The Office for National Statistics (‘ONS’) has, I think for the first time, published an article examining data on ‘partner abuse’ in the UK from the last three years, to help develop insight into which women are most at risk of experiencing abuse by a partner or former partner.
Before I look at the article, I think it would be useful to explain exactly what ‘domestic abuse’ (I will use that term, which is the most commonly used one) means, as I think the issue of abuse is still misunderstood, or interpreted too narrowly, by many.
Domestic abuse is not just physical violence by one partner against the other. It is much more complex than that. The ONS article does explain what they mean by ‘partner abuse’, but I think it might be more useful here to look at what the Government is now saying on the subject.
The Government’s recent domestic abuse consultation, which is seeking views on measures to be included in the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill, proposes a new statutory definition of domestic abuse as follows:
Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:
Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
As will be seen, ‘domestic abuse’ covers a wide range of behaviours by the abuser. Indeed, it may be that the abused party may not even be aware that the behaviour they are enduring actually amounts to abuse.
OK, having got that out of the way, on to the ONS article. For space reasons I’m not going to go through its findings in detail (you can read the article here), instead just setting out some of the main points, which include:
• That young women (between 16 and 24 years old) were more likely to have experienced abuse in the last 12 months than older women (aged between 45 and 59 years old). No reasons for this are suggested.
• That women who had a long-term illness or disability were more than twice as likely to have experienced some form of abuse in the last 12 months than women who did not. Perhaps this is not entirely surprising – anyone in such a vulnerable position is sadly more likely to be a victim of abuse and less able to resist abuse.
• That women living in households with an income of less than £10,000 were more than four times as likely to have experienced abuse in the last 12 months than women living in households with an income of £50,000 or more; and similarly that women living in social housing were nearly three times as likely to have experienced abuse in the last 12 months than women who were owner-occupiers. Horrific figures, but again, perhaps this is not surprising, as clearly economic difficulties may be a factor leading up to abuse.
• Lastly, that married women are less likely to have experienced abuse than women with any other marital status. Unsurprisingly, women who were separated were significantly more likely to have experienced abuse.
Glenn Everett, Deputy Director of the Well-being, Inequalities, Sustainability & Environment Division at the ONS, commented on the findings:
“Today’s analysis gives insight into the characteristics of women and girls who are more likely to experience partner abuse. It also tells us about the types of households they live in. This can help to inform policies and services aimed at ending violence against women and girls.”
The findings are indeed interesting, even if most of them are surely quite predictable. Whatever, hopefully, they will be useful.
However, two things should be stressed.
Firstly, despite the above findings, domestic abuse can take place in any family, anywhere. In particular, wealth or social status is no protection against the scourge of abuse.
Secondly, men, of course, can be victims of domestic abuse as well, as I have discussed here previously.
Finally, if you are the victim of domestic abuse in any of its forms, you should seek help as soon as possible. For more information, see here