Women’s Aid responds to ONS crime statistics for year ending Dec 2020
Farah Nazeer chief executive at Women’s Aid said
“In the year ending March 2020, approximately 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales (ONS 2020). The crime statistics released today do not include an update on this estimate because the Covid-19 pandemic meant interviews were conducted by telephone, and sensitive questions about domestic and sexual abuse could not be asked.
However, we know that during this year, the pandemic has created a perfect storm of challenges for survivors and the services supporting them, with almost two-thirds of survivors living with their abuser reporting worsening abuse, according to our report, A Perfect Storm. Perpetrators have used the pandemic and associated measures as tools of coercive and controlling behaviour, and already-stretched services have had to find new ways to reach increasingly isolated survivors. The pandemic has heightened existing structural inequalities, with women bearing the brunt of these challenges, in particular, Black and minoritised, migrant, disabled, LGBT+ and other marginalised women, children and young people.
This makes even clearer how vital it is to ensure that statistics on domestic abuse fully capture coercive control and the full context of abuse. We continue to work with the ONS to strengthen prevalence estimates and to explore ways to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on data collection.
The release today includes police figures which show domestic abuse-related offences recorded by the police have increased over the previous year, which continues a trend likely to reflect improved recording. With around only one in five women reporting abuse to the police (ONS 2018), we know that responses must go beyond the criminal justice system. We will of course continue to work with the police on training to ensure that when survivors do report, they are heard and supported.
Academic research indicates that the impact of the pandemic on reporting to police has varied by area, types of abuse and context. However, lockdowns have also likely led to a delay in separations. A survivor’s attempt to separate from an abuser is a known trigger of an escalation in domestic abuse. Therefore the easing of restrictions may lead to a need for increased support.
We continue to urge the government to guarantee that life-saving women’s domestic abuse services are resilient for the future, with a long-term funding settlement that enables them to support increased demand from survivors and their children.”