Crying Wolf on Intimate Violence


12:50 pm - March 8th 2009

by Unity    


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It should already be perfectly apparent that, unlike Sunny, I’m far from satisfied with Amnesty International’s response to queries about the veracity of its claim that:

Each year, around 1 in ten women in Britain will experience rape and or other violence‘.

To understand exactly why I’m not happy lets look at some real data on intimate violence, taken from the most recent Home Office statistical report on ‘Homicides, Violent Offences and Intimate Violence‘ which takes its data from the 2007/8 British Crime Survey:

According to the 2007/08 BCS, women remained at higher risk of intimate violence victimisation than men.

• Overall, three in ten (30%) women and two in ten (20%) men had experienced any domestic abuse since the age of 16. These figures are equivalent to an estimated 4.8 million female victims of any domestic abuse since the age of 16 and 3.2 million male victims.

Following several years of little change, prevalence of (non-sexual) partner and family abuse has decreased between 2006/07 and 2007/08. Prevalence of sexual assault has remained stable.

• Between 2006/07 and 2007/08 BCS interviews, there was a significant decrease in the prevalence of women experiencing (non-sexual) partner abuse in the last year (from 6% to 5%).

• The prevalence of both men and women experiencing (non-sexual) family abuse in the last year decreased between 2006/07 and 2007/08 BCS interviews (from 2% to 1% for men and from 3% to 2% for women).

A significant minority of men and women who had experienced intimate violence since the age of 16 had experienced more than one type of intimate violence (any combination of nonsexual family abuse, non-sexual partner abuse or sexual assault).

So…

– the BCS estimate for the annual prevalence of violence against women in half the figure that Amnesty International claims. (1 in 20, rather than 1 in 10)

– for the lifetime risk of victimisation, the BCS estimate that 4.8 million women will experience some form of intimate violence is just under a third of the numbers claimed by Amnesty (which gives a figure of 15 million in its campaign literature)

– the BCS estimates for both lifetime and annual prevalence of intimate violence against men are only a thrid lower than those for women, even though Amnesty International claim that intimate violence disproportionately affects women…

…which it does

…if one relies on global data sourced from the United Nations.

But it is hardly fair or reasonable to suggest that we make public policy decisions in the UK based on data much of which is sourced from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world where we know that violence against women is a deeply ingrained part of the local culture.

Nevertheless, on a fair reading of the BCS data, its absolutely clear that there is a substantial need for more support services for women (and men) who are victims of intimate violence, particularly when so many local authorities fail to provide adequate services for both women and men.

And that’s why I’m extremely unhappy with Amnesty’s response, and especially with its mealy-mouthed efforts to deflect attention from the clear and inescapable fact that its headline ‘statistic’, the claim that 1 in 10 women experience some form of intimate violence every year, is a gross exaggeration of the facts.

Having been called out on its use of false statistics, Amnesty’s reponse has been to suggest that it doesn’t matter that its using bullshit statistics because they’re promoting a lie in order to support a good cause. Well, while this certainly is a good cause, Amnesty’s foray into statistics abuse still matters:

IT MATTERS – because, on a point of principle, it is deeply hypocritical to complain that statistical information is routinely misused and abused by government in order to generate public support for illiberal measures that unnecessarily and unjustly eat away at our civil liberties and then suggest that we look the other way when we find them playing the same game, no matter how good the cause it.

IT MATTERS – because it damages the credibility of the campaign. Amnesty International dosn’t need to resort to lies to put over the point that support services for victims of intimate violence are far too thin on the ground, badly under resourced and underfunded and too easily (and commonly) targeted for spending cuts when times are tough and councils face difficult spending decisions. The facts speak for themselves – they don’t need to be embroidered for public consumption.

IT MATTERS – because it unnecessarily and unhelpfully creates a gender divide on this issue, one that is, ultimately, counterproductive, and which plays into and reinforces the whole ‘man-hating radical feminsta’ stereotype with all the negative connotations that go with it.

IT MATTERS – because (and it really does sadden me to say this) women-centred, women-led campaigns of this kind have a long and inglorious track record of bullshitting to promote their agenda when there is absolutely no need for it; when a simple, factual, reading of the available evidence fully supports their objectives and does in such a way that their case would be stronger, more effective and much more likely to win support from men if only they’d stick to the facts and tell the truth.

This is true of campaigns relating to prostitution and people trafficking, even if it leads to a very different (and much more humane) set of policies than those favoured by the clutch of small, unrepresentative, group of hard-line feminist organisations that have been allowed, by the government, to hijack the issue.

It is certainly true of campaigns on equal pay and the gender pay gap where, despite the TUC producing a pretty  well researched and evidenced, report that does a pretty good job, for the most part, of clearly identifying its various components and provides a solid platform for the development of effective policies to address these issues, the main public narrative promoted by politicians continues to rely on the wholly spurious use of ‘apples and oranges’ comparisons between male full time pay and female part time pay and the usual generic whinging about ‘entrenched discrimination’. In actual fact, the TUC found that only about 38% of the current pay gap could be attributed, in part, to direct discrimination (a figure that falls to only 5% in the financial services industry), although the presentation of that figure is somewhat dubious as the report notes that:

38 percent is caused by direct discrimination and women and men’s different career preferences and motives (some of which are in turn the result of discrimination).

In this case, the rest of the report is good enough to allow the TUC its bit of statistical legerdemain, provided that, in future, they go one to make some effort to try to quantify the extent to which which direct discrimination impacts on differences in career preferences and motive between men and women, even if the conflation of two quite different issues into one statistic seems to have more to do with ensuring that discrimination, of some description, can still be presented as the largest component of the gender pay gap in lieu of placing more emphasis on this, altogether more intractable, issue:

36 percent of the gender pay gap could be explained by gender differences in lifetime working patterns, including the fact that women, on average, spend less of their careers than men in full-time jobs, more in part-time jobs and have more interruptions to their careers for childcare and other family responsibilities.

Finally…

IT MATTERS – because on this issue, the use of double counting to grossly and artificially inflate the headline figure for the number of women who (allegedly) experience intimate violence each year utterly fails to put over one of the most important facts relating this issue, the fact that, as the BCS survey data correctly notes:

A significant minority of men and women who had experienced intimate violence since the age of 16 had experienced more than one type of intimate violence (any combination of nonsexual family abuse, non-sexual partner abuse or sexual assault).

If there is one overriding objective reason for taking this issue seriously it IS NOT that it disproportionately affects women – the fact that women are 50% more like to  be victims of intimate violence is a serious issue but not the most serious issue, not in the UK.

What makes these offences different from other forms of violence in a manner which demands that we take the issue seriously and support this campaign for more high quality support services is the higly prevalence of repeat and multiple victimisation associated with intimate violence.

In any other context, the kind of treatment that some women (and men) experience at the hand of a partner; the sustained series of assaults (sexual and non-sexual) and psychological and emotional abuse meted out over a period of weeks, months and, in the worst cases, even years, would correctly and properly be considered to amount to torture and would be treated, in law, accordingly.

We wouldn’t tolerate such treatment were to find that it had been visited on a convicted criminal in a British jail or on an illegal immigrant held in a transit centre awaiting deportation.

We shouldn’t tolerate it when it occurs in the family home, or anywhere in wider society, no matter what the gender or age of the victim(s) might be and THAT is the campaign message around which everyone should be able to unite.

With that, I’ll leave you with one question that I really would like people to answer in comments.

