The nature and impact of domestic abuse
When thinking about the consequences of domestic abuse, it is important to consider the impact (mental, emotional, physical, social and financial) on the individual survivor and her family and children, and also the wider societal costs including the costs of police, health and other service responses, and time off having to be taken by survivors from paid employment and caring responsibilities. It is also important to bear in mind the additional barriers particular social groups might face in escaping domestic abuse or in accessing support or justice.
- In findings from our annual survey, 46.2% of women in refuges had spent between two and 10 years in the abusive relationship, with 17% of women enduring a violent relationship for more than 10 years. 40.9% of women using community-based domestic abuse services had spent between two and 10 years in the abusive relationship, with 24.1% enduring a violent relationship for more than 10 years.
- Poverty: Women in poverty are particularly likely to experience the most extensive violence and abuse in their lives. One research report found that 14% of women in poverty have faced extensive violence and abuse, compared to women not in poverty (6%). (From a sample of 1185 women in poverty and 2884 women not in poverty.)
- Race – BMER women: A survey of women using specialist BMER (Black, Minority Ethnic and Refugee) domestic abuse services found that 96% reported experiencing psychological, emotional and verbal abuse, 72% had experienced physical violence and 30% had experienced attempted and/or threats of murder from the perpetrator(s). Some BMER women are at higher than usual risks of repeat victimisation, and face extra barriers to reporting abuse and to seeking help.
- Pregnancy: 40%-60% of women experiencing domestic violence are abused while pregnant.
- Disability: The full range of mental, physical and sexual cruelty can also be inflicted on women with learning disabilities. Disabled women can experience additional barriers to accessing justice and support. One study found that women with physical and learning disabilities were often not believed or are ignored when they disclosed abuse.
- Women with a long-term illness or disability were more likely to be victims of any domestic abuse in the last year (15.7%), compared with those without a long-term illness or disability (6.2%).
- An examination of the results of the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey revealed that 75% of women in the ‘extensive physical and sexual violence’ group were not receiving either medication or counselling for a mental health problem at the time of the survey. This is despite ‘indications of very high levels of mental ill health’ in this group. 36% of women in the ‘extensive physical and sexual violence’ group had attempted suicide. In the same group, women were more than twice as likely to have an alcohol problem and eight times more likely to be drug dependent than women with little experience of violence and abuse. (The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey is a large survey of a representative sample of men and women of all ages, resident in private households.)
- Over a three year period between 2012/13 and 2014/15 the Crime Survey for England and Wales found that for over half of serious sexual assaults on women since the age of 16 (57%), the offender was a partner / ex-partner.
- Financial abuse can be a significant barrier to leaving an abuser. 52% of women respondents to a Women’s Aid/TUC study who were still living with their abuser said they could not afford to leave because they had no money of their own.
- Perpetrators of domestic abuse now routinely use technology and social media to control and instil fear in those they victimise. In a 2015 Women’s Aid survey of 693 survivors of domestic abuse, 85% of respondents reported online abuse perpetrated by a partner, or ex-partner, as part of a pattern also experienced offline. Nearly a third of survivors had experienced the use of spyware or GPS locators on their phone or computer by a partner or ex-partner.
- Conviction data for image based sexual abuse (commonly referred to as ‘revenge pornography’) show that out of the 206 prosecutions for this offence recorded in the year ending March 2016, 184 (89%) were flagged as being domestic abuse-related.
The Cost of Domestic Abuse
- Domestic abuse costs society an estimated £15.73 billion a year in terms of costs to services, economic output, human and emotional costs.
The Femicide Census is a database containing information on women killed by men in England and Wales since 2009. It was developed by Karen Ingala Smith and Women’s Aid working in partnership, with support from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Deloitte LLP. Femicide is generally defined as the murder of women because they are women, though some definitions include any murders of women or girls.
- Between January 1st 2009 and December 31st 2015, 936 women were killed by men in England and Wales. Most were killed by a man known to them. 598 (64%) women were killed by men identified as current or former partners.
