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Categories of violence against women

The War Against Women and Girls in the UK

Adam Herriott / Deep Green Resistance UK

Preface

Many men have asked me why Deep Green Resistance is a radical feminist organisation. “Doesn’t it distract you from your main goal?” they ask, as though the fight against ecocide is unconnected to the fight against patriarchy and its cult of toxic masculinity, which dominates most women in the same way it dominates the natural world. “There are so many other problems to focus on! And anyway, I heard that one in three victims of domestic violence in the UK is male, so shouldn’t we also be talking about men as victims of female violence? Isn’t focusing on men as perpetrators in itself sexist…?”

The frustration I felt from questions such as these prompted me to write this post. I wanted to compile a catalogue of male violence against women and to debunk some of the most common myths used to derail discussions around male violence against women and girls. My post is aimed primarily at all those who question the need for radical feminism within DGR, wonder why we as men would wish to identify as pro-feminist, become defensive and argue that they have never been violent against women and so are not part of the problem, refuse to listen when women speak of their experiences, argue that men are just as much victims as women, believe a gender-neutral approach is a suitable solution to dealing with violence against women…

The following gives some indication of the scale of what we mean when we talk about the war on women. There are simply no comparable statistics for female violence against men. My focus is the United Kingdom, and while there are regional variations in how women are treated in society, there is not a single country in which women are able to live free from the control of patriarchy, for it truly is a global system.

Categories of Violence Against Women and Girls

Violence against women and girls (VAWG) can be broken down into the following categories: femicide; domestic violence; stalking and harassment; rape and sexual assault; forced marriage, honour based violence and female genital mutilation; child abuse; human trafficking, with a focus on trafficking for sexual exploitation; prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation; and pornography.

Under international human rights law, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) defines VAWG as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately,” thereby underlining that violence against women is not something occurring to women randomly, but rather an issue affecting them because of their sex.

Femicide

The killing of females by males because they are female.

Current or former male partners killed seven women per month in England and Wales[1]. Men are known or suspected of killing 126 women in 2015; this is one woman dead every 2.9 days. Men are known or suspected of killing 150 women in 2014; this is one woman dead every 2.43 days. Men are known or suspected of killing 140 women in 2013; this is one woman killed every 2.53 days. That’s more women killed through male violence in 2013 than British troops killed in Afghanistan in 3 years of war.

Do women commit murders? Of course. Official figures for the UK show that, between 2002 and 2012, 6.1% of adults who were convicted of murder were women. Which leaves 93.9% of those convicted of murder as men.

And what about male victims? We know that about two-thirds of murder victims are male. But we also know that both female and male murder victims are most likely to have been killed by men. In both cases, the problem is male violence.

Domestic violence

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to: psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional abuse.

An analysis of 10 separate domestic violence prevalence studies found consistent findings: 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence over their lifetimes and between 6-10% of women suffer domestic violence in a given year.

Prevalence and administrative data based on single incidents fail to capture the pattern of violence women experience. This has resulted in the numbers of female and male victims increasingly seen as equal by policy makers, local social workers, the police, and other professionals who come into contact with victims. So a woman who is battered many times is likely to be seen as the same as a man who is a victim of violence from a female partner once. The figures of 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experiencing domestic violence fail to identify patterns of abuse over time and the coercive control which typifies intimate partner violence. Using these statistics to establish a picture of the prevalence of intimate partner violence is therefore not recommended.

Notable statistics:

  • One in five people think it would be acceptable in certain circumstances for a man to hit or slap his female partner in response to her being dressed in sexy or revealing clothing in public.
  • 43% of teenage girls believe that it is acceptable for a boyfriend to be aggressive towards his partner.
  • 1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls believe that there are some circumstances when it is okay to hit a woman or force her to have sex.
  • Domestic violence has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime. Every minute police in the UK receive a domestic violence call – yet only 35% of domestic violence incidents are reported to the police. On average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before her first call to the police.
  • The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) have found a statistical link between the economic downturn and an increase in domestic violence. Domestic violence has increased by 17% over the period of the recession.
  • 33% of girls in an intimate relationship aged 13-17 have experienced some form of sexual violence from a partner.

What about men suffering from domestic abuse by women? The Government’s Office for National Statistics says “Women were also more likely to be a victim of domestic abuse, with 8.5% of women and 4.5% of men having experienced domestic abuse in the last year, equivalent to an estimated 1.4 million female victims and 700,000 male victims.”

