Violence against women is more common than you might think. And it's often not a one-time event. It has both mental and physical effects, many long reaching. It impacts a woman's ability to work or have trusting relationships. It is perpetrated by strangers, but more likely someone well known to the victim.
Here we delve into statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales from the Office for National Statistics and the Homicide Index from the Home Office to learn more about sexual assault, domestic violence and homicide of women. We also break down the data on how assault rates vary by victim ages and where they live, relationships between victims and offenders, the short- and long-term effects on women of an assault, and more.
While this study is focused on crimes against women, there are points where we mention data on men for comparison sake. For instance, to show the differences in where women are most frequently murdered and by what means, when compared to men.
- Domestic abuse of women
- Rape and other sexual assaults of women
- Homicides of women
- How violence against women in the UK compares to other countries
Domestic Violence Against Women in the UK
Every year, well over 1 million women are victims of domestic abuse in the UK. In 2018, this figure stood at an estimated 1,316,000 women aged 16 - 59 who were victims of domestic abuse by a partner or other member of the family, on the receiving end of physical and non-physical abuse, threats, force, sexual assault or stalking. As you can see in the table below, 1,039,000 women where the victims of partner abuse, and another 405,000 by family abuse.
Those figures imply that approximately 128,000 women are abused by BOTH their partner and other members of their family each year (1,039,000 women abused by partner + 450,000 women abused by another family member - 1,316,000 women in total abused = 128,000 abused by both partner and family).
|Estimated numbers of female domestic abuse victims in year ending March 2018 (aged 16 - 59)|
|Any domestic abuse||1,316,000|
|Domestic abuse - Non-physical abuse||948,000|
|Domestic abuse - Threats or force||645,000|
|Domestic abuse - Threats||510,000|
|Domestic abuse - Force||365,000|
|Any partner abuse (incl. non-physical abuse, threats, force, sexual assault or stalking)||1,039,000|
|Any family abuse ((incl. non-physical abuse, threats, force, sexual assault or stalking)||405,000|
|Partner abuse - non-sexual||936,000|
|Family abuse - non-sexual||317,000|
|Any domestic sexual assault (including attempts)||71,000|
|Domestic indecent exposure or unwanted sexual touching||50,000|
|Domestic sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts)||44,000|
|Any sexual assault (including attempts) by a partner||60,000|
|Sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts) by a partner||37,000|
|Indecent exposure or unwanted sexual touching by a partner||43,000|
|Any sexual assault (including attempts) by a family member||22,000|
|Sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts) by a family member||14,000|
|Indecent exposure or unwanted sexual touching by a family member||10,000|
|Stalking by a partner/ex-partner||232,000|
|Stalking by a family member||104,000|
This means that 7.9% of women aged 15 - 59 were the victims of domestic abuse in 2018. In total, 28.9% of women have been subject to domestic abuse at one point or another since the age of 16.
|Percentage of women who've been victims of domestic abuse||In the last year||Since the age of 16|
|Any domestic abuse||7.9%||28.9%|
|Any partner abuse||6.3%||24.9%|
|Any family abuse||2.4%||10.8%|
|Non-physical abuse (emotional, financial)||5.7%||18.5%|
|Threats or force||3.9%||21.5%|
|Any domestic sexual assault (including attempts)||0.4%||7.2%|
Rape and Sexual Assault
Only a small proportion of sexual assaults is reported to the police. According to the most recently-available data (year ending March 2017), there were 30,202 sexual assaults of females aged 13+ recorded with the police—compared to an estimated 510,000 sexual assaults or sexual assault attempts of females aged 16 to 59.
The 26,464 female rapes or assaults by penetration (including attempts) reported to the police represents just 18% of the 144,000 estimated that year.
|Numbers of female sexual assault victims for the year ending March 2017|
|Estimated numbers of victims (aged 16 to 59)|
|Any sexual assault (including attempts)||510,000|
|Rape or assault by penetration (including attempts)||144,000|
|Indecent exposure or unwanted touching||443,000|
|Police recorded sexual offences|
|Rape of a female aged 16 or over||26,464|
|Sexual assault on a female aged 13 and over||30,202|
Ages of sexual assault victims
The age group most commonly affected by sexual assault is 16 to 19 year olds. 8.8% of the young women in this age group were a victim of some form of sexual assault in the year ending March 2017, with 2.9% the victim of rape or attempted rape.
