Select Committee on Home Affairs Sixth Report



3  Victims and survivors

41. In this section we explore how domestic violence, including "honour"-based violence and forced marriage, is experienced by different groups.

Women  

42. The British Crime Survey (BCS) estimates that one in four women are likely to have experienced some form of non-sexual domestic threat or force since the age of 16, that women are much more likely to be severely affected and that 'women are the overwhelming majority of the most heavily abused group'.[37] BCS data shows that 72% of abused women are victimised more than once, with an average of 20 incidents per victim.[38] Women also experience domestic violence in same sex relationships: in a UK-wide but non-random survey 40.1% of female respondents had experienced domestic abuse at some time in a same sex relationship.[39] 85% of cases dealt with by the Forced Marriage Unit are women.

Male victims

43. The issue of identifying male victims of domestic violence is complex and controversial. The Men's Advice Line states that there is a "fundamental dearth of research about male victims"[40] and the Home Office has commissioned research better to understand the issue.[41] Several men's groups argue that domestic violence is as prevalent and severe against men as it is against women. The BCS shows that one in six men say that they have experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives. These prevalence data suggest that men are victims almost as often as women. However, with more serious abuse repeated abuse, women are far more likely than men to be the victim (see paragraph 20).

44. Partner abuse amongst gay, bisexual or transgender (GBT) men accounts for a proportion of data recorded on male victims. Data on incidents recorded by the police indicate small numbers of GBT men reporting domestic violence, for example, GBT men accounted for 0.4% of domestic violence incidents recorded by Northumbria police.[42] However, in a UK-wide but non-random survey 35.2% of the male respondents said that they had experienced domestic abuse at some time in a same sex relationship.[43]

45. Approximately 15% of cases dealt with by the Forced Marriage Unit are men. The nature of violence against men forced into marriage is arguably somewhat different to that of female to male domestic violence in a heterosexual relationship or male to male in a same sex relationship, since the perpetrator(s) are often the parents, or extended family, rather than an individual.

46. Organisations working with male victims report a high degree of scepticism amongst professionals and the public towards male victims. For example, Parity, a gender equality campaigning charity, states:

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the police and other agencies...are often not even-handed in their response to male victims...in a significant number of cases arresting the male victim instead of the female perpetrator.[44]

47. Some respondants to our eConsultation noted that society does not condemn violence by women against men, as it does by men against women:

"Boys for years have been taught that is it not right to hit a girl. Counter to that, it is rare to hear girls educated not to hit boys. In fact I feel it is widely accepted that boys can be hit by girls and it is acceptable. Why? Is it because girls don't hit as hard and boys are tougher? The comic T-shirts by David and Goliath demonstrate this prevalent attitude to hitting and hurting of boys....can you imagine the uproar if there were T-shirts promoting the hitting or throwing of rocks at girls because they are stupid?" - drthomas

48. We recognise that there are male victims of domestic violence. We also note that the issue of the relative numbers of male and female victims is a highly emotive one in which views are polarised. During our inquiry we took evidence on both male and female experiences of domestic violence and forced marriage. We acknowledge that there is a dearth of reliable data about the prevalence of domestic violence against men. We have not made any assessment of the relative claims of male and female victims' groups, but the available evidence suggests that women experience more serious and more frequent violence than men.

Children

49. Children experience domestic violence as witnesses, and as direct victims. 30 per cent of domestic violence starts in pregnancy,[45] and between 4 and 9 women in every 100 are abused during their pregnancy and/or after the birth.[46] This suggests that a great many children are at risk of harm from domestic violence. Moreover, the risk of domestic violence for women is nearly doubled if there are children present in the household.[47]

50. At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence,[48] and in London 30 per cent of domestic violence murders are witnessed by children.[49] Children who live with domestic violence are at increased risk of behavioural problems, emotional trauma, and mental health difficulties in adult life.[50] Nearly three quarters of children deemed to be 'at risk' live in households where domestic violence occurs and 52% of child protection cases involve domestic violence.[51] 30% of the Forced Marriage Unit's cases involve minors (under 18). We heard via our eConsultation of the impact on children:

"From my professional perspective I can see this in the correlation between a number of children who have difficulties at school and domestic violence. This can be seen in their behaviour generally, a noticeable change in their behaviour following contact with their violent father, the number of children with speech and language difficulties, the number of children who are diagnosed as having ADHD which may well be their response to having been exposed to domestic violence and the children identified as having special educational needs." -Frances

51. Under-18s are excluded from the Government's definition of domestic violence, which refers to "any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults, aged 18 and over".[52]

Those with insecure immigration status

52. Those who enter the United Kingdom as a spouse or fiancé(e) of a person who is present and settled in the UK are granted limited leave to remain. Their initial two-year leave to remain status is subject to a condition that they have no recourse to public funds, although those given leave as spouses (or civil partners) are free to take employment. Having no recourse to public funds means that victims are unable to access housing or income support and therefore cannot easily access housing, even in refuges. In 2003, refuges were able to accommodate only approximately a third of the women with no recourse to public funds that approached them for emergency accommodation.[53] Victims of domestic violence in this group are, therefore, particularly vulnerable, trapped in a pattern of violence which they are unable to leave because their immigration status makes them totally financially dependent on their abuser. The number of victims in this category is not known, but Southall Black Sisters, a campaign and support organisation for BME women which works extensively with 'no recourse' victims, has estimated that there are 600 women each year in the UK.[54]

