Is the US Really One of the Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries For Women? Not So Fast…
A Thompson Reuters survey recently claimed that the United States is one of the ten most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. The headline grabber reveals a lack of seriousness about the problem. Worse, it may hurt our chances of ending this global scourge.
Reuters says the #MeToo movement affected the score. That may be true. The United States rose to the “Top 10” list of most dangerous countries only this year. It was first conducted in 2011. Oddly, we’re the only developed country on this year’s list.
This is far from a scientific study, even though Reuters would have us believe that it is. Here is why that is deceptive.
Problems With the Study
First, it’s a biased sample. To its credit, the five-week poll spanned the globe. It reflected diverse regional views. The findings, however, are based on fewer than 600 self-selected professionals. These include “social commentators,” who have an interest in drawing attention to violence against women.
What’s more, the article is unclear. Are the respondents only evaluating their own countries on some sort of violence scale? Are they ranking all countries? Neither method provides an objective measure of violence. It only provides the perception of violence.
Second, what objective criteria are used to measure violence? While reports from victims, police, and civil society groups would be helpful, none of this is used here. Violence against women should be measurable where the same indicators are applied across all settings.
Self- and Police Reports
If we really want to find out about violence against women around the world, we would need a sample of women from each country and region. And we would need to ask whether they were the victims of a specific set of violent crimes.
Another method would be to review self- and police reports of violent crimes against women and compare them. Comparing police reports to self-reports is an important method for uncovering violence against women. That’s because so many violent crimes against women go unreported.
This is how the United States can report that in our country only one out of every three rapes and one in two incidents of domestic violence is reported. We compare the police reports from the Uniform Crime Report to the National Crime Victimization Survey which collects data on violent crimes from U.S. households around the country.
We Need Good Data
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, to measure violence against women we would need a specific standard definition of violence. That definition would need to distinguish actual violent crimes from harassment. The #MeToo movement has done a terrible job of this. For all practical purposes it has lumped rape and unwanted advances in the same category.
Violence against women is a serious problem in many countries around the world, including in the United States. But, is the United States really among the top ten most dangerous countries in the world for women? Before we can answer that, we need to collect and track information on what specific violent crimes are being committed in which countries.
While this approach may not grab headlines, it’s the best way to design programs based on good data to end violence against women.
Laura Lederer, J.D., is a Subject Matter Expert on Human Trafficking. She is the former Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Persons for the U.S. Department of State, and has worked with the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on specialized trainings on human trafficking. She is the author of The Health Consequences of Human Trafficking, 2014, Loyola University and most recently, Modern Slavery: A Documentary and Reference Guide, published by Greenwood Press in 2018.