Men may be living with women who hit, punch, slap, and bully them, but they are very unlikely to be living with women who rape and murder them. Not to ignore that women abuse men, but one cannot always draw clear parallels between the violence that men and women endure. We know from reliable data that women in abusive relationships are more likely to experience serious physical harm than men in abusive relationships – and domestic abuse against women is more often repeated, frequently begins in pregnancy, and is a significant cause of maternal death.

Stalking and harassment

Repeated (i.e. on at least two occasions) harassment causing fear, alarm or distress. It can include threatening phone calls, texts or letters; damaging property; spying on and following the victim.

20% of women say they have experienced stalking at some point since the age of 16.

Rape and sexual assault

Rape: A person commits rape if they intentionally penetrate the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with their penis without consent.
Sexual assault: A person commits sexual assault if they intentionally touch another person, the touching is sexual and the person does not consent.

  • According to a 2013 joint official statistics bulletin on sexual violence, approximately 85,000 women and 9,000 men are raped in England and Wales every year.
  • A 2009 Home Office survey found that 36% of people believe that a woman should be held wholly or partly responsible for being sexually assaulted or raped if she was drunk, and 26% if she was in public wearing sexy or revealing clothes.
  • An Amnesty International survey found that over 1 in 4 respondents thought a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing, and more than 1 in 5 held the same view if a woman had had many sexual partners.
  • It is estimated that only 10% of rapes are reported to the police.
  • Only 22% of serious sexual violence offences are brought to justice. The rape conviction rate in England and Wales is 6.5%. This is the second lowest conviction rate in Europe after Scotland. The police remain unaware of 87% of serious sexual assault victims. London Ambulance Service is called to approximately 450 rape/sexual assault incidents per year.
  • Over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year.
  • Marital rape was only criminalised in the UK in 1991!
  • Almost one in three girls have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school.
  • A significant minority of young women aged 17 to 21 (13%) say that a boy/girlfriend has made them feel frightened or threatened, with one in ten staying in a relationship in which their partner has made them feel unsafe (11%).

What about the common myth that many women make false claims of rape against men? The Crown Prosecution Service revealed that during a 17 month test period in 2011-12, there were 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 111,891 for domestic violence in England and Wales. Over the same time period, there were only 35 prosecutions for making false allegations of rape, six for false allegations of domestic violence and three that involved false allegations of both rape and domestic violence. That’s about 161 rapes for every false claim of rape, and 18,648 incidences of domestic violence for every false claim.

Forced marriage

Marriage conducted without valid consent of one or both parties, where duress is a factor.

  • The Forced Marriage Unit recorded 1,485 cases of forced marriage across the UK in 2012. Of these cases, 21% were identified in London. In 2012/13 there were 50 forced marriages offences reported to the London Met Police.
  • In 2015 the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice or support in 1220 cases of possible forced marriage, with 80% of the cases involving female victims.
  • A study done in 2009 highlighted that there were between 5,000 to 8,000 forced marriages reported in England. It is also acknowledged that the actual numbers may be higher due to the ‘hidden’ aspect of this issue.

Honour Based Violence

Violence committed to protect or defend the ‘honour’ of a family and/or community. Women, especially young women, are the most common targets, often where they have acted outside community boundaries of perceived acceptable feminine/sexual behaviour. In extreme cases the woman may be killed.

  • The police estimate that nationally, there are around 12 so-called ‘honour’ murders each year. The Metropolitan Police recorded 256 incidents linked to ‘honour’ in the year 2008/09, of which 132 were criminal offences. This is a 60% rise for the year to April 2009.
  • 29 cases were reported in the media to have taken place within the UK from 2010-2014, with 11 attempted killings and 18 actual killings.
  • In 2012/13 there were 180 ‘honour’-based violence offences reported to the London Met Police.

Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C)

The complete or partial removal or alteration of external genitalia.

FGM is thought to ensure virginity before marriage and fidelity afterward, and to increase male sexual pleasure. It is mostly carried out on young girls at some time between infancy and the age of 15. Unlike male circumcision, which is legal in many countries, it is now illegal across much of the globe, and its extensive harmful health consequences are widely recognised.

  • At least 66,000 women and girls in England and Wales have undergone FGM, in the main prior to arrival in the UK, with a further 33,000 girls and young women at high risk.
  • There have been no convictions for FGM since it was outlawed in 1985, compared to 100 in France. The London Met Police investigated 46 allegations of FGM in 2008/09 and 58 in 2009/10.

