The violence behind closed doors

Unhappy couple (posed by models)

New figures published on Thursday offer a chilling insight into the violence and abuse that goes on behind closed doors. According to the data, two million people in England and Wales suffered sexual assault, violence, threats or abuse at the hands of a partner or family member last year.

Despite a much greater focus on domestic crime by police, it is a number that has barely changed in four years.

The data comes from the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) which regularly asks people about their personal experience of crime. Breaking the numbers down reveals that 1.2 million victims were women and 800,000 were men, a far higher proportion of male sufferers than people might have thought. Domestic abuse is not just a women's issue.

PDF download Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2011/12[611KB]

The survey suggests, though, that it is an issue of the poor, the sick and the separated.

Upset woman Some 1.2 million women suffered domestic violence in England and Wales last year

The pain of relationship breakdown is vivid in these figures. Among couples who had separated, 21% of women and 11% of men were victims of domestic abuse. For those in a marriage, the figure is 3% for both sexes.

Women who are unemployed are more than twice as likely to have experienced domestic violence or abuse in the last year than those with a job, 15% compared with 6%. For men it is 7% against 5%.

There is a clear correlation between lower incomes and higher risks of being a victim of domestic abuse. For men and women with incomes of less than £10,000 a year, the proportion affected last year was 9% and 12% respectively. Among those earning £50,000 or more, the risk falls to 4%.

Those with a long-standing illness or disability are also in greater danger - 13% of women in that category and 7% of men suffered domestic abuse last year compared with a general likelihood of 7% and 5% respectively.

These are often repeat crimes. A fifth of victims say they were affected at least three times, almost a third said they had suffered domestic abuse at least twice.

Upset man ... and 800,000 men

This data echoes the finding from a new Freedom of Information request that shows up to a third of domestic incidents recorded by the police are classified as repeat incidents. The FoI request was published on Thursday by the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, who says the scale of domestic violence is "disturbingly high".

"Some police forces and local councils do a great job working together and some are piloting early intervention schemes to identify and help those most at risk, but everyone could do more," Ms Cooper argues. "We need a new national board to set standards and drive change."

Start Quote

We need compulsory sex and relationship education in schools to include zero tolerance of violence in relationships”

End Quote Yvette Cooper

The same FoI request also shows that one in 10 of all 999 calls to the police relate to incidents of domestic violence. In some force areas, it is as high as one in five.

This might actually be a positive development. Victims are less reluctant to contact the police and more likely to trust them to deal with their cases sensitively and seriously.

Evidence for that comes in the official figures on rape. While the crime survey suggests little significant change in the incidence of rape over the last few years, the number of rapes reported to the police has risen from about 6,600 in 1997 to 16,000 in 2011/12.

Nevertheless, with the survey data suggesting violent crime has halved since 1995, the prevalence and intractability of domestic abuse is a cause for concern. The government says it regards the issue as a priority, and from next month the definition of domestic violence will be widened to include those aged 16-17 who are subject to psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse.

Mark Easton, Home editor Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    69 rah
    Emotional abuse, mental abuse, parental alienation, deprivation, however bad, are not violence, and should not be used to pad the domestic violence statistics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    @71 71. Lynsey
    Classic diversion tactic. By presuming it is done by "anyone other than women", you are implying that women violence towards men is a rarity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    There appears to be an assumption in the comments that the domestic violence against men is committed by women. The data showed that two million people in England and Wales suffered sexual assault, violence, threats or abuse at the hands of "a partner or family member". That could be a male or female partner or family member. Please let's not make assumptions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.


    Good to see you agree that accused (ie. not yet proven) should get a trial. Under so-called 'domestic violence' this is not the case. Instead, the complaint alone is enough to bring on the punishment. Here in the US due process rights are thrown out the window.

