Not only is there no data that supports such a claim - a common cry in online comments sections - but the data that we do have proves the exact opposite.
Pick any article on the internet about the violence men commit against women and you can pretty much guarantee that at least one of the first five comments under it will be from a man furious that feminists are ignoring the unreported epidemic of women’s violence against men. Most of the time it’s quite obvious they’ve not even read the article in question; it’s almost like a reflex action. A reflexive jerk, if you will.
It’s time to stop; this is a rubbish claim. Not only is there no data that supports such a claim, but the data that we have proves the exact opposite.
Let’s start with the most recent and immediate data on violent crimes: the crime statistics released by Victoria Police for 2013/14.
The overall victims of violent crimes are split fairly evenly – 52% men, 48% women. When you drill down a little, 94% of rape victims and 84% of other sexual crime victims are women, 51% of assault victims are women and 36% of homicide victims are women. So it seems true that, with the notable exception of sexual assault, men are also the victims of violent crimes and significantly more often the victims of murder.
But that’s just the victims; what about the offenders?
Well, this is where it gets interesting. It’s actually quite difficult to get data about the offenders. Publicly released crime stats will tell you a lot about the victims – how old they are, where they were when they were attacked, their relationship to the offender, their age and their gender. The same information is available for offenders, but it’s not part of the public release. I had to contact Victoria Police, wait nine weeks, and pay $700 to obtain stats on perpetrators of violence. Even then, they were incomplete.
This should be unusual, or at least odd, but actually it isn’t. It’s all part of the public perception of violence, where we concentrate on the victims and ignore the actual problem - the offenders.
Even the terms we use are problematic. The term “violence against women” only acknowledges the victims and ignores the people who commit this violence. It is, in a way, an obscure form of victim-blaming.
To demonstrate (and with a nod to Jackson Katz’s TED talk on the topic), consider the following statements:
John raped Mary.
John is the subject and the focus of the sentence (John committed the rape), Mary is the object (the rape was done to her).
Mary was raped by John.
John is still the subject, but now Mary is the focus of the sentence; John is trailing off at the end.
Mary was raped.
Mary is now the subject and the only focus of the sentence; John has vanished from the discussion.
Mary is a rape victim.
Not only is Mary now the only subject and focus of the sentence, the rape has become who she is, not what was done to her. Her very identity has become the cause of the rape. John is no longer involved in what happened.
Violence against women.
Violence is the subject, women are the object, and the perpetrators of the violence aren’t part of the discussion.
So, when we bring the perpetrators back into view, what happens?
According to Victoria Police crime statistics on offenders processed for the 2013/14 reporting year:
- 87% of homicides were committed by men.
- 98% of sexual assaults were committed by men.
- 83% of non-sexual assaults were committed by men.
- 90% of robberies were committed by men.
- 92% of abductions were committed by men.
That’s a pretty stark picture; there’s not a lot of grey areas there (data supplied by Victoria Police. As explained above, it is not publicly available).
To be fair, crime stats can be problematic when it comes to understanding the full extent of violent crime. Particularly with sexual assaults, underreporting is a significant factor. In truth, the only thing we know for sure about sexual violence is that we don’t know the full extent of it. And it is possible that stigma and shame could mean that physical violence committed by women against men is underreported as well.
However, crime stats are not the only data we have. If there was indeed an epidemic of physical and sexual violence being perpetrated by women upon a large group of silently suffering men it would show up in other data, the data that we look at when we attempt to gauge the level of unreported violence. There would be inexplicable blips in the ABS’s personal safety surveys, hospital admission reports, doctor’s reports, academic studies and police reports. It would show up in the thousands of studies all over the world, from Canada, America, the UK, South Africa, New Zealand and India that all come back with the same results – violent crime is predominantly committed by men, sexual crimes are predominantly committed against women, and both men and women are almost equally victims of physical assaults almost always committed by men.
It’s worth noting that all this data is about adult victims. Being born male is no protection against abuse in childhood. We know that this is the most underreported of all underreported crimes, but where it is discovered, boys are as likely as girls to be the victims. We also know that injuries inflicted in childhood leave the deepest wounds and that these wounds are even deeper when they are sexual. The adult survivors, regardless of gender, always carry scars. Again, however, in these cases it is almost always men who are the offenders.
It is also true that men can be the victim of family violence, not to the extent that groups like the 'One In Three' campaign claim, but it certainly happens, as do the very small percentage of sexual crimes that are committed by women. These crimes are no less abhorrent, and it should go without saying that the victims are no less injured and no less deserving of our sympathy and support than the female victims of similar crimes.
But these are aberrations, they are not part of a systemic culture of gendered physical and sexual violence that some men enact against women, children and other men.
The men who insist that women are just as likely to commit violence as men no doubt have their reasons for believing such things in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. I’m sure they are carrying their own injuries, wounded in some way by the women in their lives. Such injuries certainly exist and their pain should not be dismissed, but it is not a justifiable excuse to refuse to acknowledge proven facts.
Too many of our men and boys have learned that violent impulses cannot or should not be controlled, and we need to understand how and why this happens. Because until we start focusing on the cause of the problem, we can never hope to change it.