Statistics are a microscope through which we can look at the world in cold detail: but whilst their utility is undeniable, they can obscure as well as illuminate. Rather like a coloured lens affecting what we see, an ideological slant can lead to interpretative bias, however good our stated intentions.
Recent examples of this are Ally Fogg’s recent post #ViolenceisViolence on the violence suffered by men (here) and his post on HuffPo here. Both posts are in response to this video showing differing reactions to violence dependent on the gender of the perpetrator:
Before diving headlong into some data, let us clearly define our terms. In the ONS definition, domestic violence has a narrower definition than domestic abuse. This graph provides a handy visual representation: The two terms are not interchangeable - domestic abuse covers the entire x- axis: domestic violence excludes non-physical abuse. As the title suggests, Mankind’s video focuses on the physical, but over and over, the statistics Ally cites refer to all abuse. The effect is to muddle the eye of the reader.
So, to the data: there are several sources for this, which rather unhelpfully from our viewpoint have different methodologies. This notwithstanding, the ONS is pellucidly clear in its Summary and throughout: “Women were more likely than men to have experienced intimate violence across all headline types of abuse asked about.” Note: they do not say the likelihoods are of a comparable magnitude.
Yet this is the argument, that over and over again, Ally, in his defence of Mankind Initiative’s video, tries with more or less subtlety, to push.
Ally says: “If you go to the Women’s Aid page of statistics, the very first fact stated there is that one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. This statistic comes from the exact same ONS data set from where we get 40% of victims being male.” (Ally’s blog)
“But, seeing as 40% of domestic violence victims in the UK are men…”(HuffPo)
Not only is that NOT the first fact stated on the Women’s Aid page (it’s “One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute.”) but he has compared a statistic about domestic violence to one about domestic abuse, in order, it seems, to minimise the violence women suffer and exaggerate that suffered by men.
The time frames are also different: Ally cites Women’s Aid ‘in her lifetime’ - but the ONS data refers to reported incidents in the last year; the sample sizes are not the same: Women’s Aid’s statistic refers ALL women in the adult female population not the percentage of victims referred to by the ONS.
Ally and Mankind also leave unaddressed that men will be perpetrators of violence against men in relationships, as well as being victims (it’s worth noting that of all incidents of all kinds of violence in society, the majority are committed by men); domestic violence and abuse against men will not take place solely in heterosexual relationships (the same caveat, of course, applies to women).
His attempt to redefine domestic violence by volume of incidents a victim suffers is puzzling at best: to quote Mankind’s own slogan ‘ViolenceisViolence’ whether it’s once or a thousand times.
No serious advance made by feminism has been without a push-back from men unable to accept what is staring them in the face. In order to end male violence in society against women, we need to understand and name the problem. Male violence is still far too prevalent, it is still under-reported, it is still not regarded as the epidemic it is. Ally Fogg calls himself an ally to feminists. On the basis of his writing on this topic, I fear feminists should regard the proffered solidarity as provisional, at best.