Amnesty International state that:

the aim of this campaign is to raise awareness about the scale and extent of violence against women, to get people to take action to pressure their local MPs into demanding better access to services and resources for violence against women and to raise awareness that we are running a campaign and we need activists to support us in taking action.

Ignoring the fact that Amnesty have quite obviously exaggerated its headline figure and any ill-feeling that may have generated, what I’ve done in explaining why I’m unhappy with their approach is also lay out a case for supporting these campaign objective that is based on real evidence, on the best available data from official sources.

Is that case actually any weaker than Amnesty’s case, or it is all the stronger for being based on verifiable evidence?

I’ll let you decide.

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'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


Although a thoroughly great article, Unity – I really liked that one.

You need to do a little proofreading on it mate.

I think, where you hit the nail on the head mostly was this:

IT MATTERS – because, on a point of principle, it is deeply hypocritical to complain that statistical information is routinely misused and abused by government in order to generate public support for illiberal measures that unnecessarily and unjustly eat away at our civil liberties and then suggest that we look the other way when we find them playing the same game, no matter how good the cause it.

I’m not sure how you get 1/20, as adding family and partner violence comes to 6.8%, which is 1/14 or so. There’ll be double counting in that, which might make it 1/20 – is that what you have done?

HOWEVER, and the main reason you get 1/20 or whatever rather than 1/10, is the because the BCS excluded stalking in this survey unlike 2004/2005 (and possibly other later years), and as I noted in my previous comment this was by far the largest category (which again you can’t just add to the others as it would mean double-counting)

http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/03/07/amnestys-statistics-on-violence-against-women/#comment-37227

If you add stalking back, which Amnesty do explicity mention, I’m sure your figures would be back to 1/10 (unless the BCS exluded stalking for reasons to do with its unreliability or something).

3. Mike Killingworth

A couple of thoughts.

Let’s take an imaginary couple, Jack and Jill. Their relationship is about to fall apart. Just before it does, they have a blazing row in which they hit each other (both “having drink taken”). Just so that I understand, according to official (or even Amnesty-type) statistics both Jack and Jill are both victims of, and perpetrators of, “intimate violence”.

There is also the issue of women who return to violent, abusive men, despite being advised not to. ISTR that Erin Pizzey was completely baffled by why women did this, presumably because she thought it none of her business to inquire what sort of a male role model their fathers had provided them with.

Clearly, what counts as appropriate intervention in each of these cases will be very different.

And yes, there are a lot of strange people in this area of social action. I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve met who quit working for Amnesty because they couldn’t stnad their colleagues idiosyncracies any more, and I also remember the woman who quit as a volunteer from a Women’s Aid Centre because her colleagues made it clear to her that, as she was heterosexual, they didn’t want her there.

Yes, it is a disgrace that there are huge areas of the country where Domestic Violence Units don’t exist. I would also hope that there are national standards of good practice, and a commitment to professionalism in this field of work.

Unity, your statistics here are for intimate (non-sexual) violence. Where are the statistics that include sexual violence?

Unless you factor sexual violence in, everything you’re saying here is drastically undermined.

Laurie:

This is the BCS definition of intimate violence:

Definition of types of intimate violence

Any domestic abuse: non-sexual emotional or financial abuse, threats, physical force or sexual assault carried out by a current or former partner or other family member.

Partner abuse (non-sexual): non-sexual emotional or financial abuse, threats or physical force by a current or former partner.

Family abuse (non-sexual): non-sexual emotional or financial abuse, threats or physical force by a family member other than a partner (father/mother, step-father/mother or other relative).

Sexual assault: indecent exposure, sexual threats and unwanted touching (‘less serious’),rape or assault by penetration including attempts (‘serious’), by any person including a partner or family member.

Stalking is excluded from the current survey due to serious concerns over the adequacy of the definition used in 2004/5 survey. However the main survey includes recorded cases of harassment.

Unity sorry to go on but I think it’s important to be clear on this as we’re (all) criticising Amnesty’s figures.

First, do the figures you quote include ‘harassment’? And would that include all types of stalking? Or is that in another section of the BCS?

Second, when you say:

for the lifetime risk of victimisation, the BCS estimate that 4.8 million women will experience some form of intimate violence is just under a third of the numbers claimed by Amnesty (which gives a figure of 15 million in its campaign literature)

This 4.8m is calculated only from those age 15-59, i.e 16m women. If you double that for all females, then you would get 9.6m, pensioners only then somewhere in between. But also are you sure this is a lifetime risk of victimisation or simply a ‘so far’ risk. if so it is obviously understating the risk.

Finally, where does the 1/20 in come from?

Great work Unity, but a couple of caveats on the stats.

Firstly, this is the result of a self completion survey. Normally with these there are a number not returned but I can’t find the percentage figure for this one. The point is that the survey is much more likely not to be completed if it is irrelevant to the person’s experience.

Secondly, the “psychological violence” figures are large percentages. In my view, questions like, do you feel you get a fair share of the household income and do you feel your partner belittles you are too subjective to be helpful in this kind of survey.

That said, the figures are still horrific and much higher than I would ever have guessed. They need no exaggeration by Amnesty or anyone else.

I think Matthew’s right – they got to 10% by including harassment under the heading of violence, which they’re entitled to do.

Surveys do show that the incidence of domestic violence against men is around 60-75% of violence against women. However, they also show that violence against women is more likely to be repeated, more likely to be severe, more likely to have a strong emotional impact and more likely to be experienced as ‘wrong’.

Being male myself, I’m keen for male victims not to be written out. But I don’t know what to make of men who claim to be the victim of domestic violence, and then say they weren’t injured, weren’t upset by it and think of it as “just one of those things”. Basically, they don’t sound to me like an urgent social problem.

Finally, where does the 1/20 in come from?

From the BCS document (as posted above):

• Between 2006/07 and 2007/08 BCS interviews, there was a significant decrease in the prevalence of women experiencing (non-sexual) partner abuse in the last year (from 6% to 5%).

I don’t know what to make of men who claim to be the victim of domestic violence, and then say they weren’t injured, weren’t upset by it and think of it as “just one of those things”. Basically, they don’t sound to me like an urgent social problem.

Based on that logic, perhaps we should divert anti-DV resources towards educating women who’ve been abused to not be upset by it and to just think of it as ‘one of those things’, then it wouldn’t be a problem.

(note: satire)

I do find this debate slightly worrying to be honest.

For a victim of violence there is only one statistic that matters – it’s either 0% (they’re not getting abused) or 100% (they are getting abused).

It ultimately doesn’t make a difference if it’s 10%, 5% or 20% of the whole population – the issues remain largely the same, and campaigns from Amnesty and others remain valid and worthwhile.

Arguing over statistics (which everyone knows can be interpreted and re-interpreted in all sorts of different ways) doesn’t change the basic issue, which is a need to educate people not to be violent, to provide support for victims and to ensure perpetrators can be properly dealt with.

I agree with the point about raising awareness of male victims. Two notes on that point – firstly many will be victims of male-on-male domestic violence, which seems often to be forgotten; secondly men are quite likely to downplay the seriousness of the matter out of embarrassment or male pride.

If Amnesty genueinly thought that the numbers did not matter, why did they start talking about them?

And numbers do matter because money, resources etc are finite, and are going to be a lot more stretched for years to come. It is therefore necessary to prioritise.

Quite apart from the question of how you tell if a policy is working or might work better if you stop paying attention to reality.

A good and necessary post. Amnesty seem to be very muddled: their letter to Rachel N categorically states “We are saying 1 in 10 suffer rape or domestic violence every year”. Which is clearly untrue, and unsupported.

