UK: CSEW doesn’t count all sexual offences

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), formerly known as the British Crime Survey (BCS), is a face-to-face victimization survey first conducted in 1982. Here is a bulletin describing what the Ministry of Justice, Home Office and the Office for National Statistics says about what sexual offences the CSEW captures:

These experiences span the full spectrum of sexual offences, ranging from the most serious offences of rape and sexual assault, to other sexual offences like indecent exposure and unwanted touching.

Unfortunately that is a lie and this blog post will explain in some detail why this is a lie and what sexual offence is left out.

SOA 2003

First a quick primer on UK laws on sexual offences: The Sexual Offences Act of 2003 Part 1. This replaced the Sexual Offences Act of 1956. As we know from the NISVS 2010 Report from CDC in the US made to penetrate is a pretty common victimization reported by men. Being made to penetrate is also a crime under SOA 2003 which calls it “Causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent”.

The relevant part of SOA 2004 is Section 4.4(c)(d) (subsection 1 is included for context):

4 Causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent

(1)A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a)he intentionally causes another person (B) to engage in an activity,

(b)the activity is sexual,

(c)B does not consent to engaging in the activity, and

(d)A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

(4)A person guilty of an offence under this section, if the activity caused involved—

(a)penetration of B’s anus or vagina,

(b)penetration of B’s mouth with a person’s penis,

(c)penetration of a person’s anus or vagina with a part of B’s body or by B with anything else, or

(d)penetration of a person’s mouth with B’s penis,

is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.

 

Although the activities listed in 4(c)(d) aren’t called rape we note that they are punishable with imprisonment for life – making them serious offences. I’ll refer to the acts described in Section 4.4(c)(d) as made to penetrate throughout this post.

Given that the claim is that CSEW covers the full spectrum of sexual offences one would think that it also covers victimization falling afoul of Section 4.4(c)(d) of SOA 2003. Fortunately the ONS have published the methodology as well as the questionnaire used for the CSEW, allowing us to check if made to penetrate is counted.

CSEW 2011/2012 split sample

ONS published the CSEW for 2011/2012 in January 2013. It was special in a way since it involved a split-sample experiment to evaluate a proposal for a new questionnaire to get more accurate results. TNS-BMRB were commissioned to carry out a review of the existing IPV (Inter-Personal Violence) questions and to design and test an alternative set of questions. The principal recommendation from TNS-BMRB was that a split-sample experiment be carried out in which one half of respondents selected at random were given the current IPV question set and one half were given the alternative set of questions. This split-sample experiment was carried out during the 2010/2011 and 2011/12 survey years.

This means that the questionnaire for CSEW 2011/2012 in fact has two sets of questions. These two sets can be found in appendix 3 (current) and appendix 4 (alternative) in the analysis of the split sample experiment . They can also be found in chapter 19.2 and 19.3 (current) and 19.6 and 19.7 (alternative) in this document containing the complete questionnaire.

 

CSEW 2011/2012 Current question set

CSEW divides the questions about sexual offences into two parts: Less serious sexual assault and Serious sexual assault. These two parts are listed in chapter 19.2 and 19.3 in this document. Made to penetrate is punishable with imprisonment for life so the law considers it a serious sexual assault. But let’s not assume that the CSEW considers it a serious sexual assault and check the questions for less serious sexual assault first.

 

Question PV5A-PV5F (option 1 is PV5A, option 6 is PV5F):

Since the age of 16, has ANYONE ever caused you fear, alarm or distress by doing
any of the following? This may have been a partner, a family member, someone you
knew casually or a stranger.
YOU CAN CHOOSE MORE THAN ONE ANSWER AT THIS QUESTION IF YOU
WISH

  1. Indecently exposed themselves to you (i.e. flashing)
  2. Touched you sexually when you did not want it (e.g. groping, touching of breasts or bottom, unwanted kissing)
  3. Sexually threatened you (e.g. demanded sex when you did not want it, followed or cornered you in a sexually threatening way)
  4. None of these
  5. Don’t know/ can’t remember
  6. Don’t wish to answer

 

