QotD: “Coronavirus lockdown ‘perfect storm’ for abused children”

The coronavirus lockdown has created a “perfect storm” for many children isolated with their abusers, ex-home secretary Sajid Javid has said.

Writing in the Telegraph, he said this will contribute to a “surge” in cases.

He said he will lead a new “no holds barred” inquiry into child sex abuse in the UK with the Centre for Social Justice think tank.

The inquiry will examine organised child sexual exploitation and the abuse of children online.

It comes after Home Secretary Priti Patel announced last month that the government will publish a paper “later this year” on research into group-based child sexual exploitation, which was commissioned by Mr Javid when he was home secretary in 2018.

Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that something that “weighed the most heavily on him” during his time as home secretary in 2018 and 2019 was child sexual abuse and its “true scale”.

He said he was “particularly concerned” about lockdown because “children are left to isolate alongside their abuser and they will therefore suffer severe long-term damage and this kind of thing isn’t reflected in statistics just yet, but it will be, and I’m very concerned about that”.

The former chancellor said the investigation into will look at organised child sexual exploitation, including gangs and on-street grooming.

The second part of the inquiry will examine how child sexual abuse “happens today”, with a focus on online abuse and live streaming.

Of the gang-based exploitation, Mr Javid said: “We know that of all these high profile cases when there have been convictions, a disproportionate number of people are from Asian heritage, particularly Pakistani heritage, my own heritage and that both saddens and angers me.

“People from my heritage, many of them disproportionately responsible for what we’ve seen and I want to know know why.”

He said in the past there had been an “ignorance” of this in some authorities.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Javid said: “The surge in child sexual abuse happening right now won’t be reflected in statistics until later this year.

“As appalling as those numbers will be, however, they’ll still only scrape the surface of what’s been occurring under our noses for decades.”

Andy Cook, chief executive of the Centre for Social Justice think tank, said it was “highly courageous” of Mr Javid to “speak out on the issue, which has been difficult to confront and too often neglected”.

Javed Khan, chief executive of children’s charity Barndardos, said it was an “important warning” from Mr Javid that some children are trapped at home with their abusers.

In 2018, in his role as home secretary, Mr Javid ordered research into the “characteristics and contexts” of gangs abusing children, arguing that ignoring issues such as ethnicity is more likely to fuel the far-right.

He said he wanted officials researching the causes of gang-based exploitation to leave “no stone unturned”.

The review came after grooming gangs were convicted in Huddersfield, Oxford, and Rotherham.

Due to be published later this year, the paper on this review “will outline the insights gained” and will “focus on how agencies can learn lessons from the past to tackle group-based offending and safeguard vulnerable children”.


‘Cherry picking’ and academic studies on women’s violence against men

There is a misconception that ‘equality’ means pretending everyone is ‘the same’, that everyone has the same needs and the same abilities, and that, for the sake of ‘equality’, society should treat everyone the same. We do not, in reality, for the sake of equality, insist that everyone uses a wheelchair; we also do not, for the sake of equality, deny wheelchairs to the people who need them. ‘Equality’, a meaningful equality, means saying everyone has the same moral worth, and that everyone has the same right to participate fully in society.

The ‘Men’s Rights Movement’, better understood as a misogynistic, male supremacist, movement, started out as the ‘fathers’ rights’ movement, peddling the still-believed myth that family courts disproportionately favoured women (it doesn’t, see here, here and here). It then moved on to claim that violence against women was exaggerated, and that false rape allegations were common (they aren’t), now, the front line of MRA ‘activism’ is pretending that women are just as violent as men (this has not been proven, see below), and that women who do commit violence are treated leniently by the courts (they’re not, see here and here).

This matters. This matters because, as this 2015 US paper from the William & Mary Journal of Woman and the Law shows, MRAs are not powerless and marginalised, as they love to keep claiming, and their activism has real-world consequences:

In 2004, a fathers’ rights group formed in West Virginia to promote “Truth, Justice, and Equality in Family Law.” They created a media campaign including billboards and radio spots warning about the dangers of false allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse, even offering a $10,000 award to anyone who could prove false allegations of abuse were used against a parent in a custody case. In 2007, they released a study concluding that seventy-six percent of protection order cases were unnecessary or based on false allegations, and warned that protection orders were often filed to gain leverage in divorce and custody cases. They used their research to propose a new law with language created by a national fathers’ rights group to sanction parents making false allegations of intimate partner violence during custody cases. The Governor signed their bill into law in 2011.

Within the broader context of the fathers’ rights movement, a closer examination of the West Virginia group’s work raises important questions. In spite of its dissemination within and beyond the fathers’ rights movement, their research conclusions bore little rational relationship to the findings. The research was at best misguided and confused, and at worst, a deliberate attempt to mislead the public in order to promote a political agenda. The new law was redundant, as both the domestic relations code and criminal code already provide sanctions for parents who make false allegations of abuse. The law was effectively a solution created to prove a problem by shifting the public policy focus from protecting victims to questioning their motives and potentially silencing them.

I have been in communication with several MRA’s recently (see here, here, and here), who claim that men are more oppressed than women, and that women commit just as much physical and sexual violence against men as men commit against women. Neither of these claims are true. The claims regarding physical violence rely on cherry-picking certain papers; some studies do show that women commit as much violence as men, but others don’t, and other academics criticise the methodology of the studies that show equal rates of violence. the only thing we can conclude, with any certainty, is that there is no definitive proof that women are just as violent as men.

