Who are the victims of domestic abuse?

Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence, but some people – particularly women – are more likely to be victims.

Who are the victims of domestic abuse?

  • Each year more than 100,000 people in the UK are at imminent risk of being murdered or seriously injured as a result of domestic abuse 2
  • Each year the situation of 50,000 high-risk victims and 70,000 children are discussed at Marac meetings across England and Wales. 4 More than 90% of these victims are female, and 5-10% are male. 15% are black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME). 4% are disabled. 1% are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT). 4

What are the characteristics of victims that mean they are more likely to be abused?

  • Gender: Women are much more likely than men to be the victims of high risk or severe domestic abuse: 95% of those going to Marac or accessing an Idva service are women 3,4
  • Low income: women in households with an income of less than £10,000 were 3.5 times more at risk than those in households with an income of over £20,000 5
  • Age: Younger people are more likely to be subject to interpersonal violence. The majority of high risk victims are in their 20s or 30s. 3 Those under 25 are the most likely to suffer interpersonal violence 5
  • Pregnancy: Nearly one in three women who suffer from domestic abuse during their lifetime report that the first incidence of violence happened while they were pregnant 6
  • Separation: Domestic violence is higher amongst those who have separated, followed by those who are divorced or single 5
  • Previous criminality of the perpetrator: domestic abuse is more likely where the perpetrator has a previous conviction (whether or not it is related to domestic abuse) 5
  • Drug and alcohol abuse: Victims of abuse have a higher rate of drug and/or alcohol misuse (whether it starts before or after the abuse): at least 20% of high-risk victims of abuse report using drugs and/or alcohol 2
  • Mental health issues: 40% of high-risk victims of abuse report mental health difficulties 2

Children and domestic abuse

  • 130,000 children live in households where there is high-risk domestic abuse 2
  • 64% of high and medium risk victims have children, on average 2 each 2
  • A quarter (25%) of children in high-risk domestic abuse households are under 3 years old. On average, high-risk abuse has been going on for 2.6 years, meaning these children are living with abuse for most of their life 2
  • 62% of children living in domestic abuse households are directly harmed by the perpetrator of the abuse, in addition to the harm caused by witnessing the abuse of others 1

Find out more

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



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

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

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

4 SafeLives (2014), Marac national dataset 2014. Bristol: SafeLives

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

6 Lewis, G, Drife, J, et al. (2001) Why mothers die: Report from the confidential enquiries into maternal deaths in the UK 1997-9; commissioned by Department of Health from RCOG and NICE (London: RCOG Press)