- Women of any age can be victims of femicide. 149 women aged over 66 were killed in England and Wales between January 1st 2009 and December 31st 50 of these women (34%) were killed by their partner or spouse. 34 of them (23%) were killed by their sons.
- Women are at significant risk at the point of separation from an abusive partner. 152 (76%) of women killed by their ex-partner or ex-spouse between January 2009 and December 2015 were killed within the first year that followed their separation. 
On December 29th 2015 a new criminal offence of domestic abuse “coercive and controlling behaviour” came into force.
- 95 out of 100 domestic abuse survivors in one study reported experiencing coercive control.
- Data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales suggest that women are overwhelmingly the victims of coercive controlling behaviour. One study of crime survey data found that women are far more likely than men to be the victims of coercive controlling behaviour abuse that involves ongoing degradation and frightening threats –two key elements of coercive control. Working within the limitations of the current crime survey questions, the study found that among intimate personal violence victims who had experienced only one abusive relationship since the age of 16, almost a third (30%, n = 791) of the abuse reported by female respondents could be classified as coercive control in this way, contrasting with only 6% (n = 52) of the abuse reported by male respondents. [This point is also in ‘Domestic abuse is a gendered crime’ section]
- In a survey of over 450 domestic abuse practitioners, 62% believe there needs to be improved understanding of the traits and techniques of coercive and controlling behaviour among frontline officers.
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 call the National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership with Refuge) 0808 2000 247
 Women’s Aid Annual Survey, 2013; responses were given for 755 women using community-based domestic abuse services during a census week.
 McManus, S. and Scott, S. (DMSS Research) with Sosenko, F (Heriot-Watt University) Joining the dots: The combined burden of violence, abuse and poverty in the lives of women (Published online: Agenda, 2016), p. 20
 Thiara, R and Roy, S Vital Statistics2 Key Findings Report on Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic & Refugee women & children facing violence & abuse (London: Imkaan, 2012), p. 10
 Imkaan, Capital losses: the state of the BMR ending violence against women and girls sector in London (available online: Imkaan, 2016); Siddiqui, H. and Patel, M. Safe and Sane: A model of intervention on domestic violence and mental health (available online: Southall Black Sisters, 2010)
 Department of Health, Responding to Domestic Abuse: A handbook for healthcare professionals (London: Department of Health, 2005) p. 15, citing British Medical Association Domestic violence: a health care issue? (London: BMA, 1998)
 McCarthy, M; Hunt, S; and Milne-Skillman, K, I Know it was Every Week, but I Can’t be Sure if
it was Every Day: Domestic Violence and Women with Learning Disabilities (Canterbury: Tizard Centre, University of Kent, 2015), p. 11
 Mandl, S; Schachner, A; Sprenger, C; Planitzer, J Access to Specialised Victim Support Services for Women with Disabilities who have experienced Violence Final Short Report (Published online: Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Human Rights and queraum. cultural- and social research, October 2014), p. 5, p.7, p. 17, pp. 20 – 21
 Office for National Statistics, Crime Statistics, Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2015/16. Chapter 4: Domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking (Published online: Office for National Statistics, 2017)
 Office for National Statistics Crime Statistics, Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14. Chapter 4: Intimate personal violence and partner abuse (Published online: Office for National Statistics, 2016)
 Howard, M and Skipp, A, Unequal, trapped and controlled. Women’s experience of financial abuse and Universal Credit (London: Women’s Aid and TUC, 2015), p. 40. [52% of 124 women responding to this survey question.]
 Walby, S, The Cost of Domestic Violence: Up-date 2009 (Published online: UNESCO, UNITWIN and Lancaster University, UNESCO Chair in Gender Research, 2009), p. 2
 Kelly, L; Sharp, N and Klein, R, Finding the Costs of Freedom How women and children rebuild their lives after domestic violence (London: Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit, 2014), p.19
 Myhill, A, Measuring coercive control: what can we learn from national population surveys? (Violence Against Women 21(3), 2015, pp. 355-375)