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Domestic violence (DV) is a common problem that is common worldwide. Up until the late 20th century, DV was socially acceptable in cultures dominated by men and it was justified in some traditions and customs and the law refused to acknowledge its existence (Hoyle, et al, 2000). Many definitions of DV put forward and this essay will use McCue's (2008) definition of DV. McCue, (2008) defines DV as emotional, sexual psychological or physical abuse perpetrated against a person by their partner, former partner, spouse or by the other parent of a minor. This abuse can come in the form of damage to property, injury, harassment, terrorism or threats, (Hubbard 1991). Throughout history the police and authorities did not intervene if a man beat up his wife as they did not want to get involved in domestic disputes but laws have strengthened the prevention of DV and society insists on protecting both men and women from abusive partners (United States. Attorney). This essay aims at assessing the validity and reliability of the different methods used to explore the degree of DV. This will be done by looking at the different studies that have been conducted and assessing their strengths and weaknesses.
In England and Wales, the major sources of information regarding the degree of criminal victimisations are the Crime Survey for England and Wales (formerly known as the British Crime Survey) and Annual Crime Statistics (ACS), (Goodey 2005).National Crime Surveys were introduced to determine the extent of crime that was not reported to the police or processed by courts. The data collected is based on the perceptions of the victims and not those of the official agencies (Walby & Myhill, 2001). The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) measures the amount of crime in England and Wales by asking people aged 16 and above about crimes they may have been subjected to in the previous year. The respondents are also asked about their attitudes towards crime and their concerns about the Criminal Justice System (CJS) (Goodey 2005). The CSEW estimates higher level of crime compared to those recorded by the police but it does not cover all offenses and if victims do not report crimes then the CJS cannot pursue them (Criminal Statistics, 2009).
The CSEW can be seen as a good source of information because it can provide an enhanced reflection of the true extent of crime that has not been reported to the police. Crime Surveys can be seen as tools that help unmask the dark figure of crime, which is crime that goes unreported to the police (Skogan 1977). The CSEW is a vital source of information because it provides information about other topics like the perceptions of antisocial behaviour and attitudes towards the Criminal Justice System (CJS) which the ACS does not provide. The CSEW can be seen as very useful in determining the extent of DV because apart from documenting the respondent's victimisation experiences, it also asks respondents about household crimes against other residents (Goodey2005). This is an advantage because victims of DV can be identified and in some cases those responsible for abusing their partners might also admit to doing so in the without the fear of getting into trouble with the police. Face to face interviews are conducted in the CSEW and these can be more effective at giving a better picture of the context and nature of victimisation (Mirrlees-Black 1999).
It can be argued that the methods used to determine the extent of DV may not be entirely accurate in some cases because women may be reluctant to report the crime or may not be able to do so. For example, disabled women who are subjected to DV may feel detached from the community or they may not be in easy reach of telephones or other means of communication (Radford et al., 2005).
Victims from some ethnic minority communities may be affected by a language barrier, making it hard for them to inform anyone about the violence especially in cultures where seeking help from outsiders is not advised (NISAA, 2004).
Goodey (2005) argues that the CSEW fails to indicate which groups of people and what areas are more vulnerable to particular crimes. This means that even if the CSEW is said to be highly effective at uncovering the dark figure of unreported crime, it fails to recognise the most vulnerable, therefore making it difficult to tackle DV. There arenââ‚¬â„¢t a lot of large scale national surveys used to assess the extent of DV in the UK but there are some small scale surveys which are able to provide differential risks for particular groups or areas which Fisher and Sloa (2007) defines as ââ‚¬Å“Hot Spotsââ‚¬Â. Local surveys and surveys on these groups are able to provide information to fill this gap to some extent (Mirrlees-Black 1999). The Computer-Assisted Self-Interviewing (CASI) component is also used together with the CSEW to cover a wider range of experience provided by men and women aged between 16 and 59. The CASI may be used to improve findings from the CSEW but it only requires information about incidents between people who are currently or have been in an intimate relationship only, therefore failing to get data from those who are victims of DV but have not been in an intimate relationship (Mirrlees-Black 1999).
