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Review of Victimology

Sexual violence against women: Still a controversial issue for victimology?
Sandra Walklate
International Review of Victimology 2014 20: 71 originally published online 25 October 2013
DOI: 10.1177/0269758013508681
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uk 71 Downloaded from irv.sagepub.Article Sexual violence against women: Still a controversial issue for victimology? International Review of Victimology 2014. UK.Walklate@liv. In unravelling these questions it becomes evident that what is to be done about sexual violence. Eleanor Rathbone Chair of Women are subjected to different forms of violence – physical. Corresponding author: Sandra Walklate. sexual violence Introduction The United Nations (2010) reports that: Violence against women is a universal phenomenon. Social Policy and Criminology. Department of Sociology. what and under what conditions such violence is included in this recognition. Email: S. positivist victimology. Bedford Street Sandra Walklate University of Liverpool. Such recognition notwithstanding. University of Liverpool. UK Abstract The purpose of this article is to offer a critical analysis of the strengths and limitations embedded within the victimological embrace of the criminal victimization survey as a mode of measuring the nature and extent of sexual violence against women. L69 7ZA. Vol 20(1) 71–84 ª The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permission: sagepub. how it is measured. 2014 . remain problematic issues for the victimological engagement with this agenda. concerns remain about who. This article deploys Latour’s (1987) concept of the ‘black box’ to examine what is measured. and who is included and excluded in the measurement of sexual violence as articulated by the criminal victimization survey method.1177/0269758013508681 irv. psychological and economic – both within and outside their Eleanor Rathbone Building. Keywords Black at University of Bucharest on October 23. Over the last 25 years great strides have been made in recognizing sexual violence as a problem that has global counting. sexual.sagepub.nav DOI: 10. Liverpool. and whose knowledge counts in relation to what is to be done.

(Walklate and Brown. As a result of this study victimology became equated with the ideological weaponry that women were routinely subjected to (Rock. and encompasses the full range of violence(s) up to and including murder. As a starting point the scope of this definition is illustrative of the nature of the controversy surrounding this issue. 2011: 489) This definition subsumes domestic violence within the purview of sexual violence. as this study was. 2010: 127) On 26 March 2013. 1987) but also because of the presumed victim blaming connotations associated with the concept of victim precipitation itself. and what might continue to be. this programme generated a remarkably diverse debate amongst the audience. in a victim precipitation understanding of rape. However. not only as a result of the empirical difficulties associated with his findings (see Morris. The feminist 72 Downloaded from irv. I want to take these observations as the backcloth against which to explore what have been. In many regions of the world longstanding customs put considerable pressure on women to accept abuse. following and developing the work of Kelly (1988) and Lundgren et al. Female genital mutilation – the most harmful mass perpetuation of violence against women – shows a slight decline. in respect of domestic violence in particular. and in some respects it is possible to argue that the broadcasting of a programme such as this stands as a marker of the extent to which sexual violence against women now has a significant international profile and is considered to be an issue of global concern. I shall be taking sexual violence to mean: the frequency (either high or low) with which any act having explicit or implicit sexual contact comprising any actual or threatened behaviour.sagepub. Current statistical measurements of violence against women provide a limited source of information. 2014 .72 International Review of Victimology 20(1) Rates of women experiencing physical violence at least once in their lifetime vary from several per cent to over 59 per cent depending on where they live. the victimological engagement with (sexual) violence against women was historically a controversial issue. controversial issues embedded in the victimological engagement with sexual violence against women. (United Nations. Rooted. it provoked a strong reaction from within feminism. 1986). as will become apparent below. Controversy and ‘black boxes’ For those committed to feminism. how it is that such behaviour can be both a public anathema and a private commonplace all at the same time. For the purposes of this article. Mooney (2007) at University of Bucharest on October 23. and statistical definitions and classifications require more work and harmonization at the international level. in which the power of the word ‘victim’ itself emphasized the passivity and powerlessness intrinsically associated with being female. BBC Radio 4 broadcast a programme by Michael Sandel (as a part of his Public Philosopher series) in which he asked an audience in Jaiphur to consider the question: Is rape worse than any other crime? Obviously scheduled in the aftermath of the widely publicized ‘Delhi rape case’ that occurred in December 2012. degrades. This controversy reached a critical focal point with the publication of Amir’s (1971) work on rape. (2002). verbal or non-verbal aimed at an individual that (in)directly hurts. frightens or controls her/him at the time of the act or at any time in the future.

