Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Meanwhile, in Finland

The website of the state television system (a bit like the PBS but bigger) posted an article on men as the victims of domestic violence (link thanks to Timo who should also get the credit of pointing out that homicides were neglected and that the gender of the perpetrator was also neglected). The gist, as translated by me:

Men are the focus of gross domestic violence or attempted homicide in families even more often than women. The view of men as victims of family violence has been neglected.

Women are still more often the victims of homicides by their intimate partners than men. In mild physical violence women are also more often the victims.

Women are the culprits in gross domestic violence at least as often as men. According to Tilastokeskus, men are even victims somewhat more often than women even though the figures are close.

In 2008, 116 men and 111 women were the victims of gross domestic violence or attempted homicide, based on police reports.

My understanding of "gross" violence is that it involves some sort of a weapon and that "mild" violence only involves unarmed attacks, but this may very well be wrong. Though the source I use later in this piece does point out that strangulation or kicking might not fall under the category "gross."

Well, the floodgates opened in the comments thread: Feminists are evil, women have taken over the world, women are sneaky, evil and horrible creatures who never stop nagging and what can a man do then? Not all of the comments were like that, of course. There were a handful of very reasonable ones and a handful of the usual I'm-a-woman-but-women-are-bitches ones. Still, it was pretty disgusting reading.

Now, I'm not going to argue that women cannot be violent creatures, and I'm not going to argue that we shouldn't address all violence that might take place in families. But I got pretty suspicious of a story which so blithely skates across the actually completed homicides, as opposed to the merely attempted ones. Then I really LOOKED at those numbers the article gave. 116 men and 111 women? In a country of five million? Those figures are measuring some small fraction of all family violence. Why were they picked for special treatment when murders were not?

So I went digging. I found a report which might not be the most recent one as it ends with 2007. Here are the relevant bits from the summary, translated by me:

The case where a domestic partner kills a woman is the second most common type of homicide in Finland. Twenty percent of all homicides fall into that category. (My comment: The most common type, by victim classification, is the homicide of a young man outside the home by persons not defined by gender or relationship in the summary). Four percent of homicides are committed by women against their partners, six percent by parents against their children and six percent are homicides committed by other family members against other family members.

According to police records (i.e., reported crimes), 12% of all violence is domestic violence (9% aimed at women and 3% aimed at men).

According to police records, mild and basic domestic violence in 2007 had the following victims as percentages: 71% women-over-fifteen, 15% men-over-fifteen and 14% children. Gross domestic violence and attempted homicides had the following victim distribution: 50% women-over-fifteen, 42% men-over-fifteen and 8% children.

That report also has pictures showing the gender distribution of victims of mild, basic and gross domestic violence as bars. The vast, vast majority of this type of violence is concentrated in the basic and mild categories (check out Kuvio 8. for 2007, the gross cases are the bar on the right) The "gross" category is tiny in comparison but that's the one this article has decided to focus on.

All this suggests to me that the article was intended to be biased. And while not pointing out that "family violence aimed against men/women" is NOT the same thing as "female/male violence aimed against men/women" may not have been the job of the writer of the article, the fact, nevertheless, remains that the comments in the thread assumed that all the culprits of violence against men in households must have been women. This may not have been the case.

So what's the impact of pieces like this one, other than contributing to a lot of sexist rage in comments threads? I'm not sure. But I'm finally going to start reading all those files I have on partner violence so that I can write about the topic with the care you, my readers, deserve. Even the majority who never donate, sigh.