violence 'widespread' says Home Office report
Domestic violence was suffered by around 867,000 people in
15.4 million incidents over one year in England and Wales
– five times more than official figures previously indicated,
according to a report released today by the Home Office.
report – by Professor Sylvia Walby of the University
of Leeds and Jonathan Allen of the Home Office – reveals
that nearly half of all women have suffered domestic violence,
sexual assault or stalking at some point in their lives
report’s publication coincides with the second reading
today of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill in
a self-completed questionnaire carried out as part of the
2001 British Crime Survey 2.8 percent of a sample of more
than 22,000 women and men revealed they had been victims of
domestic violence during the year, compared with 0.6 percent
reported in the main BCS, which is based on face-to-face interviewing.
Walby said: “This is the most definitive account yet
of domestic violence, sexual victimisation and stalking. Face-to-face
interviewing leads to under-reporting because victims are
reluctant to talk about domestic violence or sexual assault
with an interviewer who is a stranger. With the self-completion
method the extent of these crimes is revealed more fully than
survey also shows the overlap between these forms of violence.
Half the rapes were simultaneously domestic violence, since
they were carried out by current or former husbands or partners.
Leaving a relationship was not always sufficient to get the
violence to stop – for one fifth it continued, sometimes
in another form, such as stalking.”
research shows that while domestic violence, sexual assault
and stalking are widespread, and are experienced by men as
well as by women, they are also concentrated. Those subject
to more than four incidents of domestic violence were overwhelmingly
women (89 percent) and the average number of incidents among
women subject to domestic violence was 20 in one year.
self-completed questionnaire asked a nationally-representative
sample of 22,463 women and men aged 16-59 about their experience
of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
the self-completion methodology respondents use a laptop computer
to select answers to questions only they can read on the screen.
Not even the interviewer knows the answers the respondent
provides. The greater confidentiality of the methodology is
a major reason for the higher rates of reporting. Indeed one
third of women survivors of domestic violence and rape had
told no one other than the survey about these experiences.
shortened version of the questionnaire will be asked in the
self-completion mode during 2004, but there are no plans to
repeat it thereafter. Professor Walby said: “Without
regular repeats of the self-completion module on inter-personal
violence, the only available official statistics on domestic
violence will be those using a methodology that produces estimates
that are five times lower.”
further information contact:
Antony Adshead, press office, University of Leeds: 0113 343
* In the year prior to interview, there were an estimated
15.4 million incidents of domestic violence – 12.9 million
against women, 2.5 million against men.
* Around a third of people (36 percent), nearly half of women
(45 percent) and around a quarter of men (26 percent) reported
being subject to some form of inter-personal violence at some
point during their lifetimes, using the broadest definition.
* Among those subject to four or more incidents of domestic
violence, 89 percent were women.
* There were an estimated 190,000 incidents of serious sexual
assault of women – rape and assault by penetration –
over the year, of which 47,000 incidents were rape by the
1994 legal definition. In around half (54 percent) of the
incidents of rape, the rapist was a husband/partner or former
husband/partner of the woman. In a further 29 percent of cases
the woman knew the rapist. Only 17 percent were strangers.
Only four percent were date rapes.
* Most women suffered physical injury during the worst incident
of domestic violence – 46 percent minor (such as scratches),
20 percent moderate (such as severe bruising), six percent
severe (such as broken bones).
* Among women subject to rape or assault by penetration, 52
percent suffered depression or other emotional problems, while
five percent attempted suicide.
* Whether survivors thought what had happened to them was
a ‘crime’ or ‘domestic violence’ depended
on how severely they were abused. Overall 64 percent of survivors
did not think what had happened to them was a crime, but two-thirds
of those who had been subject to many attacks did. Women were
more likely to describe what had happened to them as ‘domestic
violence’ or as a ‘crime’ if they sustained
injuries and if the acts were severe and repeated.
* Of women subject to an act that met the 1994 legal definition
of rape (in operation at the time of the survey), only 43
percent described it as rape.
* Among women who left their violent partner, in 18 percent
of cases the violence continued in another form, such as stalking,
while for 63 percent it stopped. It got better for eight percent,
stayed about the same for five percent, got worse for three
percent, and only started when they split up for three percent.
* One fifth of the worst incidents of domestic violence suffered
involved former partners. For seven percent cent of women
survivors of domestic violence, the worst incident took place
after they stopped living with their violent partner. Leaving
the relationship is the most dangerous time for a small but
significant minority of women.
* Among abused women who had left the perpetrator of the domestic
violence, but who had seen him because of their children,
one third (36 percent) had experienced threats or abuse to
themselves or their children.
* One third of women survivors (31 percent) of domestic violence
had not told anyone other than the survey about it. 40 percent
of women who had been raped had not told anyone. By contrast,
nine percent of women who were subject to stalking had not
told anyone. Men were less likely to tell than women.
* The police came to know about less than one in four cases
(23 percent for women) of domestic violence, and less than
one in seven cases of sexual assault.
* Women survivors’ reasons for not involving the police
in cases of domestic violence were that: the incident was
too trivial (41 percent); it was a private family matter (38
percent); they did not want any more humiliation (seven percent);
they feared more violence or that the situation would get
worse if the police were to be involved (13 percent). This
last figure means that one-in-eight women suffering domestic
violence thought that the police would make matters worse
rather than better.
* The findings from the 2001 BCS self-completion module on
domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are published
as Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking: Findings
from the British Crime Survey – Home Office Research
Study 276 by Sylvia Walby and Jonathan Allen. Free copies
are available from Home Office, Research Development and Statistics
Directorate, Communications and Development Unit, Room 264,
Home Office, 50 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1H 9AT.
For a copy call 020 7273 2084 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
or download from the Home Office website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/horspubs1.html
* The British Crime Survey (BCS) is an annual survey carried
out for the Home Office that investigates the amount and nature
of crimes committed against individuals and households in
England and Wales. It is victim-centred, in that the questions
are addressed to people who may have been victims of crimes.
* The annual BCS survey uses face-to-face interviewing. These
statistics are published annually, usually the following year.
The interviewing method is known to lead to under-reporting,
since not everyone is willing to talk about domestic violence
or sexual assault with a stranger who is an interviewer. A
different methodology, based on ‘self-completion’
is used occasionally, but not regularly, by the BCS for crimes
that are ‘sensitive’, and for a number of other
issues (eg, self-reporting of drug use), where confidentiality
is likely to increase the response rate.
* The Home Office defines domestic violence as: “Any
violence between current or former partners in an intimate
relationship, wherever and whenever the violence occurs. The
violence may include physical, sexual, emotional or financial