Latour (1987: 2 3) states that: The word blackbox is used by cyberneticians whenever a piece of machinery or a set of commands is too complex. rather than treating claims to knowledge as ‘black boxes’ and using them as the basis on which to make further knowledge claims. despite the undoubted recognition of sexual violence as a problem of global concern. That challenge asked questions about what actually counted as knowledge: whose voice was to be heard (Walklate. The analysis explored here draws upon the work of Latour (1987). the questions posed by the United Nations and Mooney (2007) are even more pertinent now than they might have been in 1971 when Amir’s study of rape was first published. Latour asks us to unpack the ‘black boxes’: to identify the voices of dissent.sagepub. That work asks fundamental questions about the role of social science and social scientists. Interestingly. (United Nations. Put simply. each of these voices (the victimological and the feminist) have. how to count. for example. In the intervening years. In its place they draw a little box about which they need to know nothing but its input and output . to look for discrepancies and to highlight the uncertainty associated with knowledge claims. and the analysis of the feminist impact on progressive social policy proffered by Htun and Weldon (2012). 2003). However. That report states: Current statistical measurements of violence against women provide a limited source of information. 2010) This comment is indicative of some of the problems embedded in victimology’s black box. by implication. and the need for. it will afford an insight into how current knowledge is being shaped. . In excavating the knowledge claims made about sexual violence by pursuing the questions suggested above. are alluded to in the quote used at the beginning of this article taken from the United Nations statistical report published in at University of Bucharest on October 23. and what spaces exist for this shape to be changed. Before taking this analysis further it will be of value to say something about how the term ‘controversy’ is being understood here. in their own way. In particular. and what is to be done on the basis of that counting. In some respects this goes without saying see. However. facilitate an understanding of why. only their input and output count [and will be described]. contributed to raising awareness of. how complex their inner workings. 73 Downloaded from irv. this analysis will. and still does run. That is. . Specifically this exploration results in four questions relating to our understanding of the nature and extent of sexual violence: what to count. the feminist challenge to victimology ran. I want to unpick the ‘black box’ of victimology’s concern with sexual violence against women and explore what has been taken for granted within it.Walklate 73 response to this ‘oppression’ was captured in their conceptual embrace of women as survivors of sexual violence rather than victims of it. the challenge posed by second wave feminism raised much more fundamental questions than whether or not to refer to women as victims or survivors. and statistical definitions and classifications require more work and harmonization at the international level. improved responses to sexual violence. much deeper than such a conceptual debate. who to count. no matter how controversial their history. 2014 . the observations of Ljundwald (2010) and Letschert and van Dijk (2011). how large the commercial or academic networks that hold them in place. some aspects of these questions. especially in relation to the question of statistical measurement. how that shape is informing policy. Arguably this challenge has not lessened and it is this controversy that this article seeks to address. So in this article.

