It's a headline grabber. A 10% increase in levels of prosecutions of violence against women last year, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) reports. This accounts for 18.6% of the CPS total caseload. Let that figure sink in. Just under a fifth of the CPS caseload is dealing with violence against women.
It is a scandal.
It is outrageous.
It is robbing women of flourishing lives.
This report comes with mixed emotions. I'm pleased that the there is an increase in prosecutions so that men, (and with just under 93% of perpetrators being men, it is mostly men being prosecuted for these crimes), are held to account and face the consequences of their actions. It also makes me angry though that violence against women continues and with new ways to abuse women is being recorded and prosecuted. Revenge porn and coercive control became crimes last year and are being recorded. In 2015-16 there were 206 prosecutions for Revenge Porn yet this deflects from the 3,700 people who contacted the Revenge Porn Helpline last year. There was a 20% increase in prosecutions for obscenity offences with three prosecutions for rape pornography. Stalking and Harassment accounted for 12,986 cases prosecuted ( a 7.1% rise from 2014-15), of those 70% involved ongoing domestic abuse with perpetrators using online social media and the internet to carry out the abuse. Men were the perpetrators of rape in 98.5% of the successful prosecutions for rape.
The levels of referrals from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service regarding domestic abuse fell 4.1% to 117,882. 92.1% of the defendants were male and 83.3% of the victims were female.
Abuse remains very much a gendered issue.
Rise in Online Abuse
According to an article in The Guardian (a UK national newspaper), Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, states that
“The use of the internet, social media and other forms of technology to humiliate, control and threaten individuals is rising and it is something that we will possibly see increase further. It is undoubtedly easier to commit a lot of these crimes online, people do it without thinking, it is more immediate and it is about the reach and ability to communicate to so many more people.”
It is essential that when we see online abuse we report it and don't leave it to the individual at the receiving end of the abuse. It can be relentless and is horrible. At worst it can contain threats to life. We need to take it seriously. We all need to play our part in closing down the space for abuse to occur.
Dr Bex Lewis, author of 'Raising Children in the Digital Age', states that
'[Digital] Users can have a sense of being invisible, which can lead to irresponsible (and even illegal) behaviour...It is important to note, however, that with a little work, almost anyone can be found and identified based upon the data trail left behind.'
There is a positive side however, as Dr Lewis continues,
'Digital allows churches to practice whole-life community, actively engaging with what is going on in the world, to listen and to respond with what is going on in our local, national and international communities.'
Restored Ambassador, Bishop of Gloucester the Right Revd Rachel Treweek, says,
“Domestic abuse is a key social issue today, and many in our communities are affected by it, including women in our worshipping communities. Churches can do more to offer practical support and a compassionate response to women affected. We also need to challenge the culture in which domestic abuse thrives. Restored offers some excellent resources and training which help churches to do this in an informed way.”
Christian Sociologist and Restored Ambassador, Dr Alan Storkey agrees.
“The levels of suffering these new figures represent require us to out male abuse and control in all its forms. We should all be trying to be gentle men.”
How can we respond?
There are several ways that we can respond to this news. The first is to examine ourselves. How do I respond when I am presented with this statistics? Do I get angry? Do I get defensive? Do I wonder why women 'put up' with the abuse? Does it sadden me so deeply that I wonder what type of world we have created? Does it call us to cry out to God, like I did on a road in Zimbabwe before I co-founded Restored, about why is this happening to so many women, and women in the church too? Are we prepared for the answer?
- Education is key to understanding violence against women in order that we can address it, debunk the myths and move into being part of the solution. Find out what is domestic abuse and how to identify it. Download our free pack for churches here
- Debunk the myths of abuse. Watch our short video/film clip here
- Pray - listen to God and seek out how you can respond well
- Be Trained. Restored and CCPAS offer training for churches on recognising the signs of domestic abuse and responding well
- Link in with your local professional services. Find out who they are and ask for information for your church
- Ask your church to put up a poster in the Ladies loos. Download our free toilet door poster here
- Take a stretch step and ask your church to conduct a church self assessment (form here) and decide how your church wants to respond.
- Support Restored to enable us to continue to provide these resources here.
Don't be debilitated by the stats. Take a small step, take one action, and see the difference it makes.
Together we can end violence against women.
Statistics quoted in this blog come from the Crown Prosecution Service Report on Violence Against Women and Girls 2016. It can be accessed here http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/docs/cps_vawg_r...
The Guardian article quoted above and based on the report can be accessed here.
Restored Ambassador, Dr Elaine Storkey, book 'Scars Across Humanity' focuses on the global issue of violence against women. It can be ordered online.
Susie Flashman-Jarvis, also a Restored Ambassador, writes about the reality of domestic abuse in her novel 'At Therapy's End'. Copies can be ordered online.
If you are, or know someone who is, suffering from domestic abuse please get help. Call the Domestic Violence Hotline on 0808 2000 247.