One eye-opener for me has been the amount of ‘stalking’ which apparently goes on. The definition of that is “two or more incidents – causing distress, fear or alarm – of obscene/threatening unwanted letters or phone calls, waiting or loitering around home or workplace, following or watching, or interfering with or damaging personal property by any person including a partner or family member” (from here: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs06/rdsolr1206.pdf ). I’m still unclear on whether this really is a massive social problem, or partly a case of fairly minor (though still nasty, of course) nuisance behaviour being classified as something more serious.

It any case, it’s worth repeating that there are two issues – the statistics, and their presentation. Irrespective of the 1 in 10, there’s no question that tossing activities such as “repeated belittling” or “waiting… around home or workplace” into a big box marked “RAPE” is wilfully misleading.

How about this for a statistic? 100% of people on both sides of this argument in the last few days have been a bit of a prick. Surely we can all agree on that?

John – “From the BCS document (as posted above):

• Between 2006/07 and 2007/08 BCS interviews, there was a significant decrease in the prevalence of women experiencing (non-sexual) partner abuse in the last year (from 6% to 5%).2

Yes, but that clearly doesn’t include non-sexual family abuse or sexual abuse, which I think would be strange to exclude.

Oddly table 3.01 the rate for partner non-sexual and sexual abuse added together is lower than that for non-sexual on its own (due apparently to differences in respondent numbers) but adding in family abuse and you get 6.0% (this exludes double-counting).

Larry – Stalking is what takes you from about 7% to 10%, and makes Amnesty’s figure potentialy justifiable. You say the quote “We are saying 1 in 10 suffer rape or domestic violence every year” is “clearly untrue, and unsupported” but note table A5 of your link (the 2004/2005 BCS) puts total violence (the BCS’s term) at 11.4%.

This is the table that supports Amnesty, and if they’re wrong then it’s mainly disagreement with the 2004/2005 BCS’s definitions (including perhaps stalking) although Amnesty should have used the 2007/2008 survey.

Matthew – …although Amnesty should have used the 2007/2008 survey. – which is (a) the latest one and therefore the only one which can support a statement in the present tense, and (b) has the stalking part removed, presumably for a reason that someone involved thought about, and Amnesty wished to ignore. But yes, I basically agree with your summary.

(On the ‘domestic violence’ point – irrespective of whether stalking is classified as violence, it is not classified as domestic violence. That’s why I say they’re muddled, and that claim made in the letter to Rachel is untrue and unsupported.)

But stalking was dropped from the BCS because the data wasn’t robust.

Let’s get back to the original claim – “one in 10 women each year in Britain are subjected to rape or violence”. Without qualification (at the very least ‘violence or the threat of violence’, although I’m sceptical that getting 2 unsolicited pervy letters even counts as ‘threat of violence’), it’s not true based on any sane definition of violence. Including the definition used by the BCS in every year except 2004-05.

Larry – it’s just ‘violence’ not ‘domestic violence’

John makes a fair point which that they say “one in 10 women each year in Britain are subjected to rape or violence” and I think I’ve claimed they listed the violence ending with ‘stalking’, but I was getting confused with mapofgaps (from which Amnesty took their figures) who have a longer explanation which ends with ‘stalking’.

Although I suppose you could argue Amnesty’s definition would allow non-intimate violence

Matthew – comment 2 here, item 6: “We are saying 1 in 10 suffer rape or domestic violence every year”.

Larry, sorry you mean in the letter, not the slogan, where the word ‘domestic’ is used.

Yes, that’s wrong in the case of any of the crimes not conducted by family or friends (except rape, which is separately mentioned).

Ok my comment (20) was before I saw your (19). Yes, I agree.

As a survivor of severe domestic violence I am deeply offended by the title of this post as it feeds into the whole timeless propaganda that women are liars in reference to men’s violence. The author may not have intended the inference though I’m not so sure. This place is gradually becoming more and more hostile to women – or maybe this microcosm is purely a reflection of the bigger picture?

AR, it’s really not hostile – for a start, Sunny who runs the place is ‘pro’ Amnesty on this, and the thing that Unity and others are ‘anti’ is “Amnesty lying”, not “women”.

As John B said, above, stalking is not ‘violence’ by any sane definition, and Amnesty’s original claim was one-in-ten suffer rape or other violence.

Matthew:

I’ve managed to spend some time crunching the numbers – sadly, some of the presentational aspects of the BCS data are far from clear, especially when it comes to identifying overlaps in the data – and…

Once you factor for overlaps in the dataset (i.e. double counting) the BCS figure for the number of women reporting any form of intimate violence for 2007/8 is approximately 7.5%, giving a figure, in raw numbers, in the region of 2.2-2.3 million. This gives an estimated life time prevalence in the region of 30-35% (9-10 million) not the 50% that Amnesty are citing.

Numbers like that don’t need to be embroidered.

Oh, and the female population of the UK is almost 31 million, not 30 million – there are just under 1 million adults aged over 85 who don’t show up on some of the standard age projection tables, unless you realise that the age groups totals don’t add up to the final total, and the male:female ratio in that group is heavily skewed toward women. This is one reason why you can’t just double the figures for 16-59s, although the pertinent reason is that the prevalence of violence against women decreases considerably with age.

So, you weren’t far off in your estimate, even if you got there by the wrong route.

A.R.:

Sorry, but I’m long past caring about the ‘I’m offended by my own faulty assumptions’ argument – read the first sentence of the article, it makes it perfectly clear who I’m criticising and why.

As John B said, above, stalking is not ‘violence’ by any sane definition

Yes it is, its just not physical violence.

Okay, so it’s about time that Sunny got his arse off The F Word – it’s not the place for supporters of woman hated.

And sanbikinoraion

AR, it’s really not hostile – for a start, Sunny who runs the place is ‘pro’ Amnesty on this, and the thing that Unity and others are ‘anti’ is “Amnesty lying”, not “women”.

As John B said, above, stalking is not ‘violence’ by any sane definition, and Amnesty’s original claim was one-in-ten suffer rape or other violence.

Like, makes NO sense what so ever and I suggest that you read what I said.

OMFG what a male ran, male orientated piece of festering shit this site is. Don’t forget Unity, ‘faulty assumptions’ (women hatred) catches up with you.

Chow.

Sunny:

The problem with trying to include stalking in the data is purely down to the lack of an adequate empirical definition of stalking.

There are a number of methodological issues with some of the data on lesser ‘offences’ arising from how those offences are defined in the questionnaire and the difficulties in accurately assessing the extent to which the survey, itself, may influence respondents to retrospectively revise their estimation of a particular event due to hindsight bias induced by the questionnaire itself.

As things stand, the general view of the two statisticians I’ve spoken to this afternoon is that although the survey is overgenerous with its definitions in some places but that this balances out against the number of people who choose not to complete the intimate violence survey sufficient well for the data to be considered reliable.

Oh, forget to mention that, in response the question about the data on harassment, the answer is no, you can’t legitimate extrapolate from the data on reported cases of harassment to intimate violence against women because harassment covers too broad a range of issue for such extrapolations to be valid. As thing stand, the breakdown doesn’t provide enough detail about the nature of the victim and the context of offences to separate out the gender-related offences from all the other non-gender based forms of harassment covered by the offence.

Sunny, seriously, no. Violence has a very specific meaning and by including stalking in it you perpetrate a groteque slur on anyone who’s ever been faced with actual violence.

It’s nothing to do about “faulty assumptions” it’s about ‘dog whistles’ and inferences.
Please.