Historically these two different approaches have worked with not only different understandings of what to count but also have resulted in different emphases on when to count the feminist informed approach expressing a preference for prevalence (life time) studies.. Kelly’s (1988: 41) intervention in introducing the concept of a ‘continuum of sexual violence’ defining such violence as ‘any physical. Whilst at one end of the spectrum there is little doubt that the killing of one human being by another (whether or not that is endorsed by the state) counts as an act of violence. as a threat invasion or assault.sagepub.74 International Review of Victimology 20(1) What to count Violence in and of itself has substantial subjective as well as objective features which become particularly problematic when it comes to questions of measurement. meaning that reflects the cultural setting in which it occurs. does not feature in the same way in other parts of the world where such acts may be considered an important ‘rite de passage’. female genital mutilation. visual. with the criminal victimization survey approach working with incidence (time limited) studies. the Home Office in England and Wales recently adopted the following definition of domestic violence: Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling. and one that takes the individual’s own definition of what counts. who counts and what is to be done about it) that has had significant influence. it becomes an act infused by malice only when its meaning can be discerned through prior threats or unwanted interactions. In the time since this intervention both the strengths and weaknesses of this approach to the question of what to measure have been subject to critical scrutiny (see. at the time or later. alongside how an individual may have experienced such an act. Conventionally there have been two ways of approaching what to count: one that takes the legal framework as its definitional starting point for what counts as sexual violence. verbal or sexual act that is experienced by the woman or girl. one person’s ‘friendly gesture’ may well be conceived as another person’s act of violence. Such differences notwithstanding over the last decade or so the differences in what to count have become less visible. Kelly (2011: xxii) neatly reminds us. 2014 . Sending someone a red rose is normatively viewed as an act of affection. Thus. Classically each of these definitional approaches has been articulated on the one hand in the criminal victimization survey and on the other by feminist informed work. Such observations also apply to acts of sexual violence. Walby et al. now considered an act of sexual violence for campaign groups in the Westocentric world. for example. foregrounding violence as an act that has meaning ascribed to it. but is not limited to. the following types of abuse: 74 Downloaded from irv. coercive or threatening behaviour. For example. for many other acts. This can encompass. alerts us to one of the controversial aspects of understanding sexual violence: what to count. Just as an example of this. 2011). but it nonetheless set an agenda around the other questions of concern here (how to count. Consequently. whatever the sex of the perpetrator or the victim. violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. whether they are understood as violent or not is dependent upon the meaning ascribed to them and the context in which they at University of Bucharest on October 23. that has the effect of hurting her or degrading her and/or takes away her ability to control intimate contact’ was seminal in exposing the tensions between people’s own experiences of violence and those so defined as such by the law.

humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm. commented on above. our second black box question) become inextricably intertwined. contemporarily. Yet. resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. embeds a tendency to even out cultural differences around what to count within and outwith national boundaries. or frighten their victim. It is also suggestive that in some policy contexts. 2014 . Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support. Thus what to count (contrasting definitions of violence) and how to count (survey methods or listening to women’s voices. Machado et al. Yet despite the increasing complexity associated with definitions of what counts as violence.sagepub. tensions remain around who decides what counts: women themselves or the measuring instrument in use? Kelly (2011: xxi) observes: few surveys.Walklate 75 psychological. as the criminal victimization survey does. This work offered an empirical challenge for the feminist commitment to qualitative work ‘by women. Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault. centring legal definitions of sexual violence in how such violence is counted. threats. It also reveals much about who is to be counted since the definition above. Each of these data sources has strengths and weaknesses that are more fully discussed by them. ask about the everyday intrusions in which women’s personal and being with their self is intruded upon: what is measured counts. with women. exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain. also equated with a quantitative and qualitative divide in relation to the data gathering process on (sexual) violence against women. However. depriving them of the means needed for independence. 2013) This definition illustrates both the complexity associated with the question of what to count as well as the extent to which that complexity has been informed by feminist work like that of Liz Kelly. for women’. and in more recent times there has been a significant development in feminist 75 Downloaded from at University of Bucharest on October 23. Indeed. sexual. Walby et al. emotional. (2010) point out that feminist work around violence against women centres the importance of situating what counts as such violence within a patriarchal cultural context. and more recent definitions of specific acts of sexual violence such as rape reflect endeavours to be gender neutral in responding to sexual violence (the question of who to count is explored more fully below). as they go on to argue. the seminal work of Russell (1990) on rape in marriage did much to dispel the efficacy of this divide. How to count In their exploration of the measurement issues associated with sexual violence. putting culture in the frame in understanding violent and/or abusive behaviour towards women is neither simple nor straightforward. (Home Office. Centring patriarchy determines the what. (2011) point to the use of three different sources of data: police recorded data. physical. Originally the difference between incidence measures and prevalence measures. financial. punish. minimized and trivialized. how and who questions in relation to such violence and clearly puts men and their behaviour on the academic and policy agendas. and not counting means that the everydayness of violence is again hidden. there is a wider and much more nuanced understanding of not only what to count but also what actually comprises that which is to be counted. even when they are cast as on VAW [violence against women] and/or health. criminal victimization survey data and data from small studies. This tendency to silence everyday violence in what to count is compounded by the tendency to silence culture too.

