How widespread is domestic abuse and what is the impact?

High numbers of women – and many men – will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. The impact of domestic abuse on the victim and on children – even once they have achieved safety – is severe and long-lasting.

How widespread is domestic violence?

How many people die as a result of domestic abuse?

What forms does domestic abuse take?

What are the physical health impacts of domestic abuse?

What are the mental health impacts of domestic violence?


How widespread is domestic abuse?

  • Each year around 2.1m people suffer some form of domestic abuse -  1.4 million women (8.5% of the population) and 700,000 men (4.5% of the population) 10
  • An estimated 4.6m women (28% of the adult population) have experienced domestic abuse at some point since the age of 16  10
  • A quarter of 13-18 year old girls report experiencing physical abuse in their own intimate partner relationships, and one-third sexual abuse 11
  • In 2013-14 the police recorded 887,000 domestic abuse incidents in England and Wales  10

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How many people die as a result of domestic abuse?

  • In 2013-14, 85  women were murdered by their partner or ex-partner in England and Wales. This accounted for just under half (46%) of all murders of women aged 16 or over. In comparison, 7% of men murdered were killed by their partner or ex-partner 10
  • This means 1.6 women a week – or 7 a month – are killed by a current or ex-partner in England and Wales 10
  • It is estimated many more take their own lives as a result of domestic abuse: every day almost 30 women attempt suicide as a result of experiencing domestic abuse and every week three women take their own lives 12

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What forms does domestic abuse take?

  • 88% of high-risk victims experience multiple forms of abuse, including physical and sexual abuse, harassment and stalking and coercive control (jealous and controlling behaviours)14
  • In 8 in 10 (79%) high-risk cases, the abuse is escalating in either frequency or severity, or both 13
  • Approximately 42% of domestic violence victims have been victimised more than once. Victims experience an average of 20 incidents of domestic violence in a year, which can often increase in severity each time 12
  • Over 80% of high-risk victims report experiencing physical abuse14
  • Nearly 90% of high-risk victims report experiencing emotional abuse and/or coercive control (jealous and controlling behaviours) 14
  • 79% of teenage victims of domestic abuse experienced physical abuse, and 19% sexual abuse 2

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What are the physical health impacts of domestic abuse?

  • 1 in 5 high-risk victims reported attending A&E as a result of their injuries in the year before getting effective help 13
  • As well as short term injuries, victims of abuse suffer long-term physical health consequences. Health conditions associated with abuse include: asthma, bladder and kidney infections, cardiovascular disease, fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndromes, central nervous system disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, migraines/headaches 1, 4, 8
  •  Domestic abuse often leaves victims with reproductive consequences too, including gynaecological disorders, sexually transmitted infections, pre-term difficulties and pregnancy difficulties 5
  • At least a fifth (18%) of children in domestic abuse households are injured as a result of the abuse 3

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What are the mental health impacts of domestic abuse?

  • 40% of high-risk victims report having mental health issues 13
  • 16% of victims report that they have considered or attempted suicide as a result of the abuse, and 13% report self-harming 14
  • Domestic abuse has significant psychological consequences for victims, including anxiety, depression, suicidal behaviour, low self-esteem, inability to trust others, flashbacks, sleep disturbances and emotional detachment 5
  • Domestic abuse victims are at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – as many as two-thirds of victims of abuse (64%) developed PTSD in one study 6
  • Between 30 and 60% of psychiatric in-patients had experienced severe domestic abuse 7

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Find out more

Who are the victims of domestic abuse?



Black, M.C. et al. (2011), The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA.

2 Caada (2012), A Place of Greater Safety. Bristol: Caada.

3 Caada (2014), In Plain Sight: Effective help for children exposed to domestic abuse: 2nd national policy report. Bristol: Caada.

Crofford, L.J. (2001), Violence, stress, and somatic syndromes in ‘Trauma Violence Abuse’ 8: 299–313.

5 CTC (2014), Website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention.

http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/consequenc... Accessed 4 February 2015.

6 Golding, J. (1999), Intimate partner violence as a risk factor for mental disorders: a meta-analysis in ‘Journal of Family Violence’, 14 (2), 99-132.

7 Howard, L.M., Trevillion, K., Khalifeh, H., Woodall, A., Agnew-Davies, R. and Feder, G. (2010), Domestic violence and severe psychiatric disorders: prevalence and interventions in ‘Psychological Medicine’ (2010), 40 ,881-893. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

8 Leserman, J. and Drossman, D.A. (2007), Relationship of abuse history to functional gastrointestinal disorders and symptoms in ‘Trauma Violence Abuse’ 8:331–343.

9 Caada (2012), A Place of Greater Safety. Bristol: Caada.

10 ONS (2014), Crime Survey England and Wales 2013 - 14. London: Office for National Statistics.

11 NSPCC (2011), Partner Exploitation and Violence in Teenage Intimate Relationships. London: NSPCC.

12 Walby, S. (2004), The cost of domestic violence. Women and Equality Unit

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

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