One could argue (and some has) that option 3 and possibly option 2 would cover being made to penetrate. I find that argument to have several problems. Yes, intercourse  involves sexual touch if genital to genital/anus/mouth contact is defined as sexual touching. None of the example given by the questions even mentions genital to genital/anus/mouth contact. By the same argument option 2 and 3 would also cover rape and assault by penetration rendering the later questions specifically about those two in Serious sexual assault redundant. Since there are questions about rape and assault by penetration in Serious sexual assault while there is no question about made to penetrate the result would be that victims of rape and assault by penetration are counted twice (as both a Less serious sexual assault and a Serious sexual assault). If we look at the figures for women we see that the number for all sexual offences is larger than the number for less serious sexual offences. This shouldn’t be possible if “Sexual touching” includes intercourses (rape and assault by penetration as well as made to penetrate).¹

Under the Serious sexual assault category we have question PV13A-PV14I:

Since the age of 16, has ANYONE ever done any of the following things to you, when
you made it clear that you did not agree or when you were not capable of consent?
This may have been a partner, a family member, someone you knew casually, or a
stranger.
YOU CAN CHOOSE MORE THAN ONE ANSWER AT THIS QUESTION IF YOU
WISH

  1. Penetrated your [vagina or anus/anus] with their penis, even if only slightly
  2. Penetrated your [vagina or anus/anus] with an object (including fingers) even if only slightly
  3. Penetrated your mouth with their penis even if only slightly
  4. ATTEMPTED to penetrate your [vagina or anus/anus] with their penis, but did not succeed
  5. ATTEMPTED to penetrate your [vagina or anus/anus] with an object (including fingers) but did not succeed
  6. ATTEMPTED to penetrate your mouth with their penis but did not succeed
  7. None of these
  8. Don’t know/can’t remember
  9. Don’t wish to answer

 

One could argue that a victim of made to penetrate might chose option 7. None of these thinking it means “None of these, but some other sexual act“, but the victim would be mistaken. Choosing option 7 would classify one as a non-victim. This can easily be seen by looking at the follow-up questions asking about the perpetrator – option 1 through 6 has each one question asking about the perpetrator (PV14 through PV19) while option 7 through 9 have no follow-up questions about perpetrators. There is also no “other”/”none of these” category of sexual assault in any of the findings in the CSEW report.

 

We can only conclude that the current question set does not capture victims of SOA 2004 4.4(c)(d).

 

CSEW 2011/2012 Alternative question set

The alternative questions about sexual offences are also divided into two parts: Less serious sexual assault and Serious sexual assault. This is listed in chapter 19.6 and 19.7 in this document.

We’ll look at the Less serious sexual assault questions first.

Question NIPV17:

Since you were 16, has anyone ever indecently exposed themselves to you (i.e.
flashing) in a way that caused you fear, alarm or distress?
This may have been a partner, a family member, a friend or work colleague, someone
you knew casually, or a stranger.

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Don’t know/can’t remember
  4. Don’t wish to answer

 

 

Question NIPV23:

Since you were 16, has anyone ever touched you in a sexual way (e.g. touching,
grabbing, kissing or fondling), when you did not want it?
This may have been a partner, a family member, a friend or work colleague, someone
you knew casually, or a stranger.

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Don’t know/can’t remember
  4. Don’t wish to answer

 

This doesn’t really differ from the “current” question on Less serious sexual assault apart from it no longer including sexual threats and the remaining indecent exposure and sexual touching options being split into two separate questions. The same argument as to why the “current” question on Less serious sexual assault can’t be said to capture victims of being made to penetrate applies to the alternative questions NPV17 and NPV23.

Under the Serious sexual assault category we have question NPV35 and NPV35AA-NPV25AF:

NIPV35
Since you were 16, has anyone ever forced you to have sexual intercourse or take
part in some other sexual act, when you were not capable of consent or when you
made it clear you did not want to?
By sexual intercourse we mean vaginal, anal or oral penetration.
This may have been a partner, a family member, a friend or work colleague, someone
you knew casually, or a stranger.