with Jan van Dijk deservedly gaining recognition for his work in this area as 76 Downloaded from irv. for example.76 International Review of Victimology 20(1) informed survey work. particularly acute for people whose everyday experiences comprise behaviours that are defined as illegal but which they may not recognize as such see Genn. These range from how to take account of the different legal frameworks in which the survey might be being conducted. and increasingly an international. to the problems of language translation. and the response rate. FougeyrollasSchwebel. Here the simple question might be whether asking the same questions in different socio-cultural and legal settings elicits similar enough answers to make sense of the data. A detailed analysis of all of these problems can be found in Lynn and Elliott (2000) (see also van Dijk. to the nature of the sampling frame. It is possible to summarize all of these difficulties as being the problem of identifying who the victim is and of what they are a victim. some inroads have been made into the ways in which these surveys address and prioritize the questions of domestic violence and sexual assault. different countries have engaged in their own national surveys of violence against women (see. However. 2010. Despite this catalogue of difficulties. In particular. and the data collection process. 1988). small scale studies favoured by second wave feminism did not. how do non-respondents compare or contrast with respondents. the structure and composition of the at University of Bucharest on October 23. Muller and Schrottle. what lies behind these developments is the criminal victimization survey as both a national. to how the concept of violence is operationalized. These developments have informed survey work in this area in Finland (Piipsa. 2003) and. 2004 on Germany. Nonetheless. (2011: 108) assert. and that they define what has happened to them as criminal (again. Indeed. from interviewer practices. illustrating that every effort is made to make clear how data have been collected and analysed as well as what can and cannot be read into them. 2005 on France). tool of counting. to mode of enquiry. ‘The quantitative measurement of the extent of sexual assault has contributed to the process of making the issue one of public debate’ and has succeeded in putting sexual violence on the policy agenda in a way in which qualitative. As has already been observed. Walby and Myhill (2001) have pointed to a range of improvements that have been made to survey techniques. If. which have been enhanced in particular by the development of selfcompleted question sections to such surveys. Other problems associated with the criminal victimization survey can result from interviewer variability: are the questions asked in the same way with different respondents (different problems arise with faceto-face interviews than with telephone interviews). All of these problems can be summarized as respondent bias.sagepub. there are some challenging ‘technical’ problems that the ICVS has to tackle. The International Criminal Victims Survey (ICVS) obviously shares the same problems as national surveys but faces the additional difficulty of deploying this method and methodology in different socio-economic and cultural contexts: the problem of comparison. though also note the work of Walby and Myhill. the criminal victimization survey method has gone from strength to strength. coder variability (how coding is managed and implemented). as Walby et al. The reports that the ICVSs have produced are carefully worded. that they define what has happened to them in the same way that the survey does (a particularly acute problem in relation to crimes of violence as implied above). Thus it is assumed that the respondent can remember accurately what has happened to them within the timeframe of the survey. much work since the first ICVS has gone into refining and ‘standardizing’ the survey questions an issue to which we shall return below. As a result. 2014 . 2001. why should the use of this tool be considered controversial? The criminal victimization survey asks people about their own experiences of crime. following the lead of Statistics Canada. all of which can facilitate taking forward a feminist informed agenda around violence using the survey method. such surveys are seen to represent ‘good value’. at least in terms of cost effectiveness. referred to above).

