A Bunch of Men Got Together to Pretend that Domestic Violence Rates are Falling

And, guess what, they were lying through the teeth. Or, are complete nincompoops with no understanding of statistics which seems a bit far-fetched considering their various academic credentials. Now, when I read Alan Travis’s article in the Guardian, I did think the whole thing smelled fishy. I haven’t actually read the Office for National Statistics report but the idea that domestic violence is decreasing would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous. I had planned to read the report myself to discover just how wrong the Guardian report is but, helpfully, the Liberal Conspiracy has already done that for me.

I was right. There has been some rather loosey-goosey playing with statistics to come up with the theory that domestic violence is decreasing. As Ally Fogg writes in her blog:

The whopping great mistake in all these reports (which may or may not originate with the ONS themselves) is to include ‘friends and acquaintances’ as domestic violence casualties. They’re not. Many of these ‘acquaintances’ may be rival drug dealers, for example. In fact, in 2010/11, the “friends and acquaintances” category was by far the largest subset of the group, accounting for 204 murders – more than twice as many as female DV victims. Every previous year shows the same pattern. The full category also includes children killed by parents; parents (including elderly relatives) killed by their children; sibling murders; husbands killed by wives and various ‘other’ combinations. Rather than accounting for over two thirds of murders as Cohen claims, in 2010/11 only 17% of homicides were women being murdered by their partners.

Now, I’m not big into conspiracy theories but I do have ask how a number of highly intelligent men could misread the statistics so appalling. I’d also like to know just what they think domestic violence is because I think the rest of us are working off entirely different definitions of DV. I’m rather fond of the Nia project’s definition since it concise, intelligent and doesn’t confuse acquaintance murder with systemic VAW:

Domestic/intimate partner violence – a pattern of coercive control, which includes combinations of physical, sexual, psychological and financial abuse by a current or former partner. In extreme cases this includes murder.

I notice none of the articles I’ve seen on this “trend” reference any organisations working in the field of VAW, like Nia or Women’s Aid.

As lovely as the thought is, domestic violence isn’t decreasing. It remains a constant statistic with the serious long-term consequences for families. Apparently, services dealing with domestic violence cost England 5.5 billion a year. The Scottish government suggests that domestic violence costs us 2.3 billion a year. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d suggest that the government is deliberately running a campaign to pretend domestic violence is decreasing in order to justify their massive, debilitating cuts to services for women.

But, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I just don’t think a lot of people care very much about domestic violence and VAW in general. If they did, journalists wouldn’t be writing such poorly researched flights of stupidity.

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