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. (Women’s Aid Annual Survey, 2013 – responses were given for 755 women using community-based domestic abuse services during a census week.)
  • Data taken from On Track’s national data set showed that 13% of service users had experienced abuse for 20 years or more. (Women’s Aid, 2017 – Out of 1,217 female survivors supported by 25 domestic abuse services between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017.)

Inequalities

  • 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.) (McManus & Scott with Sosenko, 2016)
  • Black and Minority Ethnic 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). (Thiara & Roy, 2012)

One study of black and minority ethnic (BME) domestic abuse service users found that a large number of survivors from a BME background were trapped in relationships by violent perpetrators for a long time; 26% (n=48) had been in a violent relationship for 20 years or more; 18% (n=33) for five years or more (Thiara & Roy, 2012).

Black and minority ethnic (BME) survivors may not report abuse to the police for a range of reasons, including concerns about the impact or stigma on their wider family or community, language difficulties and feeling distrustful of the police because of past negative experiences (Thiara & Roy, 2012).

  • Pregnancy: 40%-60% of women experiencing domestic violence are abused while pregnant. (Department of Health, 2005)
  • Disability:Women with a long-term illness or disability were more likely to be victims of any domestic abuse in the last year (15.9%), compared with those without a long-term illness or disability (5.9%). (ONS, 2018)

Health

  • 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.[9] (The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey is a large survey of a representative sample of men and women of all ages, resident in private households.) (Scott & McManus, 2016)

Financial abuse

  • 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. (Howard & Skipp, 2015  – 52% of 124 women responding to this survey question.)

Online abuse

  • 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. (Women’s Aid, 2015)
  • Conviction data for image based sexual abuse (commonly referred to as ‘revenge pornography’) show that out of the 465 prosecutions for this offence recorded in the year ending March 2017, 84% (389) were flagged as being domestic abuse-related. (ONS, 2017)

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. (Walby, 2009)

Femicide

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.

Key findings from on the women killed by men in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2016 are:

  • 113 women were killed by men in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2016.
  • Nine in ten (88%, 100 women) of women killed by men in 2016 were killed by someone they knew, 9 women were killed by a stranger.
  • Over two thirds (69%, 78 women) of women killed by men in 2016 were killed by a current or former intimate partner. 83% (65 women) of women killed by a current or former intimate partner were killed at their own home or the home they shared with the perpetrator.
  • Over three quarters (77%, 24 women) of women killed by a former intimate partner in 2016 were killed within the first year of separation.
  • 8% (n=6) of the women killed by a partner or ex-partner in 2016 were aged 66 or over. (Femicide Census, 2017)

Coercive Control

Coercive and controlling behaviour is at the heart of domestic abuse and has been a specific criminal offence since the end of 2015. Coercive control is defined in statutory guidance as, “a purposeful pattern of behaviour which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another” (Home Office, 2015).

  • In England and Wales, there were 155 defendants prosecuted for coercive and controlling behaviour in the year ending December 2016. 97% of defendants prosecuted for coercive and controlling behaviour were male. There were 59 offenders convicted of coercive and controlling behaviour in this time period. (ONS, 2017)
  • 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. (Myhill, 2015)

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


References

Department of Health, (2005) Responding to Domestic Abuse: A handbook for healthcare professionals. London: Department of Health, p. 15, citing British Medical Association (1998) Domestic violence: a health care issue? London: BMA

Femicide Census (developed by Karen Ingala Smith and Women’s Aid Federation of England working in partnership, with support from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Deloitte LLP) (2017) The Femicide Census: 2016 findings. Annual Report on cases of Femicide in 2016. Published online: Karen Ingala Smith and Women’s Aid

Home Office. (December 2015) Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship Statutory Guidance Framework. Published online: Home Office

Howard, M. and Skipp, A. (2015) Unequal, trapped and controlled. Women’s experience of financial abuse and Universal Credit. London: Women’s Aid and TUC

McManus, S. and Scott, S. (DMSS Research) with Sosenko, F. (Heriot-Watt University). (2016) Joining the dots: The combined burden of violence, abuse and poverty in the lives of women. Published online: Agenda

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

Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2017) Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2017. Published online: ONS

Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2018) Domestic abuse: findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales: year ending March 2017. Published online: ONS

Scott, S. and McManus, S. (DMSS Research for Agenda). (2016) Hidden Hurt, violence, abuse and disadvantage in the lives of women. Published online: Agenda (A research report building on APMS data which surveys 7,500 adults living in private households across England.)

Thiara, R.K. and Roy, S. (2012) Vital Statistics 2 Key Findings Report on Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee women and children facing violence and abuse. London: Imkaan

Walby, S. (2009) The Cost of Domestic Violence: Up-date 2009. Published online: UNESCO, UNITWIN and Lancaster University, UNESCO Chair in Gender Research

Women’s Aid Annual Survey, 2013

Women’s Aid, Online Safety, Accessible online.  2015

Women’s Aid. (2017) Understanding domestic abuse: findings from On Track. On Track Bulletin. Published online: Women’s Aid

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