Moreover. the individualistic fallacy (taking what individuals say out of context). This smoothing out of culture and cultural difference that I have exampled elsewhere. Such assumptions centre attention on the search for regularities (patterns in the data). Most of those problems derive from an implicit commitment 77 Downloaded from irv. as an event. so good. the drive to produce questions and data that are standardized is at the cost of understanding the specificity of the local socio-cultural context using the AngloAmerican speaking axis as the ‘gold’ standard for the kinds of questions the ICVS asks. The answers to these questions then become the measuring rod against which other countries’ responses to crime are compared. Hope (2007) has pointed out that this results in a data generating process subject to at least five fallacies: the ecological fallacy (making observations about individuals on the basis of aggregate data). what it is that victims say and identify as having happened to them. using Caldeira’s (2000) anthropological study of crime and social order in Sao Paolo (Brazil) (see Walklate. Thus positivist victimology may provide snapshots of the regularities of criminal victimization but cannot provide an understanding of the social and historical production and reproduction of those regularities through time and space. and the selection composition fallacy (selecting and constructing a sample that produces a self-fulfilling prophecy). van Dijk (2010: 646 647) mentions that ‘Dictating a common mode is unrealistic given the different survey capabilities in different countries but some degree of ‘‘pressure’’ towards standardization seems advisable’. Not only do these assumptions operate at the expense of other ways of conceptualizing victimology which afford different answers to the question of who the victim is (for a fuller discussion of this see Walklate. such issues may well be part of the reason why ‘the conduct of victimization surveys in developing countries has stalled’ (van Dijk. has been detailed by Machado et al. 2010: 647). Underpinning this is the assumption that it is possible to infer the causes of victimization from the patterns of victimization. the contextual fallacy (not measuring variables appropriately). In summary. This presumes that crime (in this case sexual violence) is an event rather than a process and. these assumptions conceal an inherently static and functionalist view of society. Indeed. chapter 2). 2009). So far. (2010). this commitment to positivism also conceals a further problem that of Occidentalism. and speak of hegemonic epistemological claims to knowledge (de Sousa Santos. but what lies in the black box? If we take a peek inside this box. in what terms and what about (Aas. 2007).sagepub.Walklate 77 recipient of the Stockholm Criminology Prize in 2012. through the criminal victimization survey. In disassembling this ‘pressure’ it is possible to discern the problem of Occidentalism. the aggregation fallacy (using aggregate data as though it might measure variables appropriately).com at University of Bucharest on October 23. they alert us to (at least) two problems: the fallacies of the data generating process (Hope. can be measured. 2000). 2014 . So criminal victimization survey research. strives to uncover the regular patterns of criminal victimization: regular patterns that can be supported by evidence rather than assertion. is not without its problems. 2008a). measured and judged. In discussing the development and influence of the ICVS and the drive for standardization referred to above. but also they frame how the last of the questions to be addressed here might be answered: What is there to be done about sexual violence? Moreover. Taken together. and Occidentalism (Walklate. Such assumptions at the epistemological level frame who can speak. Positivist victimology. who can listen. If we explore these assumptions a little. 2012). the domain assumptions of positivism embedded within mainstream victimological work become apparent. 2008a). These black box assumptions belie victimology’s Occidentalism (paralleling that of criminology see Cain. despite its favoured position within victimological research. it is important to add that this data generating process assumes that the term ‘victim’ itself is non-problematic: the victim is either taken to be given by the criminal law or is given by the self-evident nature of their suffering in other words. 2007.

