Domestic abuse is a gendered crime

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, 2020A; ONS, 2020B). 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).

Domestic abuse perpetrated by men against women is rooted in women’s unequal status in society and is part of the wider social problem of male violence against women and girls. We found in our research with the University of Bristol that sexism and misogyny set the scene for male abusive partners’ coercive and controlling behaviours. Sexism and misogyny serve to excuse abusive behaviour by men in intimate relationships with women and put up barriers to female survivors being believed and supported to leave abusive men (Women’s Aid et al, 2021). Read the blog about this research here.

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:

The majority of domestic homicide victims (killed by ex/partner or a family member) for the year ending March 2017 to the year ending March 2019 were female (77% or 274 victims) and most of the suspects were male (263 out of 274; 96%). Of the 83 male victims of domestic homicide, the suspect was female in 39 cases, and male in 44 cases. (ONS, 2020A)

Over the three-year period April 2016 to March 2019, a total of 222 women were killed by a partner or ex-partner. The majority of suspects were male (218, 98%). This means that during this time period, an average of three women every fortnight were murdered by their male partner or ex-partner. (ONS, 2020B) 

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) The large majority of defendants in domestic abuse-related prosecutions in the year ending March 2020 were recorded as male (92%) and the majority of the victims recorded as female (77%, compared with compared with 16% who were male). The sex of the victim was not recorded in 7% of prosecutions. If these missing data were excluded from analysis, then it would be 82% female victims and 18% male victims (ONS, 2020C).

Further information and support

If would like more information about domestic abuse go to:href=””> 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). (2020A). Domestic abuse victim characteristics, England and Wales: year ending March 2020. Published online: ONS

Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2020B). Appendix tables: Homicide in England and Wales. Published online: ONS

Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2020C). Domestic abuse and the criminal justice system, England and Wales: November 2020 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

Women’s Aid, Hester, M., Walker, S-J., and Williamson, E. (2021) Gendered experiences of justice and domestic abuse. Evidence for policy and practice. Bristol: Women’s Aid

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