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Don’t know/can’t remember
  4. Don’t wish to answer

 

 

NIPV35AA-NIPV35AF
[ASK IF NIPV35 = 1]
You said that someone has forced you to have sexual intercourse or take part in
some other sexual act when you were not capable of consent or when you made it
clear you did not want to. What did they do to you?
If this has happened more than once since you were 16, please select all those that
apply.
We need this level of detail to allow us to classify the exact type of sexual assault
experienced.

  1. Penetrated your [vagina or anus/anus] with their penis
  2. Penetrated your [vagina or anus/anus] with an object (including fingers)
  3. Penetrated your mouth with their penis
  4. Did some other sex act not described above
  5. Don’t know
  6. Don’t want to answer

 

Now, this looks somewhat promising. NPV35 clearly would capture victims of being made to penetrate as it asks for intercourse as well as some other sexual act. However, respondents who answered “Yes” to NPV35 are being asked the follow-up question NPV35AA-NPV35AF which asks for details. Option 1 and 3 describes act falling under SOA 2003 Section 1 (Rape) while option 2 describes acts falling under SOA 2003 Section 2 (Assault by penetration). There are no options explicitly referring to SOA 2003 Section 4.4(c)(d) (Made to penetrate), but option 4 Did some other sex act not described above could cover that since made to penetrate in fact is some other sex act than rape and assault by penetration as defined in option 1-3 (and in SOA 2003). It’s still a poor design of the questionnaire design as it could cover any other sexual act as well – such as kissing, fondling, groping, masturbation etc.

Remember that only half the sample got this alternative question set – so even if NPV35 and NPV35AD (option 4) would capture victims of being made to penetrate it would only do so for half the sample.

That is a problem the CSEW 2010/2011 and consequently CSEW 2011/2012 solved in the following way (page 26 in Analysis of the 2010/11 British Crime Survey intimate personal violence split-sample experiment):

However, in the alternative question set there is a filter question, which means that only those who say they have experienced serious sexual assault are asked the most explicit questions used to determine the nature of the offence (e.g. NIPV35 is used to filter NIPV35A).

In the analysis presented here those respondents who said that they had only experienced ‘some other sex act not described above’ were categorised as non-victims to ensure that the category of serious sexual assault retained the same definition as in the current question set (this is not an option in the current question set).

 

“Categorized as on-victims”

This of course mean that in the findings reported by the CSEW 2010/2011, 2011/2012 victims of SOA 2003 4.4(c)(d) (being made to penetrate) were not counted nor reported.

 

CSEW 2012/2013

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) in United Kingdom released the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW 2012/2013) on the 13th of February 2014. I was eager to see the outcome of the split-sample study done on a new questionnaire in the CSEW 2010/2011.

Reviewing the question sets for the CSEW 2012/2013 I first notice that the split-sample experiement is extended to the 2012/2013 survey as well. I also see that the 2010/2011, 2011/2012 option under serious sexual assault (ch. 19.7 NIPV36AA-NIPV36AF ) (“some other sexual acts not described above” where above referred to a list of acts where the victim was penetrated) no longer exists for either of the 2012/2013 question sets (ch. 19.7, ch 19.3).

This means that the classification of the respondents selecting that option as “non-victims” in CSEW 2011/2012 has now been formalized and victims of SOA 2003 Section 4.4(c)(d) – a crime punishable with inprisonment for life – still aren’t counted and reported by the CSEW. Which makes the claim that CSEW covers the full spectrum of sexual offences a lie.

In the US 4.8% of men reported having been victims of acts falling under SOA 2003 Section 4.4(c)(d) or attempts thereof. 1.1% of men reported having been so in the last 12 months (NISVS 2010 Report).

This indicate that there is potentially a large number of victims of a crime punishable with up to life in prison not being counted in the CSEW.

 

 

 

1. The argument being stricken through is not correct and wasa a result of me misreading a table.

3 thoughts on “UK: CSEW doesn’t count all sexual offences

  1. Pingback: ONS will look into adding questions to the CSEW to capture more male victims | Tamen's writings
  2. Pingback: ONS Will Look Into Adding Questions To The CSEW To Capture More Male Victims (NoH) | Feminist Critics

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