with. who to count is a complex subject. for’ position does not accurately convey the contemporary relationship between feminism and more conventional (victimological) survey methods because the divide between them is contemporarily less clear-cut. So the question of who counts for the purposes of measurement carries with it (perhaps) slightly different implications now than it did some time ago. There has been a considerable challenge to that assumption in the intervening time period. and referring to the questions posed by Aas (2012). it is also important to note that. it would be more than simplistic to assume that all feminist informed work took this view (space dictates that this issue cannot be fully explored here). Feminist work. However. for’ women research was embraced. as alluded to by Hope (2007). devising policies that might have specific outcomes (what to do in the light of having counted) becomes problematic. with the second in particular affording a link with the last black box question to be unpicked here: What is to be done on the basis of counting? Consequently it will be of value to say something about each of these interpretations in turn. the separatism implied in the ‘by. as has been stated above. 2013). then. In the absence of understanding and/or explanation. No doubt heteronormative tendencies remain. The first focuses attention on the practical issues of who is included and excluded for the purposes of measurement. this does not mean that awareness at this level has resulted in change in behaviours. the work of DeKeseredy and Schwartz. 78 Downloaded from irv. As the discussion above implies. Re-iterating the ‘ at University of Bucharest on October 23. However. These two inflections are connected. however. with. On the contrary. who can speak. arguably as a result of the primacy given to this kind of counting that the political and policy case has been made and to a certain extent won. Historically. 2011). feminist work and criminal victimization survey work have adopted different stances on the question of who is to be included and excluded for the purposes of measurement. The next question that our exploration of victimology’s black box on sexual violence leads us to consider is. in Aas’ (2012) terms. Contemporarily there is greater awareness of men as victims of both sexual and domestic violence even if. we have considered the shape of what can be spoken about in relation to sexual violence and in what terms. in the context of the latter issue in particular.78 International Review of Victimology 20(1) to positivism at a methodological level that sets limits on the value of the data that the survey method produces. Thus. criminal victimization survey findings are not meaningless just rather limited in terms of providing understanding or explanatory potential. was a problem solely for women. it may have been assumed that sexual violence. as suggested above. For the purposes of this article I am taking a particular inflection to this question by asking who to count. So far. including domestic violence. as observed by Mooney (2007). The second draws attention to the power relationships that may be more or less influential in informing how such measurements are used. the problem of understanding what counts as violence remains (see. has been informed by the desire to engage in work that has inimically taken women as its focal concern. does serve as a reminder of the importance of asking about who asks the questions and who is listened to. Who to count Asking the question of who to count carries with it at least two interpretations. with. None of this is intended to imply that this method(ological) way of counting has not been of value in advancing the political and policy case for attention to be paid to the question of sexual violence.sagepub. 2014 . whilst in the early 1970s when ‘by. for example. for’ position. These limitations also apply to those surveys used to make sense of the nature and extent of violence against women. and these tendencies can erase other realities (Ball. Moreover.

2014 . I have offered an analysis of the shape and form of the ‘what is to be done’ question elsewhere (Walklate. crimes committed by the state from police brutality to war crimes (though see the innovative use of a type of victimization survey by Hagan and Rymond-Richmond (2009) in documenting violence in Dafur including sexual violence). then it is important to make explicit those contexts that are conventionally included and excluded by this method. In this respect the work of DeKeseredy and Rennison (2013) has been particularly important in highlighting the process of exiting a relationship as being both likely to provoke violence and being most likely to be hidden from public counting procedures. Moreover. A subsidiary question.sagepub. 2013). and crimes committed by business corporations are all hidden from view by this survey method. as was suggested above. 2008b: 49) At this juncture it will be of value to situate this observation about policy within a wider (global) context. In making the distinction between the law in theory and the law in practice. Having counted. children and young people (though it should be noted that in January 2009 the British Crime Survey was extended to cover those under 16 years of age). crimes that occur within state or private care/custody institutions. this results in a range of hidden (potential) victim groups namely. alongside European human rights legislation. or fail to match. In other words. and homeless and disenfranchised groups. Indeed. This work reminds us of the importance of process in understanding the what. But have they? A deeper analysis might suggest that these imaginings have rather been the needs of the criminal justice process itself alongside those that inhabit this space. what kinds of cases of sexual violence are most likely to succeed in the criminal justice system and how do they match. Routinely. that analysis asked questions about the predominance of the criminalization approach to tackling sexual violence (despite evidence to the contrary concerning the efficacy of this approach) and the tensions between this strategy and the interests that might be served by it. there is increasing evidence to suggest that some points in a relationship are far more dangerous than others. with people’s real lives? This can be put simply as the efficacy (for practice) of the dangerous stranger as opposed to the reality of the dangerous familial and familiar (for people’s real lives). (Walklate. this requirement. what is to be done about (sexual) violence? As has been implied in the discussion above. Indeed. how and who of measuring the nature and extent of sexual violence. has afforded the opportunity for such violence to be put on the 79 Downloaded from irv. some of whom may be particularly vulnerable to violence particularly sexual violence. 