No, A.R., it about building a clear, coherent and properly evidenced case for a specific public policy intervention.

You can chuck around insults all you like, but it doesn’t change the fact that Amnesty can’t back up its 1 in 10 claim with evidence.

What I have demonstrated, however, is that a 1 in 14 annual prevalence rate can be backed up by concrete evidence, and to put that in perspective that is over 4 times the number child welfare cases reported to social services in England in any given year.

However, when we come to look at the levels of support provided by local authorities what we find is that while 60% of child welfare referrals result in a basic level of professional intervention – an assessment – and 20% result in a detailed investigation of the child’s circumstances, it would appear that less of 15% of women who’re subjected to a serious sexual assault receive any kind of professional support and while I’ve no clear figure for levels of support offered to victims of domestic violence I’d be prepared to bet that its no better than the figures for serious sexual offences and probably considerably worse given the relative scale of the two issues.

And what makes ALL the difference here is that is that when it comes to child welfare issues, local authorities are under an explicit statutory duty to investigate referrals and provide support services, a duty that does not exist when dealing violence against women.

THAT’S the argument here – never mind approaching MPs with the begging bowl and asking for more resources for DV and Rape Crisis services. If you can actually be bothered to nail down the figures properly then there is a clear, obvious and unassailable case for bringing the provision of domestic violence and sexual violence support services under a specific statutory duty AND in the upcoming Equality Bill, a perfect opportunity to place such a duty into law.

And that’s the other major flaw in Amnesty’s current campaign – it is far too timid in its policy objectives when it absolutely should be pushing the statutory duty issue by putting up a draft amendment to the Equality Bill and specifically lobbying MPs to support its amendment, because that’s what the evidence actually supports…

…when you can bothered to look at it properly.

No, A.R., it about building a clear, coherent and properly evidenced case for a specific public policy intervention.

Then it did not need this ‘dog whistle’ and hyperbolic title.

“Crying Wolf on Intimate Violence”

I.e. ” clear, coherent and properly evidence case for specific blah blah”

Gettit?

Unless we forge,t my beef is with the title – not the stats…

sanbikinoraion

“Violence has a very specific meaning and by including stalking in it you perpetrate a groteque slur on anyone who’s ever been faced with actual violence.”

I can only assume from that comment that you’ve never been the victim of stalking, because by refusing to acknowledge stalking as a form of violence, albeit psychological rather then physical, you perpetrate a grotesque slur on anyone who’s ever been faced with this specific form of violence against women.

If 1 in 10 women suffer rape or violence per year , then over 10 years every woman should have been raped or suffered violence. Over a 50 year period then definately every woman should have suffered rape or violence. Or a few women suffer multiple acts of violence. If this is the case why do women return to their attacker?

3. Mike Killingworth you have raised some very good points. Does Amnesty International have the ability to assess crime statitistics. Increasing I think one needs a a degree in pure maths or stats to interpret statistics.

35. Shatterface

I wasn’t aware that stalking was a ‘specific form of violence against women’, especially as I’ve been stalked by a woman myself (after I dumped her because she wanted me to beat up her previous boyfriend).

If 1 in 10 women suffer rape or violence per year , then over 10 years every woman should have been raped or suffered violence. Over a 50 year period then definately every woman should have suffered rape or violence. Or a few women suffer multiple acts of violence. If this is the case why do women return to their attacker?

This – is victim blaming. There are many reasons why an abused women returns to her abuser – where does she go? what with? and how? and with three kids in tow… I suggest that you read up about women (in particular) who are in survival mode.

Cath:

As I noted a couple of times already, the only problem with stalking in terms of producing reliable data is the difficulty in adequately defining the offence in empirical terms suitable for inclusion in crime statistics.

FWIW, it’s not an issue that I think can be reliably quantified using the BCS methodology, which is why its better not to rely on it to make up the numbers to a nice round and easily marketable figure. There are too many ifs, but and maybes about the data to make for reliable case, especially when such a strong case can easily be built just on the issues that can be readily treated in empirical terms.

Personally, I’d farm the whole stalking issue out to the academics and toss in 4-5 years of solid research funding, in hope of getting a useful picture of the issue and some worthwhile leads on appropriate policy responses.

Its an issue where the question ‘how do we deal with this’ is much more important than the overall prevalence, providing that we can get the wider system properly funded in the meantime.

If this is the case why do women return to their attacker?

How long is a piece of string?

Seriously, when you step beyond the public policy issues and start on the individual interpersonal dynamics then the issues get very messy and very complicated, very, very quickly.

Argh, this is why I don’t really think you get identity politics Unity, because you made similar half-arsed points during that debate on whether people should call themselves ‘British Asian’ or not.

Let’s go back a step or two.

1) Frankly, I doubt that Amnesty would be (or should be) fussed about many of the people questioning their stats – there is so little discussion on violence against women (which remains the big under-discussed issue on blogs and the MSM) that any such controversy is always good. The only people who bring it up constantly are feminist blogs anyway – not the hardcore political blogs.

2) I can see the response to this breaking down into three categories:

– People who support the campaign and its interpretation of stats because they think violence against women isn’t discussed enough.
– People who think feminists cry wolf too much anyway and this is simply an example that reinforces that prejudice (the vast majority of bloggers)
– People who recognise violence against women but are pedantic about the usage of stats to make a point. Unity and a few others can be included in this category. But you folks are in a minority.

And even then its arguable that some objecting to these stats talk enough about feminist issues in other circumstances, so are they just jumping in now when Amnesty is using too broad a category for violence.

Unfortunately, because category 2 is so big, people in category 1 are always going to be defensive and see any attempt to have a nuanced discussion about stats as a way to say ‘feminists crying wolkf again look!
This is why this debate is futile and endless, because its identity politics again.

3) Stalking, in feminist circles, is termed as a form of violence because the affects of that in many cases can be much worse than a one-off assault. Its not necessarily about strict definitions, because in the same way (technically) Paki is the short form for ‘Pakistani’. But Asians don’t see it that way. If you don’t get this analogy then, well, there’s nothing more I can say on the issue.

4) Unity you say:

No, A.R., it about building a clear, coherent and properly evidenced case for a specific public policy intervention.

Not really – because no policy cases have been put forward. This is an awareness building campaign, not putting forward any specific proposals. When they do get put forward, and the govt looks like it might be in danger of talking them on, then feel free to use stats to make your point. But you can’t claim that objective in this case.

5) the only point I can really sympathise with is point 14 by Justin.

>Not really – because no policy cases have been put forward. This is an awareness building campaign, not putting forward any specific proposals. When they do get put forward, and the govt looks like it might be in danger of talking them on, then feel free to use stats to make your point.

I don’t agree with you there, Sunny. The main campaign page (http://tinyurl.com/cnozlx) directs people to the Map of Gaps site and says:

“Of course, this campaign has a concrete action.

End Violence Against Women’s new website ‘Map of Gaps’ shows exactly which services for women escaping violence are lacking where.”

Said report and website is full of policy proposals, and thinks it is making an argued case. One of main headlines has been (summarised) “we will consider suing particular local authorities that do not provide services”. That sounds pretty specific to me.

The Map of Gaps stuff is referenced as definitive in, for example, the letter to local authorities/MPs.
http://www.mapofgaps.org/email-local-authority/

I think “building a clear, coherent and properly evidenced case for a specific public policy intervention” is one of the things they think they are doing.

