Response to the HMIC report – police engagement with women and girls

SafeLives welcomes today’s publication of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) (HMIC) on the police response to violence against women and girls. This is the most detailed report on policing of these issues since the ground-breaking report by HMIC – Everyone’s Business – in 2014.

This important report highlights an overwhelming epidemic of violence which is harming women and girls every day – and a system which too often fails them.

We welcome the overarching finding that a whole system approach and radical change are needed to stop this epidemic in its tracks. We agree that violence against women and girls must be afforded at least the same status as other high-harm crimes and addressed and resourced accordingly – with clear strategy, consistent and robust evidence-based practice, effective training, good multi-agency partnership working, and sustainable funding, particularly for the specialist services which provide vital support to victims and survivors and challenge perpetrators of abuse to change. 4 out of 5 victims never call the police – so we also welcome the HMIC acknowledgement that police response has to sit in a wider societal and systemic approach.

We support the call for a new statutory duty to tackle violence against women and girls. We need a new framework that mandates that all relevant agencies work together and share accountability for preventing abuse in the first place. And the report recognises the critical need to join up responses around the family, not just work in siloes and to multiple different thresholds around adults and children. This leaves gaps, and it leaves people at risk. We are working with local partners across the country on a whole family approach and will publish findings from that work in a few weeks’ time.

We also welcome the focus on tackling the perpetrators of abuse. For far too long, we have asked ‘why doesn’t she just leave?’ instead of ‘why doesn’t he stop?’* We know from our work as part of the Drive Partnership with Respect and Social Finance that challenging perpetrator behaviour can identify and stop harmful behaviour.

Despite clear progress in policing, there is more work to be done. Over half of English and Welsh forces and all of Police Scotland have participated in the Domestic Abuse Matters change programme developed and delivered by SafeLives, licensed by the College of Policing. In the upcoming Spending Review the Government has the chance to make the funding available so that this programme can be delivered to every UK force to improve how they close down the space for abusive individuals to harm the people around them.

Police response to VAWG – Final inspection report

This is a hugely important report. It makes clear a fundamental shift in thinking is needed to stop violence against women and girls. We’re 52% of the population and the harm we experience is not a niche issue. Ending abuse should command the same attention and support as any other issue killing hundreds of people through homicide and suicide every year.

A relentless and systemic approach is vital – we need to prevent abuse from happening in the first place, identify and stop harmful behaviour, increase the safety of everyone at risk from abusive individuals, and make sure whole families get the wraparound support they need. Whoever that family is, whatever their characteristics, wherever they live. This is a pan-Government issue and must from now on be tackled as a priority right across Government.

As Ministers change seats and the Spending Review starts in earnest, we absolutely must focus on young people and children, as well as adults, so that they can move safely into relationships of their own, and know how to support friends and family members they might be worried about, or say they need help if they’re worried about their own behaviour. We are breaking new ground in this area, but we need the strategic policies, frontline practice and investment to go with it.

We urge the Government to listen to the many recommendations in this report, and above all put the voices of victims and survivors at the heart and start of a system overhaul so that change truly meets their needs.

Suzanne Jacob OBE, Chief Executive of SafeLives


  • Over 2 million people aged 16-74 suffer some form of domestic abuse every year in the UK, and many children are victimised, too
  • An average of two women are killed a week by current or ex-partners in England and Wales, and estimates suggest the suicide rate for women who cannot reach safety is even higher
  • Only 1 in 5 victims ever interacts with the police about their abuse
  • 1 in 4 perpetrators are repeat offenders.  Some have many as six different victims.
    Currently only 1% of perpetrators of domestic abuse receive any specialist intervention to be challenged or change their behaviour.

VAWG strategy: response

SafeLives' response to the government’s consultation on its Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy 2021.

Training for police

SafeLives aim to end domestic abuse, for everyone and for good. Domestic Abuse (DA) Matters is a bespoke cultural change programme for police officers and staff across the UK.