2008b). tackling sexual violence has risen up the political and policy agenda in parallel with the increasing presence and sophistication of the criminal victimization survey and its feminist informed iterations. There it was suggested that: [in such policies it] may appear that the needs of women as voiced by feminist campaigns have been so imagined. this observation also links with our last black box question of what to do on the basis of counting. Demsey (2007) reminds us that in 1994 the United Nations required member states to show ‘due diligence’ in punishing acts of violence against women. The recent report into the Jimmy Savile case and its aftermath more than illustrates this (Gray and Watt. In at University of Bucharest on October 23. if it is accepted that the criminal victimization survey has become the dominant method for measuring sexual violence. though nonetheless an important one to the question of who to count.Walklate 79 Moreover. is: At what point in a relationship does such counting count? This question inevitably affords a link between questions of counting with questions of practice.

Stanko (2007) has observed that. echoing the drive for standardization in the international criminal victimization survey. These gaps are suggestive of a persistence in the ways of thinking about sexual violence that give ongoing space to notions of the deserving victim. quoted earlier. of course. inter alia. and it is overlaid with what Walby et al. and questions of legitimacy surrounding the status of being a victim and/or an offender. to the ‘lived reality’ of sexual violence. as the UN group. a strategy of standardization needs also to take account of the questions of the what. in documenting attrition in rape cases across Europe. Perhaps more importantly. difficulties for different states in implementing recommendations like those suggested by the United Nations in relation to violence against women that relate to their varied legal heritages. Shapland (2010) observes that. McGregor (2011) and Bell et al. if we consider the question of what is to be done a little more deeply. However. the recognition of these difficulties lies behind the funding of a ‘Feasibility study to assess the possibilities. This is a problem that has international/cross-cultural dimensions (see. Lovett and Kelly (2009) report. Both are referring. she experiences more continuity with the past than she does change. victim blaming.sagepub. 2014 . their persistence adds weight to the importance of understanding what counts and what is counted as sexual violence. to shift behaviour. the drive for standardization in offering an evidenced case for changing the law. almost by definition. despite evolving understandings of sexuality and sexual norms. who and how of measuring such violence occurs. 2009). Mooney (2007). this is in part a result of the fact that not all such cases would come to the attention of the either the civil or the criminal justice systems in the first place. and what we might call ‘women’s real lives’ (the conceptual gap) become most apparent. the associated problems of policy implementation. It is in these traces that the tensions between the recourse to changing the law. the challenge was then. These gaps draw together all that evidence commonly referred to as the problem of attrition. Lovett and Kelly. Indeed. the focus on ‘gaps’ implies a view that the policies in and of themselves are right they just need to be made to work better. may not alleviate the problem of ensuring an adequate and appropriate response to violence against women. violence against children and sexual orientation violence’ by the European Commission (2010). the intractability of the historical traces of being ‘thrown down’ (a historical reference to being sexually assaulted) resonate down the centuries. criminal justice systems afford a different role for the victim (whoever that victim may be) depending on whether or not that system emanates from Anglo-Saxon common law traditions (like the UK) or Napoleonic or Roman law traditions (like France and the Netherlands). however. Daly and Bouhours. To state the obvious. (2011) refer to as the ‘justice gap’. There are. In a similar vein. the aforementioned problems associated with counting notwithstanding. and the extent to which the answers to these questions match with people’s real lives. looking for standardization. has asked how it is that domestic violence can be such a public anathema but at the same time such a private commonplace. in different ways. and remain with us today. (2011) taken together lead us to consider that. However. Brown et al. 2009. and still is now. (2010) refer to this problem as the ‘implementation gap’. it is possible to discern another gap that which Lewis and Greene (1978) refer to as the conceptual gap. The use of ‘standardize’ here is interesting. that different systems produce very similar outcomes. Mooney (2007: 169) goes on to 80 Downloaded from irv. INSTRAW (2005).80 International Review of Victimology 20(1) agenda in a meaningful way in some countries. However. It is worth exploring the links between these processes in a little more at University of Bucharest on October 23. The presence of this gap is intimately linked with the rise of the way in which the counting questions asked in this article have unfolded. However. recognized. The contributions of D’Cruze (2011). opportunities and needs to standardise national legislation on violence against women. Indeed. despite all the efforts and interventions directed towards bringing offenders to justice. To summarize.