Matt

41. Mike Killingworth

[38] Unity wrote

when you step beyond the public policy issues and start on the individual interpersonal dynamics then the issues get very messy and very complicated, very, very quickly

That is why I have not engaged in the debate about the statistics. Any public policy intervention which does not address the interpersonal dynamics will fall flat on its face. A.R’s “mother of three in survival mode” needs expeditious and affordable legal advice – ouster injunctions exist.

Other cases, such as the woman I knew who had an upstairs tenant who kept drilling holes in his floor so he could ogle her in the bath, may be rather more intractable – she was driven out of her home and I’m not sure that giving her any amount of legal or therapeutic help would have changed things. In the late 1970s there was a fetishist in north London who gave young women lifts and then stole one of their shoes – he probably did traumatise somebody but most of his victims could see their own part in it and with a bit of female solidarity were able to laugh it off. OK, these are not “intimate” violence in the sense we’ve been talking about it, but they are unacceptable invasions of private space and they do point to some principles. (As indeed does Shatterface’s sometime girlfriend – the important principle that “hurt people hurt people”.)

Effective intervention will recognise that there are two primary forms of what I will call “repair”. Let’s look again at A.R’s “mother of three in survival mode”. As I said, she needs to be able to enforce her legal rights. But that is not enough. The probability is that her father was violently abusive to her mother, and from this she has learnt that men hit women and she has internalised the idea that in some way she deserves it – note that such women typically seek help not for themselves, but to protect their children. That is why, if legal help is all she gets, there’s a high probability that she’ll form another abusive relationship and be knocking on the agency’s door again in a few years’ time. That is not effective intervention. The problem of course is that it requires her to look at herself and ask “why do I get myself into these situations?” rather than see herself as an innocent victim. She is one, of course – but that’s not all she is. She is a woman who has placed herself in a position where she gets hurt – sadly, most such women are in massive denial of this. But intervention, to be effective, must deal with her denial every bit as much as his unacceptable behaviour.

And this is why identity politics are not only irrelevant but potentially dangerously counter-productive. They are dangerous in general because they legitimise resentment against unearned privilege – perhaps Sunny thinks it was OK of Russian revolutionaries in 1917 to shoot anyone who had soft hands (i.e. wasn’t a manual worker) but even if he doesn’t he should at least acknowledge that that’s where identity politics ends up. They are also dangerous in this specific instance because the “all men are potential rapists” line (apart from leading to the kind of dystopia satirised by Margaret Attwood) actively impedes the kind of therapeutic intervention I have outlined above, which is the only way in which a woman who has been the repeated victim of intimate violence as going to be able to rebuild her life.

36. A.R Some men often get themselves into fights because because they manage to annoy people in pubs etc on a regular basis. Often these men are completely unaware of their behaviour.

Mike Killingworth makes very good points about people having to examining their behaviour. How many women are in a relationship and have a child with that man after he has shown violence towards her? How many women have multiple violent relationships?

From my experience of having to intervene to protect women from violence who have had multiple experiences of violence ( sometimes from the same man) I would suggest that having to change behaviour could reduce violence. What was interesting was listening to a confident lady who would now be in her 70s saying if her husband had ever shown any violence to her she would leave.

Perhaps women who lack confidence form relationships with men who lack confidence which is demonstrated by acts of violence towards her? Hence what is required is effective intervention to help a woman from forming more than one abusive relationship.

Yes it is, its just not physical violence.

How would you define ‘violence’, Sunny? And have you read Hobsbawm on the matter? There’s a piece in his “Revolutionaries” essay collection which I would seriously recommend to you, or anyone fond of the word.

Yes it is, its just not physical violence.

…and at this point we’re going round in infinite circles *again*, because there isn’t a substantial gender gap when it comes to non-physical abuse.

There are two separate points here:

1) Women are more likely than men, by an enormous margin, to be seriously physically assaulted or murdered by their partners. The proportion of women to whom this happens is well below one in ten, but it is well above one in a hundred, which makes it one of the most prevalent forms of serious violence.

This is a terrible thing, rightwing twats who seek to talk it down should be reviled at all times, and we should all do whatever we can to oppose it, to punish the people who perpetuate it, and to marginalise the people who tolerate it. It *is* fundamentally a feminist, male vs female issue, and a the-law-taking-things-seriously issue, and needs to be resolved.

2) a lot of relationships between men and women, men and men, and women and women – probably around one in 10 in a given year, probably more than that over a lifetime – are emotionally and sometimes physically abusive. There is a fairly even gender split between men and women both in terms of who the victims are and who the aggressors are.

This is a bad thing, but it’s basically the ‘shitty’ end of the relationship scale; for as long as people are sometimes good and sometimes bad and fall in and out of love with each other, it’s going to be hard to alleviate. Better communication, better counselling, better social education would have some impact on this, but it’s not going to go away and there’s only a limited amount any of us can do about it.

Unity and a few others can be included in this category. But you folks are in a minority.

Fortunately, they happen to be right, which trumps being in the majority.

Seriously, nobody is arguing that violence against women is not a problem. There’s a clue in the name: “violence”. Principles of non-aggression and a presumption against the initiation of force are pretty much default assumptions for anyone who might ever think of using the word “liberal” to describe themselves, and amongst lots of other people too.

However, the evidence we have is that good intentions are not enough. Even if the majority of people are full-on opponents of violence, the minority continue to use violence and escape punishment. Obviously, this breaks the law. And I think we’re all broadly in favour of enforcing the law, particularly as it applies to unwarranted violence. Most violence involves a ‘stronger’ (even if this strength is temporary, for example one person being armed and the other not) individual causing pain to a weaker one, and we’re all against that.

The problem here is that there’s no need to play games with statistics in order to make a case for change. The abuse of statistics isn’t right just because it’s “our” side doing it, and if you claim that it is then you lose any argument you might have against similar abuse by, say, the BNP when they try to claim that most crime is caused by immigrants, or what-have-you. The truth is meant to be protected from mis-use, and I’m appalled that Amnesty have managed to undermine a perfectly creditable campaign by trying to play games with the numbers.

As an aside, A.R. is not going to win any friends by resorting to name-calling and the use of insults and accusations (“woman hatred”). Why are all of the people I want to agree with doing their level best to dissuade me from doing so?

1) Women are more likely than men, by an enormous margin, to be seriously physically assaulted or murdered by their partners.

No they aren’t.

It *is* fundamentally a …male vs female issue,

No it isn’t.

2) a lot of relationships between men and women, men and men, and women and women – probably around one in 10 in a given year, probably more than that over a lifetime – are emotionally and sometimes physically abusive.

Homosexual relationships have been shown to be abusive orughly as regularly as heterosexual relationships have been. That considered I find it rather odd that zero police funding was allocated to this form of relationship during their last big anti-DV drive, with it being similarly curious that they dedicated zero to woman-on-man violence.

The argument was plod logic: more women get abused, therefore all the funding should be aimed at stopping man-on-woman violence. Can anyone spot the mild leap there…?

One of the things that will rapidly become apparent to anyone who studies the growth of Neo-Paganism in the West is that of all the stupid things done by Pagans trying to promote their legitimacy in the early days, the single most damaging one was ‘Never Again the Burning Times’, ‘9 Million Women Burned’.

It simply wasn’t true. I am still having to argue with people who write off the entire religion of Wicca [1] as a popularity cult for 14-year old girls because of this. Wicca is a religion one needs both an education and an active interest in reasoning to practice. Its validity as a paradigm was totally undermined by people doing ‘awareness-raising’ who were, quite simply, lying.