53. The Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation (IKWRO), a London-based charity which works with women with 'no recourse to public funds', give the following case study:[55]

'No Recourse to Public Funds' Case Study: 'SA'

SA entered the UK in November 2004 on a marriage visa. Her husband became extremely violent (physically, mentally, sexually and financially) toward her soon after her arrival. To SA's knowledge, her husband was a violent criminal. He told her that he didn't love her and that he loved another woman with whom he had been having an affair. He asked her to leave and threatened to kill her if she refused go back to her country. SA discussed her situation with her uncle (her legal guardian); he told her that she had not been a good wife to her husband and that she had no rights; she was not permitted return because this would bring shame to her family.

We contacted police and at the same time tried hard to locate safe accommodation for her, but there were no places for her as she was not entitled to statutory welfare benefit, and had no income to pay toward her housing and living costs. The police couldn't help her for the same reason. She decided to stay with a family friend, but her husband found out and threatened them, took her back and assaulted her.

We managed to get an injunction and she can stay in the flat. We claimed asylum for her on the grounds of domestic violence: she is still waiting for her decision. During the last few months, she had no income to live on whatsoever.

Other groups with specific needs

54. There are several other groups of victims also with specific needs, such as disabled, gay or lesbian victims, or those with alcohol and substance misuse problems. We did not take evidence on the specific needs of these groups during our inquiry. However, we note that these groups also face particular barriers in accessing support, and that there is often little to no specialist provision for their needs. For example, disabled victims may be even less able to access help since their abuser may also be their carer, and they may therefore be dependent on the abuser for help with mobility, medication or communication. In the case of lesbian or gay victims who are not living openly as gay, the abuser may use threats to expose them to further abuse the victim.[56]

Victims' voices in our inquiry: the Committee's eConsultation

55. Whilst we did not commission original research to add to statistical evidence on the extent of domestic violence, we focused on the experiences of victims and survivors as a vital aspect of our inquiry. To this end, we set up a secure online consultation to hear directly from the victims and survivors of domestic violence, including "honour"-based violence and forced marriage. The eConsultation ran for 6 weeks in January and February 2008, and received over 240 postings from victims and those working to support them. A summary of the eConsultation is published as an Annex to this report, and an analysis of the individual postings is contained in the volume of evidence published alongside this report. The postings have also directly informed our analysis and recommendations. We reiterate our thanks to all those courageous people who revisited their own experiences in order to help us with our inquiry.

 


37   Walby and Allen, Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey, Home Office Research Study 276 (2004), vii Back

38   Ibid., vi Back

39   Donovan, C., Hester, M. (2007), Comparing Love and Domestic Violence in Heterosexual and Same Sex Relationships: Full Research Report, ESRC End of Award Report, RES-000-23-0650, p 7 Back

40   Ev 309 Back

41   This research is due to report in July 2008 Back

42   Hester and Westmarland (2006-07) Domestic Violence Perpetrators, Criminal Justice Matters, 66, pp 34-39 Back

43   Donovan, C., Hester, M. (2007), Comparing Love and Domestic Violence in Heterosexual and Same Sex Relationships: Full Research Report, ESRC End of Award Report, RES-000-23-0650, p 7 Back

44   Ev 101 Back

45   Lewis and Drife (2001, 2005); McWilliams and McKiernan (1993), cited by Women's Aid Federation of England, Statistics: Domestic Violence, http://www.womensaid.org.uk/core/core_picker/download.asp?id=1602. Back

46   Taft (2002), cited by Women's Aid Federation of England, Statistics: Domestic Violence, http://www.womensaid.org.uk/core/core_picker/download.asp?id=1602. Back

47   Walby and Allen, Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey, Home Office Research Study 276 (2004), p 87 Back

48   Department of Health (2002), cited by Women's Aid Federation of England, Statistics: Domestic Violence, http://www.womensaid.org.uk/core/core_picker/download.asp?id=1602. Back

49   Metropolitan Police, Findings from the Multi-Agency Domestic Violence Murder Reviews in London (2003), p 10 Back

50   Kolbo et al (1996), Morley & Mullender (1994), Hester et al (2000), cited by Women's Aid Federation of England, Statistics: Domestic Violence, http://www.womensaid.org.uk/core/core_picker/download.asp?id=1602. Back

51   Department of Health (2002); Farmer & Owen (1995), cited by Women's Aid Federation of England, Statistics: Domestic Violence, http://www.womensaid.org.uk/core/core_picker/download.asp?id=1602. Back

52   See paragraph 5 of this report for Government definition of domestic violence. Back

53   Southall Black Sisters, Domestic violence, Immigration and No recourse to public funds: a briefing to amend the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill 2004, http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/research.html  Back

54   Southall Black Sisters and Amnesty International, No Recourse, No Safety (2008), p 7 Back

55   Ev 291 Back

56   Barking and Dagenham Primary Care Trust, Domestic violence, a resource for lesbian and bisexual women, p 2 Back

 
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