I am educated to a graduate level in a STEM subject, I understand the basics of how research is conducted, but I can’t do a ‘deep dive’ into a social science paper and critique its methodology.

Type ‘intimate partner violence’ into Google Scholar and there are over a million results; no one, even if it was their full-time job, could read all of those, understand them beyond a superficial level, and integrate them into an active body of knowledge.

No single academic paper definitively ‘proves’ anything, and no legitimate academic would claim otherwise. The scientific method is sacrosanct, always, but it is carried out by flawed and fallible human beings; the solution is more and better research.

There is a reproducibility crisis across the sciences, particularly in psychological/behavioural studies, but also in the hard sciences. There is also the issue that only ‘exciting’ results get published; this is why we keep on seeing new Brain Sex! papers – a study showing no meaningful difference between the cognitive functions of men and women is not ‘interesting’ and unlikely to be published. Men’s violence against women is old hat, but women’s violence against men is new and exciting and offers more opportunities for an academic to make a name for themselves.

Academics do not reside on a higher plane of existence, they are flawed, fallible human beings just like the rest of us. Gaining a PhD shows that a person is capable of conducting and writing up research to a profession level, it doesn’t mean they have access to esoteric knowledge, and a PhD is the start of a research career, not its high-point. Academics can be lazy, incompetent, biased, partisan, even criminal. The po-mo gibberish coming out of queer/gender studies departments, shows that academics can also be (fully peer reviewed) charlatans.

There have been many, many academic papers published around the world on the subject of intimate partner violence, over decades, below is a small selection, I would recommend reading the papers in full where they are available:

From the 1999 summer edition of the DVIRC [Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria] Newsletter, Michael Flood’s article Claims about ‘Husband Battering’ says:

Men in fathers’ rights groups and men’s rights groups have been claiming very loudly for a while now that domestic violence is a gender-equal or gender-neutral phenomenon – that men and women assault each other at equal rates and with equal effects. They claim that an epidemic of husband-battering is being ignored if not silenced.

To substantiate their claims, men’s rights and father’s rights groups draw on a body of American studies which use a particular methodology for measuring violence. This is the [Conflict Tactics Scales] (CTS) […] There are four problems with the claims about ‘husband battering’ made by men’s rights advocates. Firstly, they only use these authors’ work selectively, as the authors themselves disagree that women and men are equally the victims of domestic violence. Secondly, they ignore the serious methodological flaws in the CTS. Thirdly, they ignore or dismiss a mountain of other evidence which conflicts with their claims. Finally, their strategies in fact are harmful to men themselves, including to male victims of violence.

Selective use
The authors of the American CTS studies stress that no matter what the rate of violence, women are 7 to 10 times more likely to be injured in acts of intimate violence than are men (Orman, 1998). Husbands have higher rates of the most dangerous and injurious forms of violence, their violent acts are repeated more often, they are less likely to fear for their own safety, and women are financially and socially locked into marriage to a much greater extent than men. In fact, Straus expresses his concern that ‘the statistics are likely to be misused by misogynists and apologists for male violence’ (cited in Orman, 1998).

Methodological flaws
The [Conflict Tactics Scales] (CTS) has three key flaws as a way of measuring violence. Firstly, it leaves out important forms of violence, such as sexual assault, choking, suffocating, scratching, stalking, and marital murder. Most importantly, CTS studies exclude incidents of violence that occur after separation and divorce. Yet Australian data, e.g. from the Women’s Safety Survey, shows that women are as likely to experience violence by previous partners as by current partners (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 1996: 8). And that it is the time around and after separation which is most dangerous for women. International data shows similar patterns. […]

Secondly, CTS studies such as Headley et al.’s treat violent acts out of context. They only count violent acts. They do not tell us whether the acts were in self-defence. They do not distinguish between offensive and defensive acts. They do not tell us whether they were a single incident, or part of a pattern of violence. They do not tell us whether the act was intended to hurt the other person; a joking kick or a slapped hand are counted the same as a violent kick or a blow to the face. Most CTS studies do not tell us whether the victim was injured, or how badly (Dobash et al, 1992). These studies only look at violence in one year, and they don’t consider the history of the violence in the relationship. And, obviously, the murder of partners and ex-partners cannot be measured by self-report surveys.

Headey et al.’s survey did ask about injuries, and they found that men are as likely as women to be victims of domestic assaults that lead to injury and pain (and the need for medical attention). They note that this runs counter to medical and police records, that this is the finding in which they have least confidence, and that these issues need further research (Headey et al. 1999: 60-61).

Most CTS studies also ignore the issue of fear and intimidation. Headey et al.’s survey did ask about threats and intimidation, and it was here that they found the only statistically significant gender difference in domestic violence in the survey. More women (7.6 per cent) than men (4 per cent) said they felt ‘frightened and intimidated’ (Headey et al. 1999: 59).

Rather than seeing domestic violence as referring only to physical acts such as hitting or pushing, we need to recognise that verbal, psychological and emotional abuse is an important aspect of domestic violence.

