Picture credit: Thames Valley Police

Scarlet Blake is a man

Indulging the fantasies of violent criminals is endangering women

Artillery Row

In order to solve a problem, you have to name the problem, and accurately. This is never more true than when discussing male violence against women and girls. In order to appropriately target public resources and establish attendant laws to prevent harm to women perpetrated by men, feminist groups have had to campaign vigorously and rigorously — with statistics to hand which are robust and inarguable regarding the respective sex of perpetrator and victim. Without such evidence they would be laughed away from the doors of parliament and laws which have passed fairly recently — on coercive control for example, or non-fatal strangulation — would never have come into existence. 

The media are repeatedly guilty of obscuring the man from a headline in cases where he has killed or otherwise assaulted a woman. Of course, there has to be accurate reporting which allows for due legal process to establish a man’s guilt upon conviction but the ludicrous headline “murder arrest”, in BBC headlines in particular, is infuriating and insulting. Inevitably, the word “man” appears in the following paragraphs, but he should be there in bold at the top. Hiding him away hides the problem, which is that men keep murdering women. If the public saw honest headlines, they might realise the obvious truth — that this happens far too often to a lot of women and at the hands of men; these are not “isolated incidents” but terror perpetrated by one sex against the other. 

This week, such evasive, even deliberate obfuscation in news reporting took an even more explosive and sinister turn in the sensationally misleading reporting of the trial of Scarlet Blake, a man who was eventually convicted of murdering Jorge Martin Carreno, and also of torturing and killing a cat. 

News outlets, one after another, described how a “woman” had committed these heinous acts. The Guardian, the Mirror, the Independent and many others insisted that a woman was the perpetrator. Actual women, in response, were outraged because they knew that this was utterly untrue — Scarlet Blake is a man. At sentencing on the 26th February, he was handed a life sentence with a requirement to serve a minimum of 24 years in jail. Thankfully it appears that he will serve it in a men’s prison, which is where all men convicted of crime belong, but do not always go. 

If just one man is added to these female crime statistics it will result in an 8.3 per cent increase

In this instance, a sadistic man was not just removed from the headline of a horrific murder, he was removed from the crime altogether and it was pinned on a woman by the media. It isn’t the first time this has happened and no doubt it will not be the last. The reality is that very few women murder anyone. More than 90 per cent of over 400,000 global homicides a year have a male perpetrator. Men murder a lot of people. Women rarely do. In England and Wales between April 2022 and March 2023, 202 men were convicted of murder. Only 12 women were during the same period. If just one man is added to these female crime statistics it will result in an 8.3 per cent increase. This could be used in arguments showing women are becoming more violent. Statistics matter because sex matters.

Whilst this was a crime perpetrated by a man against another man, sex segregated statistics are of great importance when we aim to stop male violence against women and girls. If we cannot say that there is a problem, and present accurate statistics on the scale of what men are doing to women, then we can’t ask politicians, the judiciary, or those in the criminal justice system, from the police to the courts, to do something to end it. We expect statistical accuracy in the recording of crime and we expect journalistic integrity in the media to go alongside it. 

Women objected and loudly at this wholesale media inaccuracy. Louise Tickle, the well-respected Guardian journalist, was so incensed that she wrote to her editor Kath Viner to complain about such deliberate and offensive inaccuracy in reporting. 

Language use about the sex of criminals really matters. I believe the use of inaccurate — “wrong-sex” — pronouns is problematic if it leads to this sort of inaccurate reporting. I don’t agree with the argument that honouring such pronouns is harmless, as has recently been suggested, when the reporting on a murder case like this carelessly shoves those reported fictions under the public’s nose over breakfast, and some people as a result think that women are committing hideously violent crimes. These two issues cannot, surely, be divorced from each other? Even if women themselves choose to make decisions about their own pronoun use for men who say they are women, there is still an absolute necessity that journalism strives for truth and accuracy in crime reporting.

Alongside this irresponsible news journalism, police forces have been recording male crime as committed by females if the man identifies as a woman at point of arrest. The police in question have stressed that the reporting of these statistics to the government is unaffected by the perpetrator’s gender identity choice and recorded by sex not gender. This begs the question of why the fiction is allowed at any point. The court bench rules still allow for inaccurate use of language around the sex of suspects appearing in court and rapists are still being called “she” in an environment where speaking the truth is surely a minimum requirement. These are all areas where reality is being muddied with lies, and women are the ones who suffer.

Crime statistics in the UK are gathered by the Office for National Statistics, and rely upon a combination of police recorded crime data and the Crime Survey England and Wales. The CSEW is a random sampling of the public and their experience of crimes in the previous year. The data is collected according to sex, with “male” and “female” the only options available to respondents. However, since there is no category — rightly — for gender identity, it is quite possible that currently some men are choosing to declare themselves “female” and the accuracy of data is less clear. We are in a position where we have to invest a lot of trust in various organisations to deal with issues of sex and crime truthfully. This is vital to the accurate depiction of the criminal landscape of the UK. 

it is vital to women that we, and the crimes perpetrated against us by men, are depicted with robust accuracy

The ONS data, garnered from the police and CSEW, has officially stated uses including, “informing government policy making — for example, the number and location of police and identifying and tackling new and emerging crime problems”. In the public sector one of the stated uses is “to help determine the allocation of government resources to several organisations. For example, police forces might get more or less funding based on the number of crimes reported in respective police force areas and grants are given to charities based on crime statistics, such as victim support groups, and also to local governments to address deprivation”. 

When huge sums of government money are distributed according to the statistical reporting of crime, it is vital to women that we, and the crimes perpetrated against us by men, are depicted with robust accuracy. 

Women have been standing up for women and against male violence for many decades and still there is inadequate funding provision to keep them safe, woeful prosecution rates, disappointing sentencing, ineffective policing and political ineptness regarding women’s rights. One of our only effective weapons is accurate information about crime. 

“Women do it too” is always infuriating as an attempt to minimise the disproportionate scale of men’s violence against women. If we now move to a position where crimes are perpetrated by men but reported as being perpetrated by women, either in the media or via government recording and reporting mechanisms, the task of getting those in authority to implement measures to prevent women being harmed by men becomes increasingly difficult. We need to name the problem, and the problem is men’s violence against women. The last thing we need is to name that man “woman”. 

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