How long do people live with domestic abuse, and when do they get help to stop it?

Families may live with domestic abuse for a significant period before getting effective help. 

There are many reasons why families live with domestic abuse for a significant period of time, or return to their abuser after attempting to leave. It may not be apparent to the victim that a relationship is abusive. They may be afraid of the abuser, and fear the consequences for others if they disclose the abuse. The victim may not know where to turn for help.

How long do victims live with domestic abuse?

  • On average high-risk victims live with domestic abuse for 2.3 years and medium risk victims for 3 years before getting help 5

Getting help for domestic abuse

  • 85% of victims sought help on average five times from professionals in the year before they got effective help to stop the abuse 4
  • On average victims experience 50 incidents of abuse before getting effective help 5,6
  • Each year there are over 1 million calls to police in England and Wales about domestic abuse, and on average someone contacts the police every 30 seconds for help with domestic abuse 3
  • 78% of high-risk victims report the abuse to the police in the year before they get effective help, on average 2.8 times each 5
  • 68% of high-risk victims try to leave in the year before getting effective help, on average 2 or 3 times each 5
  • 23% of high-risk victims attend A&E as a result of their injuries in the year before getting effective help, many multiple times 5
  • A third (34%) of children in high-risk domestic abuse households are not known to children’s social care 1
  • At least 80% of children in domestic abuse households are known to at least one public agency 1

Domestic abuse crimes and convictions

  • There are 270,000 crimes reported each year related to domestic abuse in England and Wales 3
  • There are 6,400 domestic abuse-related sexual offences, 96,000 domestic abuse-related assaults with injury and 27,300 domestic abuse-related harassment crimes recorded by police each year in England and Wales 3
  • Domestic abuse-related crime forms 8% of total crime, and 11% of all sexual offences, 33% of all recorded assaults with injury, and 49% of all recorded harassment crimes in England and Wales 3
  • In 2013-14, there were 78,000 prosecutions for domestic abuse offences. The conviction rate for domestic violence offences in England and Wales was 75% 2
  • 64% of all harassment and stalking prosecutions and 77% of all restraining order breaches in England and Wales in 2013-14 were domestic violence related 2


Caada (2014), In Plain Sight: Effective help for children exposed to domestic abuse. Bristol: Caada.

CPS (2014), Violence against women and girls crime report 2013-14. London: Crown Prosecution Service.

HMIC (2014), Everyone’s Business: Improving the police response to domestic abuse. London: HMIC. 

4 SafeLives (2015), Getting it right first time: policy report. Bristol: SafeLives.

5 SafeLives (2015), Insights Idva National Dataset 2013-14. Bristol: SafeLives.

6 Walby, S. and Allen, J. (2004), Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey. London: Home Office.