Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Back to the Future, Part 6: Making America Even Greater for Women

Here's a Way to Fix Domestic Violence--Stop Reporting It


This year's Crime in the United States report, the first one to be produced under the auspices of the Trump administration's Department of Justice, claims to be new and improved--or, rather, it says that it has been "streamlined and updated."

Crime statistics no longer reported in the
Crime in the United States report
To that end, "UCR [Uniform Crime Reporting] staff have strategically trimmed the amount of tables and refined the presentation of data in this year’s publication."

Well, that's one way of framing what's happened in the newly released 2016 Crime in the United States report

Another way of framing what's happened: we just don't give a shit about some aspects of crime any more.

As senior political reporter Clare Malone and crime analyst Jeff Asher report in FiveThirtyEight, (27 October 2017) the most recent CUS "contains close to 70 percent fewer data tables than the 2015 version did, a removal that could affect analysts’ understanding of crime trends in the country. The removal comes after consecutive years in which violent crime rose nationally, and it limits access to high-quality crime data that could help inform solutions."

Among the missing data tables that "could" (ha!) affect understanding of crime in the United States are those that include "information on arrests" and "the circumstances of homicides (such as the relationships between victims and perpetrators)."

So why does this contribute to the ongoing effort to make America greater for women?

There were 15 tables of homicide data in the 2015 report, for example. The 2016 report, "streamlined and updated," or, more rhetorically calculated, "trimmed . . . and refined," has only 6 homicide data tables. Oh, excuse me--to be more accurate, "strategically trimmed."

What's missing?

Notably, Data Table 10 from the 2015 report: "Murder Circumstances by Relationship." Actually, this data, the relationship of victims to offenders, is included as Table 10 in every CIUS report from 2000 until 2015; before 2000, the information is a bit harder to find, but "Murder Circumstances by Relationship" is consistently provided as Table 2.12 in the reports from 1995 to 2000 (the 1995 Crime in the United States is the earliest available report online). 

Why is the loss of this table so important?

Because the table focused on who was murdered--and the relationship of the victim to the offender. Was the victim the perpetrator's husband, wife, mother, father, son, daughter, brother, sister, "other family," acquaintance, friend, boyfriend, or girlfriend?

These categories included exes and step relationships. "Acquaintance" included same-sex relationships.

This means that, for the most extreme outcome of acts of domestic violence, it is no longer possible to say how many women were murdered by their spouses, partners, dates, or friends.

Similarly, Data Table 2 is also missing. For twenty years, from 1995 until 2015, you could see the age, the race, and the ethnicity of homicide victims. How many girls aged 9 to 12 were murdered in 2015, for example? There were 20 girls between the ages of 9 and 12 murdered in that year. How many women aged 25 to 29 were murdered? That number was 338.

But how many girls and women in those age groups were murdered in 2016? Who knows? Who cares? They've been "strategically trimmed" out of the data. The data is now more "refined."

It is important to note that, while the annual report has changed from one year to another in previous years, the proposed changes were reviewed. Before being made, changes went through the Criminal Justice Advisory Policy Process, overseen by an Advisory Policy Board. This year's changes did not go through that regular process

Meanwhile, in his "Message" prefacing the 2016 report, FBI Director Chris Wray writes, "Information that is accurate, accessible, and complete enhances and informs conversations about policing."

But information that is suppressed, elided, erased, disappeared--oh, excuse me, "streamlined," "trimmed"--even strategically trimmed--and "refined"--also diminishes and misleads. It obscures. It obfuscates. It denies.

Men killing women? Husbands killing wives (and children)? Boyfriends killing an ex? Problem solved. 

The 2016 Crime in the United States report was published 25 September 2017. 

Ironically (or not), October is Domestic Violence Prevention Month.


(For previous entries in the "Back to the Future" series, click here here, here, here, and/or here!)