Thirdly, the CTS depends only on reports either by the husband or the wife despite poor interspousal reliability. Like other CTS studies, Headey et al.’s study only questioned one respondent from each household and did not include people married or partnered to each other (Headey et al. 1999: 57). Other studies show that wives and husbands disagree considerably both about what violence was used and how often it was used, and that wives are more likely than husbands to admit to their own violence (Szinovacz, 1983; Jouriles and O’Leary, 1985).

Take note of the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS) here, it will keep appearing. What this 1999 newsletter tells us (besides the fact that MRA’s have been at it for a long time), is that in order to find parity in violence between men and women, researchers in the 1980’s and 1990’s (the CTS may have been updated since then) used a flawed research method that excluded much male violence against women, and exaggerated female violence against men.

From the December 2002 volume of the journal Violence Against Women, the paper ‘Are Physical Assaults by Wives and Girlfriends a Major Social Problem?: A Review of the Literature’, says in its abstract:

Research that shows approximately equal rates of dating and domestic violence by men and women has been used to challenge the priority given to services for abused women. This article reviews the scientific evidence for gender equality in rates of lethal and nonlethal intimate partner violence. Among the problems noted in studies showing gender equality are the ways in which questions about violence are framed, exclusion of items about sexual abuse and stalking, and exclusion of separated couples. Studies without these problems show much higher rates of violence by men. Furthermore, the physical and psychological consequences of victimization are consistently more severe for women.

This paper reports similar problems as the 1999 newsletter, including use of the CTS, “The critiques of the CTS are very important to consider, given that almost all of the studies in major reviews (e.g., Archer, 2000; Fiebert, 1998) use the scales or very similar scales. A possible effect of the sampling differences and screening biases noted above is that two distinct types of violence are being uncovered, what one team of researchers calls “intimate terrorism” and “common couple violence” (Johnson & Ferraro, 2000).” And again, sexual violence was often not included in studies, “Another problem with most studies is that they neglect to include sexual abuse. Rates of sexual abuse of women by an intimate partner were more than 5 times higher than rates of sexual abuse of men by an intimate partner in a large-scale study of college students (Makepeace, 1986), from 2 to 60 times higher in high-school samples (Molidor & Tolman, 1998; O’Keefe & Treister, 1998), and 20 times higher in a random survey of the U.S. population (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). Thus, inclusion of sexual abuse is likely to show clear gender differences. In response to criticism that the CTS did not include sexual coercion items, they were recently added to its latest version (CTS-2) (Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, & Sugarman, 1996).”

From the November 2006 volume of Journal of Family Violence, the paper ‘Victim or Offender? Heterogeneity Among Women Arrested for Intimate Partner Violence’ says in its abstract:

Mandatory arrest laws for intimate partner violence (IPV) have increased both the number and proportion of arrests that involve female defendants. Whether these numbers should be as high as they are remains a source of controversy. Most practitioners argue that women are usually arrested for defensive actions used in the face of assaults perpetrated by their spouse/partner. Others believe that these higher arrest rates more accurately reflect the true prevalence of physical aggression perpetrated by women. One way to help clarify this debate is to take a closer look at the women charged with IPV. The present study used self-reported information and criminal justice records on prior aggression to classify 485 women convicted of IPV into four distinct subtypes (i.e., no prior violence, primary victim, primary aggressor, and primary aggressor not identified). Despite the fact that all of these women were arrested for and convicted of IPV, analyses consistently found that few of the women could be considered as the primary aggressor in their relationship. Nor, however, were all of the women classified as primary victims. Methodological issues are discussed as well as the policy, practice, and research implications of this study.

This is a smaller, detailed, study, compared to those referenced above, and does not rely on the CTS; it is a useful contribution towards establishing an overall picture of the nature of male and female interpersonal violence.

From the December 2009 volume of Journal of Interpersonal Violence, the paper ‘Sex Differences in Intimate Partner Violence and the Use of Coercive Control as a Motivational Factor for Intimate Partner Violence’ says it its abstract:

Research argues that coercive control (CC) is a special case of intimate partner violence (IPV). The present study hypothesized that instead CC is the motivator for other types of IPV, with control of the victim as the goal. When CC fails, physical types of IPV are used. This hypothesized relationship was tested using a large matched sample of 762 divorcing couples participating in divorce mediation. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze the data with CC predicting two latent common factors of the overall level of victimization separately for men and women. Significant causal relationships between CC and the latent construct of victimization for both members of the couples were found. In addition, CC, psychological abuse, sexual assault/intimidation/coercion, threats of and severe physical violence were disproportionately reported as perpetrated by men against women whereas reports of physical abuse (e.g., pushing, shoving, scratching) were not.

This, again, appears to be different type of study, not relying on the CTS; its results are another useful contribution towards establishing an overall picture of the nature of male and female interpersonal violence.

From the May 2015 volume of Journal of Family Violence, the paper ‘Men’s and Women’s Experience of Intimate Partner Violence: A Review of Ten Years of Comparative Studies in Clinical Samples; Part I’ says it its abstract:

The present paper reviews literature published between 2002 and 2013 regarding gender differences in the perpetration, motivation, and impact of intimate partner violence (IPV) in clinical samples in order to update and extend a previous review by Hamberger (2005). Results showed that although both women and men are active participants in acts of physical IPV and emotional abuse, women’s physical violence appears to be more in response to violence initiated against them. Although both men and women participate in emotional abuse tactics, the type and quality appears to differ between the sexes. Men tend to use tactics that threaten life and inhibit partner autonomy; women use tactics that consist of yelling and shouting. Men are the predominant perpetrators of sexual abuse. Analysis of patterns of violence and abuse suggests that women are more highly victimized, injured, and fearful than men in clinical samples. Research and clinical implications are discussed.