Full-time students are the group most affected. Nearly 1 in 10 were victims of sexual assault (9.8%) and nearly 1 in 20 were victims of rape or attempted rape (4.4%).
|Prevalence of sexual assault on women, by age group||Any sexual assault (including attempts)||Indecent exposure or unwanted touching||Rape or assault by penetration (including attempts)|
Sexual assaults in different geographical areas
While people tend to think cities are more dangerous, the risk of sexual assault for women is not that much lower in rural areas. The rate of sexual assault was 3.1% in urban areas and 2.8% in rural areas.
The rate does vary quite a by region of the UK, however. Women in the North East are most at risk, with 5.5% being the victim of some form of sexual assault (including attempts) in the year ending March 2017. The region with the lowest rate of sexual assault against women is Yorkshire and the Humber.
|Percentage of UK women victims of sexual assault by region (including attempts)|
|Yorkshire and the Humber||2.1%|
Relationships between rape victims and suspects
The majority of rapes or assaults by penetration are carried out by someone known to the victim. 45% of the offenders are partners or ex-partners. Another 38% are other people known to the victim (e.g., a date or acquaintance). Only 13.3% of incidents are carried out by strangers.
|Victim-offender relationship for rape or assault by penetration (including attempts)|
Locations of sexual assaults
So much for home being a safe place. 38.8% of rapes or assaults by penetration (including attempts) occur in a woman's own home. Another 23.4% occur in the offender's home. This is not surprising, given that a high percentage of attacks are carried out by people close to the woman, such as partners or ex-partners.
|Location of rape or assault by penetration (including attempts)|
|In own home||38.8%|
|At the offender's home||23.4%|
|In a park/other open public place||5.6%|
|In a pub/club/disco||3.9%|
|On the street||3.4%|
|At school/university/place of study||3.0%|
|In a car park||1.3%|
|On public transport||0.2%|
How income affects prevalence of sexual assault
Women across income levels are affected by sexual assault, with the rate of sexual assault ranging from 2.3% to 3.3% across different income levels. The income group most affected are those making £20,000 to £30,000 a year (3.3%), but women earning more or less are similarly affected.
|Prevalence of sexual assault on women, by income level|
|Less than £10,000||2.8%|
|£10,000 to less than £20,000||2.7%|
|£20,000 to less than £30,000||3.3%|
|£30,000 to less than £40,000||2.3%|
|£40,000 to less than £50,000||2.6%|
|£50,000 or more||2.9%|
|No income stated or not enough information provided||4.6%|
Many women are victims in multiple assaults
Of the women who have been raped or assaulted by penetration (including attempts), nearly half (48.5%) have been victims multiple times. One in five victims has been raped or assaulted by penetration more than three times in her life.
|Number of times rape or assault by penetration (including attempts) since age 16 by victims aged 16 to 59|
|More than once||48.5%|
|More than three times||20.8%|
Violence and scare tactics used by offenders
In more than half (58.8%) of rape or assault by penetration incidents or attempts, the offender used physical force such as holding down, punching or kicking the victim. One in ten involved choking or trying to strangle the victim. 7% of women were told they'd be killed. Fear and threats of violence factored into one in four cases (25.2%). Victims were unconscious or asleep in nearly one in five situations (17.5%).
|How offender of rape or assault by penetration (including attempts) tried to make victim aged 16 to 59 have sex with them|
|Used physical force (held down, punched, kicked victim etc.)||58.8%|
|Frightened or threatened to hurt victim||25.2%|
|Used some other kind of force or intimidation||24.3%|
|Did not do any of these things||21.6%|
|Choked or tried to strangle victim||11.2%|
|Theatened to kill victim||7.1%|
|Frightened or threatened to hurt someone or something close to victim||7.0%|
|Don't know/can't remember||5.3%|
|Victim did not know||3.3%|
|Used a weapon such as a stick or a knife||3.1%|
|Threatened to use a weapon such as a stick or a knife||2.4%|
|Not unconscious or asleep||79.2%|
|Unconscious or asleep||17.5%|
Effects of sexual assault on a woman
Two in five victims (39%) of rape or assault by penetration (including attempts) are left with physical injuries. Bruising and black eyes are the most common injuries (27% of incidents) but severe injuries also occur. One in ten sexual assaults (9%) result in severe bruising or bleeding from cuts, and 6% involve internal injuries or broken bones/teeth.
