Eve Ensler’s V-Day: For Women, Afghanistan is Everywhere

By Glenn Sacks

Eve Ensler’s nonprofit organization V-Day is marking Valentine’s Day by sponsoring hundreds of events across the country to "stop violence against women and girls." One’s first reaction is "great—sign me up!" But, unfortunately, V-Day publicizes discredited statistics which greatly exaggerate the extent of crimes committed by men against women. Some examples:

Falsehood #1: "Every 21 hours on each college campus in the US there is a rape."

This means that the average college campus has over 400 rapes a year. Yet surveys of reported rapes to police have repeatedly come up with rates of less than one a year per campus, often far less. For example, the US Department of Education’s studies of reports to campus police show about 1,800 forcible sex offenses (including fondling) each year at more than 6,300 post-secondary institutions—whose combined female population is in the millions. While rape is certainly an underreported crime, even if three out of every four rapes weren’t reported the number of rapes on campus per year would still be around one a year—not 400.

Falsehood #2: "Somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner, every 15 seconds."

This figure is generally taken from the National Family Violence Survey conducted by researchers Richard Gelles, Murray Straus, and Susan Steinmetz, who were once hailed by the women’s movement for their pioneering work on violence against women. But according to Straus, "Family conflict studies, without exception, show about equal rates of assault by men and women." Thus the statement "…a man is battered, usually by his intimate partner, every 15 seconds" would be equally true. Straus also notes that 90% of the incidents included in "15 seconds" did not cause injury, but instead reflected minor acts which women commit as often as men.

Falsehood #3 "1 in 3 murdered females are killed by a partner, versus 3.6% of males."

The murder rate between male and female intimates is far more equal than these statistics indicate, and may well be equal. Excluding killings ruled as negligent or justified, about 1,300 women and 500 men a year are murdered by intimates. Since there are many thousands more unsolved murders of men than of women, if even a small percentage of these were committed by female intimates, the male and female totals would be similar.

Also, women are more likely to poison men than to shoot them, and poisonings are often recorded as "heart attacks" and "accidents" instead of as murder by an intimate. In addition, women are much more likely than men to use "contract" killers, and contract killers often disguise murders as accidents. Even when a paid killer is caught and the truth is known, the murder is called a usually called a "multiple-offender" killing and not a murder of a man by a female intimate.

The percentage difference V-Day cites exists because vastly more men are murdered than women. As a result, the number of females murdered by an intimate accounts for a much higher percentage of the number of females murdered overall than a similar number of male intimate murder victims in relation to all male murder victims. Women murdered by male intimates account for less than 6% of all murders in the US.

Falsehood #4 "Battering is the leading cause of injury to women aged 15 to 44 in the United States."

According to Emergency Room (ER) data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and the Justice Department, about 1% of women’s injuries are inflicted by male intimates. The origin of V-Day’s figure is a 1984 article "Domestic Violence Victims in the Emergency Department" published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In the article, 38% of the 492 ER patients who were counted as "female victims" were men! The survey is also flawed because it was a small sample taken at only one, violence-plagued and poverty-stricken inner-city ER. The survey’s authors never claimed that it was comprehensive or representative of the population as a whole.

Falsehood #5: "Nationally, 50 percent of all homeless women and children are on the streets because of violence in the home."

According to Gelles, this figure, brought to prominence by Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, has "no actual published scientific research to support [it]."

While V-Day makes discredited claims about male violence, it completely ignores the fact that, according to data collected by the US Department of Justice and the US Department of Health and Human Services, it is women, not men, who are responsible for most child abuse, parental murder of children, child neglect, and child endangerment in the United States.

Ensler, whose popular play "The Vagina Monologues" is the primary financial and public relations force behind V-Day, says that, for women, "Afghanistan is everywhere." Unable to find an Afghanistan for American women, Ensler has used discredited statistics to invent one.

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