Here we have another paper showing a disparity in intimate partner violence between men and women.

From the 2016 volume of Psychology of Violence, the paper ‘Self-report measures that do not produce gender parity in intimate partner violence: A multi-study investigation’ says it its abstract:

Objective: Gender patterns in intimate partner violence (IPV) remain a controversial topic. Some self-report measures produce gender “parity” in IPV rates. However, other self-report surveys do not produce gender parity, nor do arrests, reports to law enforcement, homicide data, helpseeking data, or witness reports. This methodological inconsistency is still poorly understood. The objective of these studies is to explore the effects of item wording on gender patterns for victimization reports in a range of samples. Method: In Study 1, 238 undergraduates were randomly assigned either the standard Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS) physical victimization items or a version which changed the partner-specific wording to generic wording (“Someone” instead of “My partner”), with perpetrator information collected in follow-up. Studies 2 and 3 compared the standard approach to items with stems intended to reduce false positives (either “Not including horseplay or joking around . . .” or “When my partner was angry . . .”), among 251 college students and 98 agency-involved women, respectively. Study 4 implemented the “not joking” alternative from Study 3 in a large rural community sample (n = 1,207). Results: In Studies 1 and 2, significant Wording × Gender analyses indicated that some item wordings yielded higher rates of female than male victimization. Study 3 showed similar patterns across forms for highly victimized women. Study 4 found higher female than male victimization for a new scale and every item. Conclusion: The CTS and similar behavioral checklists are unusual in their inattention to false positives. Self-report measures designed to minimize false positives produce results consistent with other IPV methodologies; that is, they do not demonstrate gender parity. The Partner Victimization Scale, described here, can be used when a scale that has multimethod convergence with other IPV methodologies is desired.

Here we have the reappearance of the Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS), still with the same criticisms against it. This study adjusted the wording of the CTS, and found that there was no longer parity in intimate partner violence between men and women.

My conclusion, from this admittedly small sample of papers, is that studies that show parity of violence between men and women, rely on a flawed methodology, the CTS, which has been criticised by academics for decades.

The specific type of sexual violence against men called ‘made to penetrate’ (which is sometimes referred to by more hysterical MRA types as ‘envelopment’, as if the vagina were some kind of Giger monster that can detach itself from the female body and go hunting for penises), is another MRA obsession. The claim that men are ‘made to penetrate’ as frequently as women are raped, comes from an amateur interpretation of a 2010 study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an interpretation rejected by the CDC.

The CDC says this about ‘made to penetrate’:

MTP is a form of sexual violence that some in the practice field consider similar to rape. CDC measures rape and MTP as separate concepts and views the two as distinct types of violence with potentially different consequences. Given the burden of these forms of violence in the lives of Americans, it is important to understand the difference in order to raise awareness.

And this:

Sexual violence is common. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experienced sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes. Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 38 men have experienced completed or attempted rape and 1 in 14 men was made to penetrate someone (completed or attempted) during his lifetime.

1 in 14 men have been ‘made to penetrate’ (completed or attempted) and nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped (completed or attempted), therefore almost 3x as many women have been raped as men have been ‘made to penetrate’, and of those men, 21%, over a 5th, reported male perpetrators, so it is not true to say that women are committing sexual violence against men at the same rate as men are committing sexual violence against women.

The only fields where men unequivocally outperform women are physical and sexual violence. There have been “almost 50 deaths […] linked to incels across North America in recent years” with the latest killing in Canada being treated as a terrorist attack.

There is not a single case in all of recorded human history of a woman going on a killing spree because she couldn’t get laid; the number of female serial killers and spree killers is tiny compared to the number of men, even tinier when you look at women who weren’t acting with/for a male partner.

I will conclude with the challenge I give to all MRA’s who insist women are just as violent as men: show me the bodies! Show me the two men a week in England and Wales murdered by a current or former partner; show me the three men a week in the USA murdered by a current or former partner; show me which country in the global south has an epidemic of ‘androcide’ (men being murdered by women).

QotD: “A Canadian teenager is facing the country’s first “incel”-related terrorism charges in connection with a machete attack at a Toronto massage parlour that left a young mother dead”

A Canadian teenager is facing the country’s first “incel”-related terrorism charges in connection with a machete attack at a Toronto massage parlour that left a young mother dead.

It is believed to be the first Canadian terror case not tied to Islamic extremism and could mark a turning point, experts say, as the authorities crack down on the misogynistic incel or “involuntary celibate” movement, which has its roots in online chatrooms.

The 17-year-old suspect, who as a minor cannot be named, is accused of entering an erotic massage parlour in Toronto in late February and killing Ashley Noell Arzaga, 24.

He also allegedly stabbed the shop’s owner as she wrestled the machete from him. Reports of the incident suggest another man was injured before an arrest was made.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) initially charged him with first-degree murder and attempted murder but upgraded both charges to include “terrorist activity” on Tuesday in light of new evidence discovered by Toronto police. The suspect was in attendance at court via video link.

“Terrorism comes in many forms and it’s important to note that it is not restricted to any particular group, religion or ideology,” the RCMP said in a statement.

