SafeLives responds to latest ONS domestic abuse data release

23rd November 2017

ONS data shows welcome decrease in prevalence of domestic abuse, but too many victims are still not receiving specialist support

SafeLives welcomes the latest domestic abuse data release from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The evidence clearly shows that progress has been made, but we need to do more for the 1 in 4 women who will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, and the two women a week who are murdered by their partner or ex-partner.

It is clear that some groups, particularly teenagers and older people, face additional barriers to accessing support and it is vital that our response works for those groups and their needs. We must support everyone to become safe and well, whoever they are, wherever they are.

An effective response – for everyone

It is encouraging to see a small decrease in the prevalence of domestic abuse compared to 2012, and the proportion of those experiencing domestic abuse who feel able to contact the police is rising. However, four out of five victims of domestic abuse still don't call the police. There is an urgent need for cultural change and training in police forces so that officers understand the dynamics of abuse and tactics of perpetrators so that when victims do call, they are met with support, knowledge and compassion. Without this, those who are already vulnerable are left at increased risk. Robust action is also needed against the perpetrator – the data shows this is still a very mixed picture throughout all stages of the Criminal Justice System and we know the same is true in other agencies too.

A tailored response – for those who need it

It is worrying to see that the highest self-reported levels of abuse are for teenagers - nearly double the average for all other age groups. Our Spotlight on young people found that 16 and 17 year olds experience abuse for an average of 1.5 years before accessing adult domestic abuse services – a clear indication that for many, the abuse happens before they are able to access the specialist support they so urgently need.

Our response to older people needs to be better too. SafeLives data shows a quarter of victims over 55 have lived with abuse for more than 20 years. We estimate that approximately 120,000 individuals aged 61+ have experienced at least one form of abuse. We need to reach these victims sooner, tailoring support to meet their needs.

SafeLives Deputy CEO, Suzanne Jacob said:

“Looking at this latest data from ONS we can see significant gaps in the response still exist for people experiencing abuse. Victims are not ‘hidden’ – they're coming forward in increasing numbers – we’re simply not doing enough yet to see them and respond. We hope this new evidence will encourage agencies to work together to see the whole picture, putting in place the best response, at the earliest stage, for all members of the family.”


About SafeLives

We are a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. We combine insight from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives. Since 2005, SafeLives has worked with organisations across the country to transform the response to domestic abuse, with over 60,000 victims at highest risk of murder or serious harm now receiving co-ordinated support annually. 

No one should live in fear. It is not acceptable, not inevitable, and together – we can make it stop.  

Every year, two million people experience domestic abuse. For every person being abused, there is someone else responsible for that abuse: the perpetrator. And all too often, children are in the home and living with the impact. 

Domestic abuse affects us all; it thrives on being hidden behind closed doors. We must make it everybody’s business.  

About the ONS data release

The ONS data release looks at domestic abuse in England and Wales for the year ending March 2017. The report brings together data on domestic abuse and its consequences from across police forces, the government and victim support organisations. It is the second annual report that brings these data together in one place and has been produced in response to a call from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) for better information that enables more thorough analysis of how domestic abuse is dealt with in individual force areas.

This is the first year that SafeLives’ data has been included as part of the ONS data release on domestic abuse and we welcome the opportunity to shine a light on the experiences of victims of domestic abuse at a national level.


For interviews or more information, please contact Natalie Mantle, Senior Communications Officer, on 0117 403 3220 or at