches TV programme showed that more than half of male victims had put up with persistent domestic violence for two years before telling anyone, because of the shame and humiliation of admitting to being assaulted by a woman.

In other words, it is now men as well as women who are likely to be under-reporting sexual assaults against themselves. The culture certainly needs to be changed; but not in the discriminatory way that Jay wants. We have to replace the false view that men are always victimisers and women their victims by the more realistic acknowledgment that each sex equally perpetrates violence on the other.

This, of course, would hurt the women's aid industry that attracts funds on the back of the belief that men are invariably victimisers and women their victims. Not surprisingly, therefore, hapless Home Office officials have come under severe pressure to destroy, repudiate or obliterate their own research showing sexual equivalence in domestic violence.

Nor is this all. Rape by strangers has declined while acquaintance rape is up. Rape convictions, meanwhile, are down. This is not surprising, given the ambiguities of a mating game whose rules have changed.

Yet the government wants more men to be convicted of rape and does not much care how it is done. So what if a new offence of date rape, or changing the definition of consent to sex, results in manifold injustices against men? Aren't they all guilty, after all, unless they prove themselves to be innocent?

What an ugly and dangerous situation. The government is stoking up a hysterical and false animus against men. What is the Home Office doing lending its once-illustrious research reputation to such a farrago?

What has this government, composed of so many Jack the lads, got against men that it should unleash Jay upon them?

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