Incels — usually indignant, sexually frustrated men — blame women for their inability to form romantic relationships. Some openly call for violence against women, or “Stacys”, and “Chads”, the men they date. The RCMP now class it as an “ideologically motivated violent extremist movement”.

Almost 50 deaths have been linked to incels across North America in recent years, prompting calls for such attacks to be classified as domestic terrorism. Suspects tend to be lone wolves using easily accessible weapons, such as knives and vehicles, and lack ties to specific organisations, all of which hinder police efforts to stop them.

The authorities have declined to level terrorism charges in similar cases, including a 2018 attack in Toronto where ten people were killed and 16 injured when a van drove into pedestrians on a busy road.

Even though the suspect, Alek Minassian, allegedly told police that he identified as an incel and hoped to “inspire future masses” to join his “uprising”, he was not charged with terrorism.

Minassian was allegedly inspired by Elliot Rodger, who is believed to have perpetrated the first incel-related attack in 2014 when he killed six and injured 14 with a knife, gun and car in Isla Vista, California.


QotD: “CPS backed off assault charge over fear of ‘rough sex’ defence”

Prosecutors declined to pursue charges against a man accused of assault because of fears he would claim it was consensual sexual behaviour — a decision that will intensify pressure to outlaw the “rough sex gone wrong” defence.

The woman involved said she had been physically and sexually assaulted but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told her that “the suspect could say you consented to these assaults”.

The Labour MP Harriet Harman wrote to Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions, yesterday asking him to review the case. “If that’s what is going to happen, there could be no prosecutions of sexual offences at all, because in every case the defendant could say ‘she wanted it’,” Harman said.

MPs and campaigners want to ban what has been called the “Fifty Shades” defence, in which men who admit to causing fatal injuries to a woman claim they resulted from a consensual sex game. The name comes from the bestselling novels about a couple involved in bondage and submission.

A key pillar in the defence of the killer of the British backpacker Grace Millane, strangled in New Zealand last year on the night before her 22nd birthday, was that she enjoyed “rough sex”. He was found guilty of murder.

There is cross-party support for outlawing the defence, with Harman leading the parliamentary campaign alongside the Conservative MP Mark Garnier. The pair have backed an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill, which will go to a bills committee this week, to try to prevent men who have committed murder escaping justice by using this defence. Ministers have pledged to look into it.

Campaigners led by the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ), a legal charity, also want the bill to make strangulation a specific offence. Nogah Ofer, a solicitor with CWJ, said strangulation was a “red flag” that indicated victims of domestic abuse were at the highest risk, but “police often minimise the crime as it doesn’t leave many, or sometimes any, visible signs . . . so perpetrators are only charged with common assault”.

The letter from the CPS to the alleged victim in the assault case stated: “A prosecution could follow in relation to this offence, but the courts have shown an interest in changing the law so that the suspect could say that you consented to these assaults. This would be difficult to disprove,” citing the specifics of the case.

It went on: “If I prosecuted this offence it is likely to lead to lengthy legal proceedings in which the background to the case would have to be visited as far as the sexual practices that led to and accompanied the infliction of the injuries. In my opinion it is not in the public interest to pursue this charge.”

Since 1972, men have used “rough sex” as a defence following the deaths of 60 women, according to the campaign group We Can’t Consent To This. Just under half of the men did not face a murder charge.

The CPS said: “We carefully consider all the facts of every individual case before making a charging decision. If we are satisfied that the legal test for a criminal offence is met, then we will always prosecute.”


QotD: “Domestic Abuse Bill – the need for an offence of non-fatal strangulation”

About Centre for Women’s Justice

Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) is a legal charity working to hold the stateto account on the response to violence against women and girls. We are a lawyer-led organisation whose work focuses on challenging failings and discrimination against womenin the criminal justice system


CWJ is calling for a free-standing offence of non-fatal strangulation or asphyxiation.We believe that this form of offending is currently significantly under-charged across the UK.Our view is strongly supported by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, the Victim’s Commissioner and numerous domestic abuse charities.

What is non-fatal strangulation?

It is widely recognised that non-fatal strangulation and asphyxiation (eg. suffocation with a pillow) are a common feature of domestic abuse and a well known risk indicator [1]. Strangulation and asphyxiation are the second most common method of killing in female homicides – 29% or 17% [2] -as compared to only 3% of male homicides [3]. In addition, research highlights how non-fatal strangulation is frequently used as a tool to exert power and control, and to instil fear, rather than being a failed homicide attempt [4]. It sends the message that ‘if you do not comply this is how easily I can kill you’. Non-fatal strangulation is a gendered crime.Reports describe strangulation as extremely painful and the inability to breathe as very frightening. Loss of consciousness can occur in 10 to 15 seconds and lack of oxygen to the brain can result in mild brain damage. Although there is little or no visible injury, numerous longer-term effects are reported, including fractured trachea/larynx, internal bleeding, dizziness, nausea, tinnitus, ear bleeding, sore throat, a raspy voice, neurological injuries such as facial and eyelid droop, loss of memory and even stroke several months later as a result of blood clots [5].

Why is a new offence needed?

Under-charging demonstratesa failure by both police and prosecutors to appreciate the severity of non-fatal strangulation. A separate offence would also emphasise the importance of non-fatal strangulation when risk assessments are carried out.

