The January 2016 edition of Christianity magazine (page 67) has published a review of Restored Ambassador Elaine Storkey’s new book "Scars Across Humanity" about violence against women. An otherwise very positive review is critical of the fact that the book focuses on violence against women and asks: “Why is violence against women separated from violence against men... Overall, worldwide, men are actually more likely to be victims of violence than women. Why then should such crimes be separated out on the basis of gender?”
When we speak on behalf of Restored, this is often one of the first questions that are raised. My responses are usually some mixture of the following:
- i)To understand violence we need to look at its root causes. There is a distinct category of violence perpetrated against someone because of his or her gender. Only a small proportion of violence against men falls in this category.
- ii)We recognise that there is gender-based violence against men; in some cases committed by other men, including rape in conflict. There is also some violence by women against men; largely domestic violence in wealthy countries
- iii)Violence against women has distinct drivers linked to power and control both within intimate relationships and in broader society. It is driven by gender inequality and male privilege.
- iv)The scale of sexual and domestic violence against women is vast; affecting one in three women worldwide. It deserves separate attention.
- v)There are a number of categories of violence which are largely or entirely perpetrated against women including sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, female genital mutilation, forced and early marriage, stalking and sexual harassment.
- vi)As a Christian there are distinct theological issues around the way in which men relate to women and the way in which the Scriptures have been used to justify male power and control which we need to address. A distinct focus on violence against women is essential for this.
As Elaine’s book so powerfully demonstrates, violence against women is a global epidemic and crisis that demands the attention of us all, both men and women. These points are illustrated by UK Government Statistics. In 2013, 164 women were murdered in Britain, 86 of whom (52%) were killed by their male partner or ex-partner. In that same year, 381 men were murdered in Britain, 12 of whom (3%) were killed by a female partner or ex-partner.
One of the biggest hurdles to ending violence against women is the lack of willingness to recognize its particularities and to pretend that all violence is the same. Violence against women is driven by distinct factors and needs to be treated separately. We should not equate the murders of men often by friends, acquaintances or in conflict, with those of women.
We would never minimise or dismiss violence against men. It is important, however, to be able to focus on the distinct drivers of violence against women. We would be delighted to work with others who have a passion for addressing violence against men, but we will continue to argue strongly that a separate focus on violence against women is essential.
Brain surgeons are rarely criticised for not operating on hearts as well. Let us not criticise those seeking to address violence against women on a similar basis.