Domestic abuse is a gendered crime

Every case of domestic abuse should be taken seriously and each individual given access to the support they need. All victims should be able to access appropriate support. Whilst both men and women may experience incidents of inter-personal violence and abuse, women are considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of abuse, including sexual violence. They are also more likely to have experienced sustained physical, psychological or emotional abuse, or violence which results in injury or death.

There are important differences between male violence against women and female violence against men, namely the amount, severity and impact. Women experience higher rates of repeated victimisation and are much more likely to be seriously hurt (Walby & Towers, 2017; Walby & Allen, 2004) or killed than male victims of domestic abuse (ONS, 2019). Further to that, women are more likely to experience higher levels of fear and are more likely to be subjected to coercive and controlling behaviours (Dobash & Dobash, 2004; Hester, 2013; Myhill, 2015; Myhill, 2017).

The United Nations defines gender based violence in the following way:

“The definition of discrimination includes gender based violence, that is, violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty.” (CEDAW 1992: para. 6).

Some key statistics:

  • For the year ending March 2016 to the year ending March 2018, 74% of victims of domestic homicide (homicide by an ex/partner or family member) were female. This contrasts with non-domestic homicides where the majority of victims were male (87%). (ONS, 2019).
  • The overwhelming majority of female domestic homicide victims are killed by men; of the 270 female victims of domestic homicide for the year ending March 2016 to the year ending March 2018, the suspect was male in 260 cases. (ONS, 2019)
  • In 218 of the 270 female domestic homicide cases between the year ending March 2016 and the year ending March 2018, the suspect was a partner or ex-partner. 43 male victims were killed by a partner or ex-partner in the same time period. (ONS, 2019)
  • One study of 96 cases of domestic abuse recorded by the police found that men are significantly more likely to be repeat perpetrators and significantly more likely than women to use physical violence, threats, and harassment. In a six year tracking period the majority of recorded male perpetrators (83%) had at least two incidents of recorded abuse, with many having a lot more than two and one man having 52 repeat incidents. Whereas in cases where women were recorded as the perpetrator the majority (62%) had only one incident of abuse recorded and the highest number of repeat incidents for any female perpetrator was eight. The study also found that men’s violence tended to create a context of fear and control; which was not the case when women were perpetrators. (Hester, 2013)
  • Over 80% (83%) of high frequency victims (more than 10 crimes) are women. (From a study of data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales, a nationally representative household survey.) (Walby & Towers, 2018)
  • In the year ending March 2019, the majority of defendants in domestic abuse-related prosecutions were men (92%), and the majority of victims were female (75%). 16% of victims were male and in 10% of cases the sex of the victim was not recorded. (ONS, 2019).

Further information and support

If would like more information about domestic abuse go to:  The Survivor’s Handbook

If you or a friend need help, have a look at our support information here.


Dobash, R.P. and Dobash, R.E. (2004) ‘Women’s violence to men in intimate relationships. Working on a Puzzle’, British Journal of Criminology, 44(3), pp. 324–349

Hester, M. (2013) ‘Who Does What to Whom? Gender and Domestic Violence Perpetrators in English Police Records’, European Journal of Criminology, 10: 623- 637

Myhill, A. (2015) ‘Measuring coercive control: what can we learn from national population surveys?’ Violence Against Women. 21(3), pp. 355-375

Myhill, A. (2017) ‘Measuring domestic violence: context is everything.’ Journal of Gender-Based Violence, vol 1, no 1, 33–44

Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2019) Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2019. Published online: ONS

Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2019) Domestic abuse and the criminal justice system, England and Wales: November 2019. Published online: ONS 

Walby, S. and Allen, J. (2004) Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey. Home Office Research Study 276. London: Home Office

Walby, S. and Towers, J. (May 2017) ‘Measuring violence to end violence: mainstreaming gender’, Journal of Gender-Based Violence, vol. 1, no.

Walby, S. and Towers, J. (2018) ‘Untangling the concept of coercive control: Theorizing domestic violent crime’, Criminology & Criminal Justice, Vol 18, Issue 1, pp 7-28

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