The current legal position

There is currently no distinct offence of non-fatal strangulation or asphyxiation [6] and it can be difficult to prove intent for an offence of attempted murder. In the majority of cases prosecutions can only be brought for an assault offence. The lack of observable injuries means that offenders’ conduct is often minimised, and they are charged with common assault rather than with actual bodily harm (ABH). CPS guidance for prosecutors on offences against the person [7] states that when deciding whether to charge with common assault or ABH:

Whilst the level of charge will usually be indicated by the injuries sustained, ABH may be appropriate … [where] the circumstances in which the assault took place are more serious e.g. repeated threats or assaults on the same complainant or significant violence (e.g. by strangulation or repeated or prolonged ducking in a bath, particularly where it results in momentary unconsciousness.) (emphasis added)

The guidance indicates that non-fatal strangulation and suffocation offences should result in a charge of ABH rather than common assault. However, in our experience this does not take place in a great many cases.

Realities on the ground

CWJ carries out training for local domestic abuse services around England and Wales. Over the past two years we have trained over 32 organisations at 24 training days in London, the Midlands, North East and North West of England, North and South Wales and the South East. Our experience is based on reports by frontline domestic abuse support workers who take part in our training. CWJ’s training includes the CPS guidance quoted above. In most, if not all, training sessions domestic abuse support workers report that cases they deal with involving strangulation are generally charged as common assault. We hear this consistently and from support workers across the country. We therefore believe this to be a systemic issue rather than local isolated failings.

Charging decisions

Common assault is a summary offence which can only go to the Magistrates Court, whereas ABH is more serious ‘either way’ offence which can go to the Magistrates or the Crown Court. Police have the power to charge summary offences without a charging decision from the CPS [8] We do not know whether in practice officers obtain input from CPS in such cases. Frontline support workers report that police officers tend to focus primarily on physical injuries when assessing domestic abuse situations. Strangulation and asphyxiation leave minimal injury and are therefore easily dismissed as relatively minor. However, prosecutors are also responsible for under-charging and for under-charged cases proceeding to trial.

CWJ frequently hears of cases where prosecutions are not brought because the six month deadline for charging summary offences has passed. Where strangulation is treated as a common assault, rather than ABH, cases are closed by the police due to this deadline, without referral to CPS. Had they been treated as ABH there would be no time limit for charging. A new offence must be an ‘either way’ offence to reflect the severity of the conduct involved and remove time restrictions.

Risk assessment

A separate offence of non-fatal strangulation will also help the police to identify this critical risk factor in their overall response to domestic abuse. This is illustrated by the Coroner’s report in 2019 following the inquest into the death of Anne-Marie Nield.

Anne-Marie Nielddied during a sustained assault by her partner, who had previously subjected her to non-fatal strangulation. Officers who dealt with the previous incidents failed to appreciate the significance of strangulation as a risk factor, and graded the risk as standard rather than high. There was no support offered to her and no referral to the multi-agency panel. The Coroner expressed concern that at the time of the inquest two and a half years later there was still no reference to non-fatal strangulation in the police force’s domestic abuse policy and a lack of understanding of the issue amongst the officers involved.

A freestanding offence

Strangulation has been identified in other jurisdictions to be a significant factor for risk assessment requiring a freestanding offence [9] In the US around 30 states have non-fatal strangulation offences and in Australia the state of Queensland introduced the offence in 2016, with other states due to follow [10]. A freestanding offence of strangulation or asphyxiation which is an either way offence will require police to treat such cases with the gravity they deserve and refer all such cases to the CPS for a charging decision. It will also draw the attention of prosecutors to the seriousness of this form of offending, with training around the particular links between strangulation / asphyxiation, domestic abuse and homicide.

For more information contact Centre for Women’s Justice n.ofer@centreforwomensjustice.org.uk

[1] The standard risk assessment tool for domestic abuse is the “DASH” checklist which includes a question aboutattemptsto strangle, choke, suffocate, or drown the victim /survivor. The factors within the DASH checklist have been identified through extensive research on factors associated with serious domestic violence and homicide.: https://safelives.org.uk/sites/default/files/resources/Dash%20risk%20checklist%20quick%20start%20guidance%20FINAL.pdf See Journal of Emergency Medicine (2007) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2573025/

[2] The Femicide Census for 2018 reports 46% of deaths by stabbingand 29% through strangulation or asphyxiation, blunt instrument 16%, kicking/ hitting/ stamping 13% and all other methods below 5%. See page 28 https://femicidescensus.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Femicide-Census-Report-on-2018-Femicides-.pdf

[3] Office for National Statistics Homicides in England and Wales year ending March 2019 reports 17% of women killed by strangulation or asphyxiation, with stabbing the most common method of killing https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/homicideinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch20193Office for National Statistics Homicides in England and Wales year ending March 2019, see note 2 above.

[4] Thomas, Joshi and Sorenson (2014) https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1190&context=spp_papers

[5] Sorensen, Joshi and Sivitz (2014) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4202982/and Pendletonand Strack (2014) https://blog.ceb.com/2014/09/19/7-facts-every-judge-and-attorney-should-know-when-domestic-violence-involves-strangulation/

[6] Section 21 Offences Against the Person Act 1861 sets out an offence of attempting to choke, suffocate or strangle in order to commit an indictable offence, however this only applies when this is done in order to commit some other serious offence.