Human trafficking for sexual exploitation

The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

  • Human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world, earning exploiters more than $150 billion each year, according to a report released by the International Labor Organization in May 2014.
  • 600,000-800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80% are women and girls for sexual exploitation or domestic servitude. Up to 50% are minors. Men are trafficked to work on farms or in factories for no or little pay.
  • Between 1,000 and 10,000 women and girls are trafficked into the UK each year for sexual exploitation[2]. Many are trafficked to or through London. Around 6,000 of the estimated 8,000 women involved in off-street prostitution in London’s brothels, “saunas” and “massage parlours” are foreign nationals. It is believed that a significant number of them have been trafficked[3].
  • It is estimated that of 17,000 migrant women involved in off-street prostitution in England and Wales, 2,600 have been trafficked and 9,200 are vulnerable migrants who may be further victims of trafficking.
  • For 2012/13, there were 447 trafficking for sexual exploitation offences reported, up from 32 offences in 2007/8. In 2012, 1,186 potential victims of trafficking were referred to the National Referral Mechanism of whom 786 were female. Project Acumen identified 2,600 female victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in England and Wales and 9,600 who are considered to be vulnerable.
  • A person does not have to cross a border to have been trafficked. There are known cases of women and men trafficked within the UK.

Prostitution and Commercial Sexual Exploitation

Prostitution: The practice or occupation of engaging in sexual activity with someone for payment.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation: Achieving sexual gratification, financial gain or advancement through the abuse or exploitation of a person’s sexuality by abrogating that person’s human right to dignity, equality, autonomy, and physical and mental well-being; i.e. prostitution (on streets, in house, flats, brothels; escort agencies; massage parlours/saunas,) pornography and adult entertainment (stripping, pole dancing, lap dancing), phone sex lines, internet sex chat rooms, mail order brides, sex tourism.

  • 80,000 women work in “on-street” prostitution in the UK, with a female to male ratio of four to one.
  • Up to 5,000 children may be involved in prostitution at any one time. According to evidence submitted to the UK Government, between 50-75% of women entered prostitution before they were 18, with 15 years being the average age of entry. Up to 75% of women involved in prostitution began when they were under 18 years of age and most teenage prostitutes are involved in street prostitution, which is estimated to be ten times more dangerous than working from houses or flats.
  • 70% of those involved in street prostitution have a history of social services care. As many as 85% of women in prostitution report physical abuse in the family, with 45% reporting familial sexual abuse.
  • Women in street prostitution have a mortality rate 12 times the national average, and are 18 times more likely to be murdered than the general population. People are much less likely to be convicted of murdering a prostitute than of any other murder. The conviction rate of 75% for murder drops to 26% when it comes to killings of women in prostitution. More than half of women in prostitution have been raped and or seriously assaulted and at least 75% have been physically assaulted at the hands of the pimps and Johns.

Pornography

Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement.

There are abundant studies on the effects of pornography on those who view it. Researchers of a Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA) for the Children’s Commissioner concluded that “Pornography has been linked to unrealistic attitudes about sex, beliefs that women are sex objects, more frequent thoughts about sex, and children and young people who view pornography tend to hold less progressive gender role attitudes.”

Another REA, by the Ministry of Justice in 2007, found:

“The REA supports the existence of some harmful effects from extreme pornography on some who access it. These included increased risk of developing pro-rape attitudes, beliefs and behaviours, and committing sexual offences. Although this was also true of some pornography which did not meet the extreme pornography threshold, it showed that the effects of extreme pornography were more serious.
Men who are predisposed to aggression, or have a history of sexual and other aggression were more susceptible to the influence of extreme pornographic material. This was corroborated by a number of different studies using different methods and different samples.

The REA found no formal research studies of the effects on those who participate in making extreme pornography.”

Pornography is addictive like alcohol and drugs.

Conclusion

After reading all of the above, anyone still thinking that this culture is not at war with women and young people needs to think again, to put it mildly.

I share the anger, shame and need for men to do something about this appalling state of affairs that Kourtney Mitchell describes in “Escalate the Fight to End Male Violence“. An important way to start is by practicing the Feminist Solidarity Guidelines, developed by men in DGR with guidance from the Women’s Caucus. These guidelines help males change their behavior and better ally themselves with women.

Endnotes

1. ONS (2015), Crime Survey England and Wales 2013-14. London: Office for National Statistics
2. http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/data/files/resources/38/realising_rights-jul-08.pdf (page 16)
3. http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/The%20Way%20Forward%20Final%20Strategy.pdf (page 17)