the ordinariness of violence is rendered absent. Whether exploring particular acts of sexual violence or responses to such violence. for example. Consider. implies a conceptual understanding of violence not too dissimilar to that of Kelly (1988). has failed to ask much of men and the associated implementation process. Thus we might gain an insight into how a woman living with violence judges the risk of poverty and homelessness as worse than the violence she knows she will be subjected to (see also Genn. how and who to count and what to do on the basis of this counting it is possible to discern at least a partial answer to the question posed by Mooney (2007). Such changes are required not only in the law which. demography and changing socio-economic processes. Such an understanding would inevitably include religion. Kirkwood.Walklate 81 suggest that the values whereby men’s violence to women is sustained in the face of public imperatives otherwise ‘exist throughout the width and breadth of popular culture’. appreciating the lived reality of both victims. This is the ordinary violence of everyday life. which is private. of course. in becoming ever more proficient in measuring the nature and extent of sexual violence. 1988. caste. In opening the black box of positivist victimology’s commitment to the criminal victimization survey the discrepancies and uncertainties with the knowledge claims associated with such surveys have been exposed. as well as gender relations. alongside those successes it is important to note that they have come with costs and compromise. In asking the questions of what. It is rooted in presumptions of normative heterosexuality. is perhaps central to making the shift in attitudes and behaviour required. we have traced this absence by taking a look inside the black box of the criminal victimization survey approach (the positivist victimological approach) to measuring (sexual) violence against women. but also for men and women’s real lives. This (partial) answer. It is within the silences generated by this black box and its assumptions that violence can be both public anathema and a private commonplace all at the same time. of course. the call for a robust criminal justice response notwithstanding. Conclusion: So whose knowledge counts? In the preceding discussion every effort has been made to recognize the successes made as a result of the development of a mainstream victimological tool. In fading out these voices. perpetuates the power that men have over at University of Bucharest on October 23. 2006). To return to the example with which this article started.sagepub. Such violences manifest themselves differently in different social contexts. However. 2007: 14). The achievements of this process have been remarkable (alongside the campaigning voices of the feminist movement) in putting sexual violence against women (and men) on national and international policy agendas. This is her lived reality. children and other men. it must surely be pertinent to understand the context in which that occurred. the vicarious pleasure gained by some young males in witnessing violence on a ‘good night out’ (Winlow and Hall. 2011). contested. as McGregor (2011) observes. (2002). This violence. as Connell (1995) has astutely observed. as Jordan (2011) suggests. This is especially the case when the parties concerned are likely to be known to each other. in order to understand the ‘Delhi rape case’ and the response to it. This ‘lived reality’ of sexual violence takes place within a cultural context. and importantly perpetrators. 1993). 2014 . It is at this level of understanding that it is possible to appreciate how violence becomes ‘folded into everyday life’ an ‘intertwining of the descent into the ordinary’ in which ‘ordinary people become scarred’ (Das. Moreover. Genn (1988) and Lundgren et al. This ordinariness is also rendered absent in the conceptual understanding that underpins policy. the criminal victimization survey. and it is the violences that have these roots that the criminal and civil justice processes still struggle with the most (Kelly. intimate and 81 Downloaded from irv. That context.

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