[7] https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/offences-against-person-incorporating-charging-standard

[8] Director’s Guidance on Charging Para 15.

[9] Edwards (2015) Criminal Law Review Issue 12 http://bear.buckingham.ac.uk/108/2/SusanE%20final.pdf This article also contains a detailed analysis of relevant English law.

[10] https://www.policyforum.net/red-flag-homicide/, see also note 4 above.

PDF of document here

QotD: “Gloria Steinem says TV drama of 1970s feminist history ‘ridiculous'”

It stars Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne in a glossy, big-budget TV account of 1970s feminist history but one key player who was there, Gloria Steinem, is withering: it is ridiculous, undermining and just not very good, she said on Friday.

Steinem, arguably the world’s most famous feminist, has revealed she is not a fan of the new Hulu TV show Mrs America, which premiered in the US last month and is coming to BBC2 in the UK later in the year.

The show stars Byrne as Steinem and Blanchett as her rightwing nemesis, Phyllis Schlafly, who is seen leading the fight against the equal rights amendment.

Steinem was due to make her first appearance at the Hay festival this year. Now cancelled, she is one of the first interviewees for a reconvened online version, speaking to the writer Laura Bates on Friday about her new book, The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off!

Steinem was asked for advice on how to deal with women who were not feminists and perpetuated sexism.

They existed, Steinem said. “But what is important to remember is, though women may be a problem for other women, they don’t have the power to be the big problem. Women may be adversaries, but we don’t have the power to be our worst adversaries.

“For instance, there’s now a not very good series here called Mrs America and it gives you the impression that … Schlafly, who was a very religious and rightwing woman who opposed the equal rights amendment … it gives you the impression that she was the reason it was defeated.

“In actuality, I don’t believe she changed one vote. Nobody could ever discover that she changed even one vote. The insurance industry here opposed the equal rights amendment because if they stopped segregating their actuarial tables it would cost them millions upon millions of dollars.”

Schlafly was someone “brought in at the last minute” to make it seem that women opposed equal rights when the truth was “the vast majority” always supported it, Steinem said.

“The series makes it seem as if women are our own worst enemies, which keeps us from recognising who our worst enemies are. Not that we aren’t in conflict, yes we are in conflict, but by and large we don’t have the power to be our own worst enemies.”

Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, said the media often set up debates with token women, seeking to create a “cat fight as a means of undermining feminist argument”.

Steinem agreed. “That’s the problem with this ridiculous television show. I’m sure the actors in it are fine, it’s just the thrust of the story is the problem.”

Mrs America was created by the former Mad Men writer and producer Dahvi Waller, who has stressed it is not a biopic of Schlafly or Steinem. It also stars Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress; and Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan, the author of The Feminine Mystique.

Steinem, 86, talked about the importance of feminists of all ages working together. “Segregating by age is as ridiculous and destructive as segregating by race or class or gender or anything else. We learn from each other. We need each other.”

Bates said she still found girls in schools who felt they were a lone feminist voice. “There are these girls everywhere who think that they are the only one and who are on the verge of giving up and who feel completely defeated and are lambasted by their peers … they are called feminazis, they are made fun of, they are ridiculed.”

What would Steinem’s message be to those girls?

“I would say to her … trust that voice inside you and find a listener and a friendly voice somewhere. Maybe you’re not finding it in your classroom but maybe there is somebody in your neighbourhood, just somebody you feel drawn to. Talk to that person … Trust your own wisdom.”


QotD: “Why is porn so misogynist?”

Why is porn so misogynist? Answer: The greater the degradation of the woman, the hotter the porn. Porn only works to the degree it totally debases the woman, and turns her into the “cumdumster” that she certainly must be because she “chose” to be there of her own free will. That way he, the user, is NOT debasing her because she already debased herself, because well, she chose to be there. A circular argument that makes a feminist’s mind spin, and a man’s penis hard.

Gail Dines

(found on tumblr)

QotD: “Hull school ‘sorry’ after pupils researched porn homework on web”

A head teacher says he is “sorry” if homework asking pupils to define types of hardcore pornography led them to undertake inappropriate web searches.

The work was given to children, aged 11 to 14, at Archbishop Sentamu Academy in Hull, the Hull Daily Mail reported.

Principal Chay Bell stressed the assignment did not require internet research as the answers were in the material the pupils were sent.

Leon Dagon was “flabbergasted” when he saw his 13-year-old sister’s homework.

The work is part of pupils’ Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) learning, the school said.

The students were asked to “define” topics including hardcore pornography, soft pornography as well as female genital mutilation and breast ironing.

They were also asked questions about alcohol, drugs and smoking, as part of the homework.

Mr Dagon, who took to Facebook to share his concerns, said: “My little sister knows make-up and TikTok at the age of 13. She doesn’t know about hardcore porn, and then asking her to define it.

“The majority of children nowadays will now go on the internet to help them with their homework and if you type that kind of thing on the internet, God knows what’s going to pop up.”

Mr Bell said: “I am genuinely sorry if parents or students have unnecessarily researched any of these phrases and for any offence caused by this mistake.”

He said students “were not directed to research these topics themselves on the internet because all the answers to the questions posed are contained in the teacher-produced materials we shared”.