The problem is not with Wicca, it’s with the practice of raising awareness of things that aren’t true. It provides ammunition for the un-reconstructed, ammunition which those who’re trying to defend your campaign in living-rooms and pubs and school playgrounds have no answer for. When someone can accurately cast doubt on your evidence, they can effectively cast doubt on everything you say which depends from it, even if the other things you say are true.

I’m therefore on Unity’s side. If you want to raise awareness of domestic violence, and particularly violence against women, then tell people that one in fourteen women, which equates to between three and five women on any 29 bus in commuter hour, will be victims of violence this year. That’s a shocking figure. There’s no reason to quote an even more shocking figure if it isn’t supportable. It merely loses our side the moral high ground.

[1] Please note: I am not a Wiccan. I’m not a Buddhist either, but I have a great deal of respect for both religions.

James: fine, *heterosexual* women are more likely than *heterosexual* men to be murdered or seriously assaulted by their partners. Or *men* are more likely than *women* to murder or seriously assault their partners. Although my original statement is statistically true anyway, given the relatively small proportion of relationships that are gay.

I’m just wondering why the public purse is so limited in its scope when it comes to eradicating domestic abuse.

James @50: several reasons, only one with much merit (in my entirely arrogant opinion). Firstly, until very recently in terms of establishment, or “Civil Service”, timescales a man beating up a woman or child in the home was normalised. Secondly, there is without question a serious gender-politics issue with how government projects get funded in the UK, though it’s one I believe will pass within this generation: the top men, the Sir Humphrey’s and Francis Urquhart’s of this nation’s political elite, are men born and trained in an era in which such violence was normalised. Thirdly, insufficient numbers of voters will change class- or race-based voting strategies in order to help women they don’t know, so the politicians aren’t being forced into action.

And fourthly, and this is the only one with any weight for me: privacy is important, and too much violence against women happens inside private houses. The cross-links in society which allowed for communities to notice such abuse have been eroded, but nothing has replaced them. I don’t particularly want the government spying on my bedroom: I’ve been known to indulge in some practices that might look to a disinterested observer like domestic abuse, and I certainly don’t trust this government to make an inquiry as to whether or not the woman is consenting before they arrest me. The people who’re burying such funding applications and initiatives are doing it because they are ignorant, malicious or genuinely convinced by their religious beliefs that violence against women is justified. Because there are legitimate privacy concerns involved in stopping domestic violence, these bigots get to slow down the money by playing on the privacy angle.

The picture is, as it almost always is, more complex than it at first appears. Also a quick caveat: no, I can’t point to any specific committee examples of these behaviours. I’m extrapolating from the bits of the iceberg we can see.

This is an awareness building campaign, not putting forward any specific proposals. When they do get put forward, and the govt looks like it might be in danger of talking them on, then feel free to use stats to make your point.

And when they do I will pay no attention. If I cannot trust their statistics, I am not going to trust their policy proposals.

@ #46 Rob Knight

“Fortunately, they happen to be right, which trumps being in the majority.”

Well, category 1 are also right. This whole campaign was intended as a discussion about violence against women; instead, it’s a discussion about statistics. Of course, Unity and co. are right that statistics should not be misused. However, they are wrong to discuss the alleged misuse of statistics *to the exclusion of* the discussion about violence against women.

“Seriously, nobody is arguing that violence against women is not a problem.”

Seriously, so what? How is ‘not saying that violence against women is A-OK’ even worthy of comment? Surely, if that fact is relevant at all, it is only to highlight the sorry dearth of people saying ‘violence against women is a massive problem and what are we going to do about it’.

“However, the evidence we have is that good intentions are not enough.”

Well, quite. I presume Unity meant to get round to the whole ‘violence against women is a massive problem and what are we going to do about it’ debate at some point. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened.

“The problem here is that there’s no need to play games with statistics in order to make a case for change.”

I disagree. The problem is that no-one is making a case for change. And that is partly because you and others are correctly making this point:

“The abuse of statistics isn’t right just because it’s “our” side doing it”,

but then continuing to talk about the statistics rather than the fact that domestic violence is a huge problem. 47,000 reported rapes a year is a huge problem.

What Mooska said above.

And John, while I agree with you above, this debate – to me – is rather like people obsessively talking about how many Jews are being targeted in anti-semitic violence rather than accepting there is a problem. There is more obsession with the stats than there is about violence against women. If that weren’t the case across the political blogosphere, I wouldn’t be so irritated by this whole debate.

54. the a&e charge nurse

Careful attention to data, and doing something about it are NOT mutually exclusive concepts – Unity has already made this perfectly clear, in my opinion.

Identification of the former is MORE likely to facilitate the later whenever law enforcement agencies (for example) are asked to think about how best to target resources (such as training, wages, infra-structure requirements, etc).

Similar conflicts play out in health every year when specialties such as cancer or HIV compete for finite resources from the same pot – robust data helps with any claims/demands that are made on behalf of these patient groups.

55. Shatterface

And it’s precisely because Amnesty based it’s campaign on stats rather than solutions that we are still arguing about stats rather than solutions.

Amnesty set the parameters of the debate.

It’s becoming apparent that there’s a divide between people who are quantitatively minded, and people who aren’t. I don’t think people in the latter category can understand quite how viscerally people in the former category react against the misuse of numbers.

Nobody likes being bullshitted. I think that’s universal. However, not everyone has a feeling for whether or not a numerical statement is bullshit. The numbers quoted by Amnesty are bullshit, that’s become quite clear. The difference is between those who think that the qualitative argument – that domestic violence is a big problem that particularly affect women – is all that matters, and those who think that the accuracy of the quantitative description of that problem also matters.

I can’t stay on the fence here. Quantitative accuracy matters. The modern world has been constructed by people who cared about the value of quantitative accuracy, from antibiotics to the contraceptive pill to the internet. If you take advantage of these things, you have no place bashing people who are obsessive about quantitative accuracy: your way of life depends on them.

And let’s be quite clear: when people who care about quantitative accuracy criticise your figures, it’s not because they oppose your political positon. It’s not because they’re your enemy. It’s because you’ve got your numbers wrong. Quantitvely-minded people care about this in the abstract, regardless of the political context. In doing so, they are upholding an important value that transcends politics. Truth matters, and nobody should be criticised for upholding that value.

There are those who think the benefits of quantitative thought, from medicine to transport to communications, should be withdrawn from those who refuse to acknowledge its authority. I wouldn’t go that far. But I do think that people who haven’t got the patience or the disposition to care about quantitative accuracy should get down on their knees every day and give thanks to those who do. Modern life expectancy, modern sexual politics, modern communities wouldn’t exist wthout them.

57. hellblazer

Thoughts and verbalization not sufficiently coordinated today to make a lengthy point. While I think “get down on their knees every day and give thanks to those who do” is a tad patronizing, tho’ perhaps born of frustration rather than superiority… I too am perturbed by the attitude Sunny espouses in these comment as elsewhere.

Statistics matter, because they can be used by the powerful to lie to us. If one accepts that, then how does one condone distorted or misreported statistics even if in a good cause?

Surely one thing people across political/personal spectra could agree on, given the joys of the last six to seven years, is that deciding there are Bad Things without *trying* to be precise about what to do and how to do it, is a dangerous credo. Support a worthy cause with dishonest – rather than mistaken – information, and you undermine it.

58. Shatterface

Iain (57): You may have a point. Although my higher education was in the humanities it involved a great deal of statistics; prior to that my A levels had been in the ‘harder’ sciences (physics, chemistry, etc) and I carried over the notion that evidence was as important as interpretation.