But it's the effects we can't see that are far more prevalent in cases of rape. 64% of victims report mental or emotional problems. More than half (53%) stop trusting people or have difficulty in relationships. Nearly one in ten (9%) have tried to kill themselves as a result.
In addition, 4% of victims fell pregnant; 3% contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
|Effects of rape or assault by penetration (including attempts)|
|Any physical injury||39%|
|Minor bruising or black eye||27%|
|Severe bruising or bleeding from cuts||9%|
|Internal injuries or broken bones/teeth||6%|
|Any other physical injury||7%|
|Mental or emotional problems||64%|
|Stopped trusting people/difficulty in other relationships||53%|
|Stopped going out so much||30%|
|Tried to kill self||9%|
|Contracted a disease||3%|
In addition to physical and mental trauma, sexual assault impacts a woman's work. More than one in four (27.3%) took time off work as a result of rape or assault by penetration (including attempts). Of the women who took time off from work, nearly a third (32%) were off work for a month or more—that means that in 8.7% of all cases of rape or assault by penetration (including attempts), a woman was off work for at least a month afterwards. That's nearly one in ten.
|Time taken off work after rape or assault by penetration (including attempts)|
|No time off work||72.7%|
|Less than 1 full day||0.8%|
|Between 3 and 6 days||9.1%|
|Between 1 and 3 weeks||3.9%|
|A month or more||8.7%|
There were 694 homicides in the UK in the year ending March 2020. Of these, 188 were female victims (27%) and 506 were male (73%). Around 1 in 4 homicides involves a female victim.
|Number of Homicides in the UK (April '19 - Mar '20)||Number||Percentage of total|
Over time, the number of male homicides has increased more than the rate of female homicides. From 2010 to 2020, male homicides increased by 26.8% while female homicides dropped 2.6%.
Women aged 25 to 34 are most at risk of being murdered, with murder rates steadily dropping for older women.
|Number of female homicide victims by age||April '19 - Mar '20|
|16-24 years old||18|
|25-34 years old||36|
|35-44 years old||34|
|45-54 years old||24|
|55-64 years old||22|
|65-74 years old||17|
|75+ years old||25|
Methods of killing, by gender
Women are most often killed by sharp instruments (27%), followed by strangulation/asphyxiation (16%), hitting/kicking (11%) and blunt instruments (10%). In contrast, nearly half of male homicides are by sharp instruments like knives (44%), with hitting/kicking without weapons falling second (11%).
A higher proportion of women are murdered by strangulation, blunt instruments and burning when compared to men.
|% of male victims||% of female victims|
|Hitting, kicking etc. (without a weapon)||19%||11%|
|Poison or drugs||2%||2%|
Relationship between victim and suspect
Women are most likely to be murdered by someone they know (56.9% of female homicides), in particular partners or ex partners (32.4%). On the other hand, men are more likely to be murdered by someone they don't know (61.5% of male homicides)—in particular, strangers (32%).
|Relationship between murder victims and suspects||% of female victims||% of male victims|
|Victim acquainted with suspect|
|Son or daughter||3%||2%|
|Victim not acquainted with suspect|
|Total not known||43%||61%|
Locations of homicides, by gender
By a wide margin, women are most likely to be murdered in a residential setting. 71% of female homicides occur in or around a house (including the garden, drive, corridors, stairwells and garages). Another 7% of female homicides occur in residential homes (including nursing/care home, hostel, hotel, lodging house).
In contrast, men are half as likely to be murdered at a home when compared to women (36%). Men are mostly murdered in public places, in particular on a street, footpath or alleyway (38%).
|Location of homicides, by gender||% of female victims||% of male victims|
|House, dwelling (in and around)||71%||36%|
|Street, footpath, alleyway||11%||38%|
|Open outdoor area||4%||9%|
|Other public places||2%||5%|
How does the UK compare to other countries for violence against women?
The UK compares quick poorly against other countries when it comes to the prevalence of violence against women. According to data from the OECD, the percentage of women who have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner at some time in their life in the UK is 29%. Compare this to around 20% in Italy, Greece and Russia. Or 13% in Spain. Or 1.9% in Canada. Women in the US fare worse, with a whopping 35.6% of woman experiencing physical or sexual violence from a partner at least once.
|Prevalence of violence in the lifetime|