Science | Male violence against women is entrenched

Such a discussion couldn’t be more appropriate in revelations of gang grooming, Twitter harassment and Tequila’s “violate a Fresher” night. Research by Glasgow Caledonian University into the cultural perception and consequence of misogyny and sexual violence thought the eyes of children and the legal services reveal entrenched social problems. Engaging a young audience in a conversation about abuse and sexual violence is a difficult wrestle with ethics. However, vignettes of ‘Barry’s jealousy’ and ‘Jerry’s dominance’ provide revealing transcripts of British children’s deep rooted structural inequality between the genders, “she knew that would have made him mad”, “she shouldn’t have warn slutty clothes”. The quotes continue, edifying the dominating precedence of men over women perceived by primary school children.

With the vignettes reversed, the dichotomy was highlighted further, “she can’t tell him what to do!”  Naturalised masculine identities ‘justifying entitlement’ and ‘obedience’ of the opposite (but not equal) sex. A conflict of institutionalised marriage and female autonomy in their young minds, women apparently free until they’re bound by marriage and natal care.

Confusingly many of the children’s mothers held 9-5 jobs; these ideas weren’t coming from home. To the child’s mind violence led to physical injury, which led to intervention by the law. Somewhere, possibility lost in their naivety, they failed to note that injury may be hidden, no consequence of arrest may take place and justified, as naturally men are violent. All too often it was demanded by the children “why didn’t she leave” instead of “why didn’t he stop”, something our own prejudices preclude.

Most disheartening was the researchers’ deconstruction of a typical rape report process, investigation, charge and conviction (of which a deplorable 5.6 per cent of reports reach). Institutionalised rape scepticism and entrenched stereotypes held by the police (and most of society) cause an enormous number of case withdrawals before even an investigation. Interviews with officers revile some improvements in the dealing of subject. However instead of ‘false claims’ and ‘deceitful women’ assumptions, a new prejudice has emerged: ‘good case’, ‘bad case’. A bad case encompasses nearly all of the demographic: a woman raped by someone she knows (90 per cent reported), in a private space (similar proportion), and are physically/mentally vulnerable (1/3 cases *excluding children).

In light of these proceedings, it begs the question, should rape remain in the criminal courts? The nature such proceedings conclude in one’s word against another and a jury is bound to ‘guilt beyond reasonable doubt’. Could rape be made civil and include a ‘balance of probabilities’? In a commanding rebuttal to the preposition, the researchers quash the idea; it is the criminal proceedings in the light of demographic research that needed changing.


Henry Beach

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