Maths matters to me, it’s not simply a rhetorical device like metaphor where I can bend it anyway I like.

Maybe we should declare our interests here.

59. Shatterface

The idea that truth is relative and is just a matter of power was orthodoxy in the 80’s but there has been a great deal of left-leaning literature arguing, sensibly, that evidence matters. Even Derrida-influenced writers like Chris Norris renounced postmodernism in response to Baudillard-style nihilism in the face of Gulf War I or the radical scepticism of Richard Rorty.

Afrocentrism might make some black students happier but that doesn’t mean the Greeks stole their philosophy from North Africans and Q mentions a similar instance with Wiccans.

Concede that truth is just a matter of power and you hand ‘truth’ over to the powerful; the only check is a reality check.

Maybe we should declare our interests here.

lol?

I thought the whole point of quantitative data is that anyone can type the same figures into a calculator and get exactly the same result?

61. Mike Killingworth

[57 et seq] I too think that there is such a thing as reliable data – I just happen to think that in this case it matters not whether you agree with Amnesty’s figures or Unity’s – it’s still an enormous and pressing problem.

FWIW I think the quantitative point would be a lot stronger if the numbers had come from a think-tank or a University department rather than a campaigning organisation. Amnesty are not in the audit business.

57 Iain coleman . Good point . 62 Mike Good point. However, once one moves out of the lab or controlled scientific experiement, one often needs vast amount of data, often over a long period of time to determine trends; particularly where there are many variables . The problem is there is rarely the money and/or the time to collect a good data set.

63. Shatterface

(61): My point was that we shoulld declare whether we have a background which values evidence (and in particular maths) or whether our backgrounds are in something woolly where ‘evidence’ is selected purely to back up opinions we’ve already made. The first group might include those with an understanding of science or some practical subject and the latter might include politics or journalism.

That should have been clear from the first two sentences.

Nah, I understand. Just thought it was a little ironic. :3

65. Shatterface

Sorry, ‘declare our interests’ probably wasn’t the best choice of words in the context.

Well, it raised a chuckle. 🙂

This a typical LC debate and why I long ago gave up trying to make any headway here.

For once I agree with Sunny that it is infuriating, but going round in circles is the only place you’ll ever end up if you start off confused.

Firstly, I don’t think this topic is about ‘violence’ per se, nor do I think it is about identity politics. The definitions being bandied about only do a disservice to comprehension.

It is about offenses (specifically offenses against the person), perpetrated between people who are in a dysfunctional relationship at a human level.

Secondly, the statistics have been categorized badly and therefore create the confusion which leads to an unproductive discussion.

It seems to me that debate is necessary to raise awareness, but the confusion surrounding the data gives the impression that it is a debate for partisan campaigning purposes and lobbying for funds rather than in any way to change the circumstances which lead to such offenses being committed in the first place.

The only way to prevent offenses resulting from emotional dysfunction is to ensure proper emotional maturity in the first place. Yet how can anyone expect to prevent dysfunctional relationships when this government has a vested interest in ensuring dysfunctional communication continues?

All violence is borne of impotent anger; all violence gestates with impatient frustration; all violence explodes at the wrong target.

This topic is about Jacqui Smith and her misguided attempts to solve a problem according to the Labour-prescribed formula. Labour’s poll positions requires them to undertake more new policy initiatives, but they are at the bottom of a hole and the only way they can see to get out is to continue digging – Labour is addicted to the shovel and they just can’t give it up!

IT MATTERS because I don’t think a huge new central govt database of offenders will do anything except satisfy Jacqui Smith or Labour that she and they are ‘doing something’ – any register can only be after the event of a conviction, if a conviction is won, if the offender is caught and charged, which inevitably means after an offense has occurred.

So again Labour proposes giving up more liberty to get a little bit more security… they have spent all their reserves of credit and any remaining goodwill is dwindling rapidly: if we don’t get change soon what will be left?

any register can only be after the event of a conviction

Sadly that’s not true.

Iain @57:

“What he said!”

Mike Killingworth @62:

I too think that there is such a thing as reliable data – I just happen to think that in this case it matters not whether you agree with Amnesty’s figures or Unity’s – it’s still an enormous and pressing problem.

Politics is a credibility game. Returning briefly to my analogy involving Wicca: Gerald Gardner was a scholar of the Victorian school, a colonial, a civil servant, and a retired, relatively wealthy man when he started working on what became known as Gardnerian Wicca. British occultism has been very heavily scholastic throughout the last 250 years, and Gardner’s ideas were much influenced by the Murray Thesis. Therefore, when Gardner set out to gain public exposure for his nascent religion, the people he was trying to gain credibility with were the elderly, quasi-academic establishment. They respected reputation: so he had Margaret Murray write the foreword. They respected scholarly presentation; so he pretended his work was from personal survey data, as with the Folklore Society. They above all respected anything with antiquity, and particularly pre-Christian antiquity, due to the influence of neo-Classicism: so he claimed Wicca was a direct survival of a pre-Christian, pagan religion.

It worked. It worked quite remarkably well. Wicca entered the 1970s as a thriving and growing religious system; and as soon as it got big enough to attract serious scrutiny, people started to point out that the Murray thesis had been thoroughly debunked by archaeologists before even Gardner’s work, let alone Robert Graves’. The credibility of Gardner as an authority on even his own work was badly, if fortunately not irreparably, damaged by the fact that standards for assessing credibility shifted dramatically between 1920 and 1970.

The modern era has finally caught up with where the physical scientists were by 1800: show me the numbers. Credibility is defined these days by reliability of data in support of reasoned argument. Be unreasonable, even with accurate data, and people will notice. Be reasonable, but fabricate your data and people will stop believing you when you tell them things because they can’t trust your rigour. Or your ethics: “The facts don’t agree with me, so change the facts” is why Obama just had to lift a ban on an entire medical research field.

The standards for credibility have been changed, both substantively and categorically, during the late 20th century. My problem with Amnesty ‘sexing-up’ their data to make a better headline is that I don’t want to distrust Amnesty as much as I distrust New Labour. I grew up in the Third World and was first wrongfully detained at 9, I love Amnesty. And USAID, and Peacecorp, and Medcins Sans Frontieres. The guys on my side are meant to be more credible than the government, not merely equal to them.

I think JQP has put his finger on what’s been nagging at me about this: Amnesty are supposed to be the good guys and I think that by being caught spinning they’ve disappointed an awful lot of people who perhaps wouldn’t feel so vehemently if it was an organization that had less kudos in the first place.

71. Shatterface

Q’s reference to ‘show me the numbers’ is spot on: when you look at modern physics it is almost entirely counter-intuitive yet physicists can demonstrate the bizarre reality of relativity or quantum mechanics so convincingly that governments will put billions into putting the theories to empirical test.

That’s what it takes to run a successful campaign: an honest presentation of available data and a willingness to put your theories to the test even where this means putting your reputation on the line. It’s not about inventing nice round headline-grabbing numbers and calling your critics names.

iShatterface @72:

It’s not about inventing nice round headline-grabbing numbers and calling your critics names.

