Alison Saunders: Some violence is targeted at women and girls - we can't ignore that
As director of public prosecutions, I have made it absolutely clear that my focus is on improving the experience of criminal justice for victims - all victims. I do not differentiate in our treatment of victims - male or female, adult or child, current or non-recent. But what is also clear is that some offending is based on gender. Violence against women and girls (VaWG) is recognised worldwide and by the UK government as a form of offending where gender really does play a part.
As the United Nations describes it: "Violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women, and ... violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men."
At the Crown Prosecution Service this includes certain types of offending such as domestic abuse, sexual offences including rape, forced marriage, stalking, honour-based violence, trafficking, female genital mutilation and prostitution offences. These crimes are personal, invasive and traumatic - regardless of the gender of the victim - and the sheer volume of them is staggering, particularly when it is widely accepted that reporting rates are low. And of these thousands upon thousands of cases, we cannot shy away from an uncomfortable truth - they are inextricably linked to gender.
Over the past five years our records show that most (84 per cent) of the victims of these crimes, where gender is recorded, are female; and almost all (93 per cent) of the perpetrators are male. Those figures are not changing, but we at the CPS want to recognise, acknowledge and help those victims who are not necessarily caught by the VaWG umbrella - that is, the men and boys who can also be victims of domestic abuse and sexual offending and the other VaWG crimes.
We absolutely must not and do not ignore the fact that 16 per cent of these victims are male and that is exactly why we include them in our report and our analysis - many of the same issues apply to bringing these cases, regardless of the gender of those involved. Similar stigmas and some of the most pervasive myths and stereotypes are associated with both male and female victims - for example, the belief that women who don't scream were not raped, just as the belief that "real men", also, don't get raped. This issue is extremely important - men should not feel that they cannot report cases because of misconceptions or feeling judged and that is why we include them in this report rather than refusing to acknowledge their equal status as victims of these horrible crimes.
I fully accept the concerns raised by some, however, that we need to be clearer in our annual VaWG report about the inclusion of men and boys, which is why I have arranged for amendments to be made to the current, and all future, reports. We will clarify our introductory remarks and we will also, where possible, include a breakdown of gender volumes. So I reject the notion that we are excluding men and boys - rather, I stress that we are being inclusive in our approach.
Ultimately I believe we all want the same thing - to address the fact that, regardless of gender, the victim still has to confront too many obstacles that may stop them reporting a crime and supporting a prosecution. These victims still face society's stereotypes and expectations of how they should behave, they face a sometimes formal and intimidating courtroom process, and of course they face the difficulty of having to relive the crime - in front of a room full of complete strangers - something many feel unable to share with even close friends and family. These are tough issues that require our support and we have looked at these crimes to build experience and expertise, so prosecutors can build the strongest cases for the court while delivering a better service for victims.
I hope my willingness to address these concerns will be welcomed, but until it is no longer the case that the vast majority of these crimes are committed by men using power, coercion and violence against women, amending the title of VaWG would put the victims of these crimes back into the dark, where they have been kept for far too long.