I just now sent the letter below to Australia’s The 7.30 Report television program, in relation to a false statement a police officer interviewed made about female crime victimization. This statement reflects what I have noticed is a relatively widespread (and false) view that women are more likely than men to be victims of violent crime, and that in addition, female homicide victimization is increasing—when it is in fact at or near historic lows.
To whom it may concern,
Your recent broadcast on female victims of domestic homicide highlights an ongoing tragedy that Australian government and society could do more to tackle.
Unfortunately, the transcript shows an interview subject, no doubt with good intentions and on the basis of his own experience, making an unwittingly false statement:
MICHAEL ROWAN, GRIFFITH LOCAL AREA COMMANDER: The vast majority of victims of violence are women. Domestic homicides are women. I’m not saying it doesn’t occur to men, but you can’t go against the statistics.
The section of this statement before Rowan begins to confine his observations to domestic homicide is not supported by readily available statistics. The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) says that
Males continue to be overrepresented as victims of homicide. Of the 511 homicide victims in 2010–11 and 2011–12, 328 were male (64%) and 182 were female (36%; see Table B3). (#)
Similarly, another report by the AIC shows males being slightly more likely to be victims of assault and threatened assault than women (see Figure 37). Sexual assault is the only category of personal crime mentioned where women are significantly more likely to be vicitimized than men (and by a distressingly wide margin).
While Rowan’s statement is his own, and not an official statement from the ABC, my concern is that including this unwittingly false piece of information from someone who might be supposed an authority on crime will contribute to misunderstanding and public alarm.
We need to do more to reduce domestic violence and intimate partner homicides. An effective response will be more likely if policymakers and the general public have a correct factual understanding of the issue.
My experience of social media commentary on this topic is that such an understanding is not widespread. For instance, much coverage and conversation indicates a feeling that violence against women is on the rise: in fact, readily available crime statistics indicate that female homicide victimization, and homicide victimization generally, is at or near record lows (again, see the AIC report Homicide in Australia, 2010–12).
I am not sure what your practice is on correcting or highlighting inaccurate statements made by interview subjects. In this case, a note on the transcript may help to clarify the point. It is also my hope that future coverage of female crime victimization may be clearer on this point.
Thank you for your time in reading this letter, and in advance for the response that I have requested.