Violence reduction units (VRUs) approach to childhood trauma and domestic abuse

Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) bring together police, local government, health and education professionals, community leaders and other key partners. They provide a multi-agency response to the local drivers of serious violence in 18 areas across the UK, supporting a public health approach to tackling serious violence and its root causes.

The VRUs were created to focus on knife crime and gun crime, and areas where serious violence or its threat is inherent such as county lines drug dealing. Decisions about including other forms of serious violence such as domestic abuse and gender-based violence are left up to local needs assessment.

VRUs were set up with funding from the Home Office, following the introduction of the Serious Violence Duty in 2018. This duty has proved controversial for its stark omission of domestic abuse and sexual violence within its definition of serious violence, with little to no changes being seen in the latest Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

This briefing demonstrates how some VRUs are already using broader categorisations of serious violence than is included in the Government’s definition.

Violence Reduction Units are increasingly focusing on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and the impact of trauma in childhood, such as witnessing or experiencing domestic abuse and sexual violence.

We know that some VRUs, including London’s, have included domestic abuse and sexual violence as a key focus. We welcome this.

SafeLives are calling on the Government to follow the example set by VRUs across the country, and broaden the statutory definition of serious violence to include domestic abuse and sexual violence. Considering that one third of all violence recorded by the police is domestic abuse related, the new Police Bill offers a real opportunity for Government to put domestic abuse at the top of their agenda to reduce the rate of serious violence.

...compared to other crime types such as gang violence we know that there are no significant regional variations per head in rates of domestic abuse and other forms of VAWG. It cannot therefore be left to individual forces to opt out of including it.

Domestic Abuse Commissioner, May 2021

VAWG training and research

DA Matters training

Domestic Abuse (DA) Matters is a bespoke cultural change programme for police officers and staff in England and Wales, designed to transform the response to domestic abuse.

Responding to perpetrators

To end domestic abuse, we must stop it at the root. We challenge perpetrators to change and we work to stop domestic abuse before it happens. We’re actively building our evidence and understanding to develop approaches to prevent, identify and stop harmful behaviours.


Research and evidence around violence against women and girls in the UK.