    The idea that anyone should be punished in any fashion without the benefit of a trial should be anathema to any reasonable person.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    65 magicalmale
    do a little research before commenting. violence is an act of intent against someone by force or power to deprive them. Not just act of physical violence, but emotional and mental abuse. look at the act of parental alienation of children which happens in dont have the right to treat your spouse in a way that would be illegal to do to someone on the street hence DV

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    @66. puddingandpi

    "I am a feminist" followed by sensible and egalitarian views.

    puddingandpi - careful when nailing your flag to the banner of "feminism". Feminism has done absolutely nothing to ameliorate domestic violence issues. Rather it has seen fit to ignore nearly half of the victims and in fact discourage help being made available to them. Read the Guardian article to see what I mean.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    I have often thought that educational courses (counselling) should be required for 2 very important events:
    1. getting married &
    2. having a child.
    These situations are 2 that do not automatically come with bliss; people are often shocked at the responsibility/accountability.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I am a feminist & a victim of severe domestic abuse - by my mother. She was violent to both her husbands as well as to us kids. I am very aware of female on male violence. I would never belittle the violence women suffer, but it can be worse for men. There aren't the support networks in place, there is humiliation & an attitude that it's ok for women to hit men. It isn't. Equality is equality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Hear hear bostonjoe 48. How on earth can 'psychological abuse' or 'emotional abuse' or 'financial abuse' count as domestic violence? Violence is physically hitting people. This is just stretching the definition of violence to make it meaningless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Again, we need to work more with families, encourage people to report their problems and PROTECT them.

    If we honestly want to stop it before it starts, we have to think and work generations ahead. The only route is through education and the values we teach pre-school and primary school. Sadly, no gov wants to spend for anything so far in the future.

  • Comment number 63.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    More needs to be done to highlight the the fact that males are abused as much as females. No funding, no refuges, not believed when reported to the police (the female only has to put in a false counter allegation and the male ends up arrested). Basically swept under the carpet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    At New Year Party a woman who had been a model in her earlier years, started to belittle her husband in front of everyone, this started an argument and the Husband decided to leave, he reached the top of the stairs and his wife pushed him down them. He was semi-conscious when he landed at the bottom. Then she started hitting my friend who defended herself by pulling her hair. Off came the Wig...

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Three cheers that this is out in the light. In Canada, watching good old 'Corrie' 3 months later than UK folks, the cast are currently doing a wonderful series about domestic abuse. Tyrone, the wrongly accused male, will hopefully have the truth come out soon. I know men are often the victims too. Let's get it ALL out!

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    gaslighting cited by psychologicalist as example of mental abuse.
    It was one of 3 types i was subjected to .

    The accused doesnt get a trial, pity that i would like for my ex to face the court for all the abuse i got ( post 43). suggest you do a little reading such as divorce poison.
    The beef you have is with false allegations

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    I don't know that it is a true picture of domestic violence that "For those in a marriage, the figure is 3% for both sexes." I do believe that a huge number of people who remain married will not admit to it. It is only after they separate that many will finally admit the truth. There is a level of (unwarranted) shame in admitted that you ar a victim.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    men are not all that bad, they have been victimized by vince cable and jeremy kyle, and worse, there is more battered guys out there than women.... they need help..... and there are more pressing matters, but what the hell, this is a vote winner....

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    what a doom men have to take it there's no way you can rightly hit back a woman it's worse for you to get involved with the wrong people how can you simply 'find someone else' people aren't found they aren't a commodity they have all got their lives to lead too as with education the only thing to do is start right so you finish right 'better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome wife'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Fellow able-bodied domestically abused men, stop whinging about it, you are probably much bigger and stronger than her anyway so deal with it. If it's a relentless issue, and she's mentally ill or alcoholic, seek help for her, she's your partner. Otherwise, if you upset her that much, seek relationship counselling to find out who's fault it is, or find somebody else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    @Rah...So now we criminalize people for 'gaslighting', a form of 'abuse' which came from a movie? Does the accused have a trial or is he just thrown into prison. Ridiculous.

    The 'domestic violence' industry is a scam for the financial benefit of lawyers mainly and for those who want to live off the government programs to save people from themselves. In the US we know them as 'poverty pimps'.


Page 1 of 4



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.