0808 2000 247 Free phone 24 hr National Domestic Violence Helpline Run in partnership between Women’s Aid & Refuge
logo

British Crime Survey underestimates domestic violence statistics 27.06.07


surveyCriminologists (1) estimate that domestic violence statistics are 140% higher than those stated in the British Crime Survey, which only records a maximum of five crimes per person.

Jackie Barron, Research & Policy Officer at Women's Aid said: 

"Domestic violence is characterised by a pattern of repeated abuse by the same perpetrator. It s only when repeated incidents are reported and recorded that a complete picture of the extent of domestic abuse becomes more evident."
Also, many victims of domestic violence are reluctant to disclose the abuse they have experienced in face to face interviews.  Nonetheless, BCS data are the best we currently have." 



Women's Aid think that capping the number of crimes reported at five is particularly likely to underestimate domestic violence statistics for the following reasons:
  • Domestic violence is characterised by a pattern of repeated abuse by the same perpetrator. It is only when repeated incidents are reported and recorded that a complete picture of the extent of domestic abuse becomes more evident.
  • Domestic violence includes many different kinds of abuse, not only physical assaults: for example, psychological abuse - such as repeatedly criticising someone or putting them down, isolating them and not letting them see their friends or family; financial abuse - such as not allowing them to have any money of their own or insisting they account for every penny they spend; and sexual abuse - which could include such things as forcing them to watch pornographic videos.
  • Many of those who experience domestic violence may not see these behaviours as crimes (and some of them are in fact not crimes).
  • Many victims of domestic violence are reluctant to disclose the abuse they have experienced in face to face interviews. When the BCS has used a self-completion module (2), the reported rates of abuse are up to five times higher (3). The failure by the BCS to record more than 5 incidents in any one year further contributes to a serious underestimation of the prevalence of domestic violence.
  • Nonetheless, BCS data are the best we currently have - but we would like to see a repeat of the IPV self-completion module in future years, so a true comparison can be made.

 

FOOTNOTES

1. The criminologists who brought this information about the BCS to light are Professor Ken Pease, former acting head of the Home Office's police research group, and Professor Gary Farrell of Loughborough University. They say "the justification for this was 'to avoid extreme cases distorting the rates' but if the people who say they suffered 10 incidents really did, it is capping the series at five that distorts the rate." Farrell and Pease estimate that 3 million crimes have been left out of the BCS as a result. The BCS is designed to give information about trends rather than offer a complete count of total crimes committed.  However, these distinctions are not always evident when statistics are reported.

2. For example, the IPV module in 2001, analysed by Walby and Allen: Walby, Sylvia and Allen, Jonathan (2004) Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey (London: Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate)

3. Walby, Sylvia (2004) “Five times higher – the extent of domestic violence” Safe Summer 2004 pp.10-12