The work was in line with government guidance, but he added: “I have asked that no future PSHE materials contain any potentially sensitive content and will ensure all materials are fully age-appropriate.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said it was a matter for the school and had no further comment to make.


QotD from Assata Shakur

QotD: “Why is there ‘shame’ around women and pole dancing?”

These days, men who frequent strip clubs, follow porn stars on Instagram, and share unsolicited nudes or dick pics are called “fuck boys.” Yet, a woman who does the same is “empowered, liberated, and reclaiming her sexuality.” Women who claim the “feminist” label are able to be critical of men who engage in what some might call “toxic masculinity,” but when women engage in similar practices, critics are said to be attacking women. Why?

When I pointed out that pole dancing is not empowering, after J.Lo’s controversial Super Bowl halftime show performance, I failed to acknowledge one fact: many women want to be sexually objectified, even if it comes at a cost to both themselves and other women. And fulfillment of that desire — however harmful — can be interpreted as an empowered choice.

It is no mere coincidence that, despite having accessed the highest of educational and economic privilege, many women are voluntarily taking pole classes and posting photos of their asses online. We are deeply attached to life under a glass ceiling. We may have equal legal rights, but we still live in a porn culture, and, like victims of trauma bonding, we are clinging to the notion that we can reframe the harm of objectification as “free choice,” and therefore it is no longer harmful. But this puts us in a bind: even if objectification is a free choice, it still hurts women, meaning we are in a prison of our own making.

We are both embarrassed by and enmeshed within the terms of our own sexual subversion. The knee jerk “don’t judge how women choose to be sexual” response tells us all we need to know about female sexuality today: we cannot fathom sexuality existing outside of the extremes of either religious puritanism or sexist voyeurism, and we refuse to think beyond this.

As Paolo Freire explained in his 1968 book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the oppressed, once freed, often become their own oppressor: “Having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, [the oppressed] are fearful of freedom.” Whether it’s selling nudes, going to strip clubs to see other women clap their ass cheeks, or groping women in a display of faux-lesbianism, women have become the untouchable cheerleaders doing exactly what we would call men douchebags for doing.

We want to pick apart the “toxic masculine” and hold its leaders to account, but, as women, we refuse to do the same. On Twitter, one woman said that while she is ok selling her nudes to men, she wouldn’t be OK with her boyfriend buying other women’s nudes. The double standard is odd. But the only acceptable response to someone like her is, #yougogirl.

While third wave feminists insist we cannot criticize women’s performances of “sexuality,” lest we engage in “slut shaming,” the truth is that women are not shamed for being sexual — rather, they are routinely and widely shamed as prudes for saying “no.”

It is unequivocally clear that commodified versions of sex are not shamed in our society. The opposite is true: the selling of sex and porn is rampant and encouraged. As Meghan Murphy points out, “Prostitution is already destigmatized, it’s not helping.”

I am not speaking from a place of judgement, either, but from experience (and honesty). I will be the first to admit that the reason I have chosen to get blackout drunk, take a million selfies, flash my friends, and make out with a hot woman at the bar is not because I am making an empowered choice to challenge the patriarchy and reclaim queer sexuality, but because I, like every human on earth, am deeply shaped by sexist conditioning. I do not write critically about this to shame women, but to criticize the conditions that shape our choices.

Historically, all women have lacked sexual sovereignty over our bodies. This fact is pretty widely accepted after several waves of feminism and the #MeToo movement. Yet, it is unacceptable to question the ways in which burlesque, pole classes, and nudes — the highbrow, upper-class replications of lower-class women’s sexual subordination — further entrench the problem.

To be clear, I’m not telling women not to do these things — I’m pointing out that reselling the problem at a higher price point is not a solution.

Bizarrely, many of us are terrified of a return to a Victorian-type era, where sex is repressed, but we are not terrified of our present day: where there are more women and children sexually enslaved than ever before and millions of us mindlessly wank over propaganda for that exploitation.

Far from resolving this paradox, feminist approaches have reinforced our entrenchment within it. Arguing we “reclaim it and do it for ourselves” has only led women further down the very same path that men like Hugh Hefner and Harvey Weinstein wanted us on. Rather than presenting new or alternate visions of sexuality, we have the same old “tits out for the boys” norm, but this time apparently we’re doing it for ourselves. Just like regular old objectification, “self-objectification” still leads to increased risk of depression, body image insecurities, lower self-esteem, and poorer treatment from both men and women alike. None of these harms are mitigated because some women are objectifying themselves as a choice.

Mischaracterizing women who speak on this issue as prudish and pearl-clutching is only doubling down on the misogyny that fuels sexual exploitation. It is necessary that we criticize exploitation and sexual objectification in order to advance authentic sexuality — look to Audre Lorde, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and Adrienne Rich, who have all masterfully articulated the differences between the pornographic and the erotic.

There is a time for calling out the men who demonstrate “toxic masculinity” — the Harvey Weinsteins of the world who have made a fortune while exploiting and sexually objectifying women and girls. But there is also a time for calling out the leaders of the “toxic feminine” — those women who perpetuate harmful imagery and claim it is empowering: the Emily Ratajkowskis, the J.Los, and, frankly, the entirety of third wave feminism. I am not shaming women who pole dance, post nudes, or strip — I want to look truthfully at how these choices are limited and shaped, and talk about why women do feel ashamed when they participate in their own oppression.

Laura McNally, Feminist Current