Or at least, for the feminist cause, one might argue that it isn’t any more. I chose my example of Gardner carefully: had he attempted to present his actual case, accurately, he’d never have got out of the broom closet because he was making up a brand new religion. In the 1950s, that kind of thing was so far from done you couldn’t see it on a clear day with a really good telescope. [1]

The first 20 years of a political movement you’re just trying to get heard, not listened to. One way you do that is politically expedient exaggeration. The 40 years thereafter are about getting listened to, and for that you need to build, establish and then maintain credibility. Or, to use a comparison being made about RadFems in another place, the first 20 years belong to Malcolm X, who has the passion, drive and willingness to go too far for the cause. The next 40 belong to the legacy of Martin Luther King. Or to put it another way, Ghandi could never have achieved what he did if the Brits hadn’t been looking down the barrel of a loaded Nehru.

I would argue the Feminist movement is well into that second 40 years. Amnesty has also attained the age of maturity, so the expectations one has of them get steadily higher (which is as it should be).

73. Shatterface

The difference is that Gardner was inventing a religion from scratch (and to be honest, nobody really needed ANOTHER one) while Amnesty are promoting a cause which has already been around for decades and for which more accurate data is already available.

John Q. Publican – Thanks a lot for the post on Wicca, when you referenced it my mind immediately went to its founder. I suspect that many Wiccans do not have quite as open-eyed an approach to the system as you do, as usually they are averse to the idea that their faith came into existence fifty years ago rather than fifteen thousand.

As for starting a new religion in the 1950s, I suspect that you are rather overlooking L. Ron Hubbard, the rogue who became a billionaire after doing just that. However, I think we can probably agree that of the two Scientology is a rather more malign affair than Wicca. Perhaps we should distinguish between “Cult” and “Religion”, I suppose.

As for your 20 years theory, I would say that this was incorrect with regards feminism. The Suffragettes did far more harm than good: ttp://www.scriboergosum.org.uk/revamp/1910 With regards to the other stuff though, I haven’t really studied it but you appear to be correct.

Shatterface @74: none of which is relevant. Amnesty are operating in the credibility market of the Information Age. Getting It Wrong(tm) loses credibility these days. Losing credibility is bad.

James @75: The suffragettes aren’t part of the feminist movement in the sense you’re implying, for two significant reasons.

Firstly, the suffragette movement got what it wanted. It wanted women to gain the franchise. It got that.

Secondly, After WWI and and enfranchisement, the political eye turned to class rather than gender war for twenty years, and then WWII mangled the whole system. The result was the more-Victorian-than-the-damn-Victorians 1950s of shiny, marigold home sanitation advertising. That decade underlined the fact that there is more to liberation than mere enfranchisement, and so the feminist cause had to be started up again, with much wider goals and a completely different set of paradigms, activists and grass-roots supporters. Thus, the period between, say, 1962 and 1982 would be my ‘first 20 years’ for the modern feminist movement: clearly not the first 20 years of the political concept, but there’s a real discontinuity between the Suffragettes and the modern incarnation of feminism. You’ll observe that there was a lot of shouting and a lot of extremism in those decades, because there needed to be. Since the mid-80s, it’s all been about getting taken seriously, rather than being about getting noticed at all.

My analysis is process-based, and for one of the tidiest examples of it in action, I’d point the lector towards the history of Chartism.

Footnote to James@75: Hubbard wasn’t in Britain, for a start, and there are a couple of other distinctions to bear in mind. Gardner was twenty-seven years older: Gardner was a scholar by training rather than a pulp fiction author; and Hubbard had no intention of creating a religion. He thought he was doing scientific psychology. Over time a combination of what I would describe as narcissistic personality disorder with massive delusions of grandeur and access to a huge pile of cash caused Hubbard to redefine his self-help system as a religion. Gardner, on the other hand, was a genuine spiritual operator who had got himself plugged into a live-wire. He knew he had something that worked, and wanted to get British, upper-middle class society to take it, and him, seriously.

The main nit I was picking is that Hubbard’s system in the 1950s is presented as a science, and eventually morphs (alongside the New Age and other such intellectual travesties) into a quasi-religious paradigm. Gardner had a working religion by 1948, though the liturgy still needed a lot of work before the C-text stabilised. He first published elements of it in 1949 and then published the manual in 1954.

I’m beginning to feel the need to defend my trivia level, now… I’m not a Wiccan but I had a good long look at it at one point, and that involved arguing with a lot of people who were Wrong On The Internet(tm). The level of knowledge I had to acquire in order to walk the line between “being right”, and “not being accused of misogyny-based religious persecution” was… significant. Then I found some Wiccans who were over 40 and discovered that this Catch-22 is not limited to outsiders who correct the frothing gothlings. They respond just as badly to lineaged Alexandrians who’re inconveniently right at them.

Also, I think I should stop talking about religion now,

John Q – The Suffragettes gave up “Wanting” the vote throughout the First World War. Or at least abandoned movement towards it. Instead they through their full force behind the war effort, or rather: shaming men into getting themselves killed. It was the suffragists who staged the actual campaign that convinced people, the suffragettes that discredited the movement by blowing up the house of a politician who agreed with them, smashing random windows & so on. They set the movement back immensely and were never seen as anything more than a useful nuisance.

I also think that you aren’t taking into account that the debate which happened during the inter-war period within feminism wasn’t that distinct from the one which would occur later, or from what proceeded it. You had the “New Feminists”, who accepted biological essentialism (their leader, Eleanor Rathbone, addressed the Eugenics Society, for instance, and promoted policies on the grounds that they would generate more middle class babies) and the Equal Rights/Egalitarian/Old Feminists, who were actually into diminishing gender differences. Later on the New Fems were twisted about by the bioessy radfems.

As for Hubbard, so far as I can tell he presented his ideas as whatever would sell best. There was indeed a major drive towards becoming purely a religion in the 1980s, and footage of him firmly stating that it had to be understood as a science (due to the axioms, stupid) but so far as I can tell the organisation has always been fairly open to being whatever suits it (in Israel, for instance, it gets no advantage from being a religion and thus operates as souped-up Dianetics self-help).

The 10% claim is like saying: each year, 50% of school children will be stabbed and/or experience other bullying.

If the Mail etc. used such a misleading statistic we’d be all over them. Objecting to such a claim is very different from being soft on stabbing. It’s just pointing out the fact that’s it’s a very misleading way to conflate different events.

“1 in 4 people is overweight or obese” is another common such distortion in the media, wrongly implying that 1 in 4 is obese.

James @78: regarding Suffragettes and Suffragists, etc: I’m aware of these things, my point was that the first round of this fight was a fairly straight-forward one. Between 1890 and 1910 (in Britain: not in America at all) an increasingly and insistently loud group of women started from University education (they wanted academic recognition that women are not inferior as reasoning entities) and then started shouting loud enough that the debate moved from the Academe onto the streets. That’s your first 20 years, chaining yourself to railings, hunger strikes, etc. Then, as I said, the war came along, and the movement in question were bright enough to recognise how to react: you knock off the shouting and do some work. The fight for suffrage was won because women had demonstrated, rather than merely claiming, equal capacity for personal fortitude, economic contribution, and political maturity to men. Lots of people who had the vote, i.e. men, recognised this and backed the introduction of suffrage to women.

What happens for the next twenty years is that the attention of the political mainstream is massively repurposed by the Bolshevik revolution followed by the Great Depression. Uniting behind class warriors became more important to most politically active women outside the educated classes than uniting behind gender warriors. That doesn’t change again until after the massive social swing into hard-line right-wing values that takes place as a backlash from WWII.

The new fight is primarily launched from America rather than from Britain, and this affects both its paradigm and its attitudes: the new movement is much more comprehensive, and much broader-based, than the British precursor which was heavily middle-class.

Anyway, we’re well into a cul-de-sac as far as the main discussion is concerned.


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