The CSEW is conducted every two years therefore making it difficult to determine the extent of DV because most victims are likely to be subjected to DV more than once and it is difficult to keep track of how many times one has been victimised. People tend to forget to report earlier incidents in favour of more recent ones this is called forward telescoping (Wright & Gaskel, 1998) and the patterns of DV are not highlighted (e.g onset, frequency and repetition ). In the United States, the US National Family Violence Surveys (Straus & Gelles 1990) is dedicated to measuring the extent of D, the Netherlands also has a survey dedicated to the investigation of DV (Walby & Myhill, 2001). In order for the UK to uncover a somewhat accurate extent of DV, a new survey dedicated to DV should be introduced Walby and Myhill (2001) also argue that the framework of a general survey restricts the manner in which questions about violence against women are asked.
Annual Crime Statistics (ACS) cover offenders dealt with by formal police cautions, reprimands or warning, or criminal court proceedings in England and Wales (data.gov.uk). DV is a very sensitive topic and sensitive topics raise methodological and technical problems (Lee & Renzetti 1990). Because DV is a sensitive topic, reporting it may become a difficult task for the victim and if the victim is finding it hard to inform the police of the incident or incidents then recording the crime may also become an issue. One cannot place all blame on the police for failing to uncover the true extent of DV because there has to be a level of cooperation between the victim and the police and CJS.
The ACS are important in determining the extent of domestic violence because they record crimes that have been dealt with by different bodies in the CJS therefore providing a wide range of data. The ACS fail to uncover the dark figure of crime which refers to crimes that are not formally captured in official police data because they have not been reported and recorded (Wilson,2009 ) therefore the ACS is not able to fully reflect the true extent of DV. According to Wilson (2009) only 10% or rapes and attempted rapes are reported to the police every year compared to 46% in property crimes. According to crime statistics of England and Wales in 1997, nearly half of deaths of women resulted from murder by their partners (Walby & Myhill, 2001). However, despite these statistics, the police still did not routinely collect statistics of DV as a category therefore the true extent of DV will be impossible to reveal using ACS (Walby & Myhill, 2001).
The main problem with trying to measure the extent of domestic violence is that the victims may not be aware that they are being abused or they may be scared to report the perpetrator especially if they are financially dependent on them or if they feel it will have great impact upon the family. Victims of crime may not wish to report the crime to the police because they do not wish to be involved in the process of giving evidence on how offences have impacted their lives (Fattah, 2000). The victim measures the pros and cons of reporting a crime. A crime is only a crime if the victim feels it is and according to Goodey (2005) depending on the evidence given to the police, they have to decide whether an act should be noted as a crime in the official statistics or not. It is not entirely logical to accuse the CSEW and the ACS for failing to determine the extent of DV because some victims of DV refuse to mention that they have been victims. Hoyle and Saunders conducted interviews on victims of DV in 2000 and found that some of the victims did notify the police of the incidents but did not want the perpetrator to be arrested, removed or even prosecuted.
The CSEW and the Annual Crime Statistics are the main sources of information used to assess the extent of crime as a whole. They do no solely focus on particular crimes and as DV can come in different forms that the statistics may not reflect in detail. In conclusion, it can be argued that both methods (Crime Survey for England and Wales and Annual Crime Statistics) used to determine the extent of domestic violence are greatly useful. This is because these are the only available sources of information and data they have provided have helped raise the awareness of DV and there are a lot of organisations which have been set up to help those who are or have been victims of DV and those who have been affected by it. An example of these organisations are: Women's Aid and Victim Support. In comparison to other countries like Canada and Iceland ; the UK has not managed to catch up with developments in the methodologies used to make reliable estimates of the extent and patterns of rape and DV (Walby & Myhill, 2001) therefore proving difficult to reveal a clear picture of the extent of DV. The government and society as a whole have managed to observe the extent of DV through the CSEW and the ACS and they are constantly looking for ways to tackle DV. However, according to Percy and Mayhew (1997) very low figures of rape and sexual assault were not published because the Home Office felt they were unreliably low. This lack of cooperation between those who collect statistics and those who publish them may be reason why it is difficult to uncover the true extent of DV. However despite all the strengths and weaknesses addressed in this essay, it should be noted that Without the CSEW and the ACS there would be no other ways of determining the extent of DV and it would remain a concealed crime and there is no best way of measuring DV, different methods give different findings and these findings can be used together to determine the extent of DV (Mirrlees-Black 1999).