Who does what to whom?

There are many kinds of evidence and information that help us decide how to respond to domestic violence: how to prevent abuse – and the kinds of services to tackle perpetrators and support and empower survivors.

One important part of the evidence is the data that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports in November each year[1].  It often forms the basis of media articles around this time[2].

And it is around this time of year because of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November)[3] – because domestic violence is predominantly gender-based violence – predominantly violence against women by men.

So it is vital in all our responses to domestic violence that we are clear about who does what to whom.

But here the data collection in England and Wales lets us down – Police Forces are still failing to produce the most basic data on whether victims and perpetrators are male or female.

If these are the data being used to make decisions on the seriousness of the issue and what should be done to tackle it, what does it say about priorities that only 28 out of 43 regional Police Forces in England and Wales can report the sex of the victim and the perpetrator[4]?

Police Forces producing adequate data in 2018 (coloured blue)


Police Forces producing adequate data in 2019 (coloured blue)

At this rate it will still be years until England and Wales has just the very basic evidence of “who does what to whom” in terms of domestic abuse reported to the Police.

[1]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwalesoverview/november2019

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/25/domestic-abuse-charges-fall-despite-rise-in-recorded-crimes

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7725361/Domestic-abuse-cases-rose-quarter-2018.html

[3] https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/take-action/16-days-of-activism

[4] A rise from 24 in 2018 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2018  – but it is different Police Forces producing adequate data, with some which produced adequate data in 2018 failing to do so in 2019.

The churn of thousands of journeys

Most local authorities have around the same number of women arriving to access services because of domestic violence as the number of women who leave their area due to the abuse[1].  Authorities may not realise this, of course, as women (and their children) leave secretly – to reduce the risk from the abuser, they don’t tell the authorities when they leave, or where they are going.

Local authorities who provide domestic violence services – especially refuges or specialist accommodation services – tend to imagine a flow of women and children into their area from elsewhere.  They know nothing about their local women who escape violence and abuse by crossing boundaries – the women who leave.

It is only because of the service data for the whole of England (up to 2011) that we can see the wider picture[2].  And that is still only the picture of women and children who went to those particular types of housing services.

It is a striking picture – no strong flows between local authorities.  Not even strong flows into major cities, or along key public transport routes.

Animation to focus in on one year of women’s domestic violence journeys to services

It is a pattern of thousands of very individual journeys – including journeys from every single local authority in England.  It is a total churn of displacement – journeys probably far more complex than the straight lines on the map.  But even a flow map of one year of journeys[3] gives a sense of the disruption and upheaval for women and children seeking safety across the country.


[1] Bowstead, Janet C. 2015. “Forced Migration in the United Kingdom: Women’s Journeys to Escape Domestic Violence.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40 (3): 307–320. doi:10.1111/tran.12085.

[2] Department for Communities and Local Government and University of St Andrews, Centre for Housing Research (2012) Supporting People Client Records and Outcomes, 2003/04-2010/11: Special Licence Access [computer file]. Colchester, Essex, UK Data Archive [distributor]. Available from: <http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-7020-1>

[3] https://vimeo.com/369289835

Invisible women

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on Domestic Abuse[1] uses a wide range of data sources to bring together the evidence on prevalence, on incidence, on accessing services.  As the report acknowledges – it raises many questions, and highlights many gaps in the evidence.

For the section on prevalence – on the numbers of the population of England and Wales who experience domestic abuse – the report relies on the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).  It focuses on the number of adults who experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2018.

But who is invisible in this evidence?

Anyone who is on the move or in temporary accommodation due to domestic abuse.

The Crime Survey is a survey – only asked of adults in “households”.

So women on the move (and it is mostly women), including women in domestic abuse refuges – the women most directly and acutely affected by domestic abuse in the past year – have no chance of being asked the Crime Survey questions.  They have no chance of being counted in this measure of domestic abuse prevalence.

This is briefly acknowledged in a note on page 11 of the report – but it’s a major gap – it could be made a lot clearer.  The prevalence figures from the Crime Survey are presented as the top “Headline figure” at the start of the report, with no mention of the problem of the invisible women on the move.

Maybe it would be better to estimate lifetime prevalence from the survey – rather than just the past 12 months.  But we know that women and their children can end up on the move or in temporary accommodation for years due to domestic abuse – so survey data are always going to have important gaps.

The key question here is to be aware that the main method for estimating the number of people experiencing domestic abuse automatically excludes those most acutely affected – tens of thousands of women and children on the move.

 

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2018

What about the men?

Domestic violence and abuse is often very hidden, and people frequently ask for more evidence on the needs of women and children – and the needs of men.

Men do experience domestic abuse, but we have evidence of very different rates of abuse for men and women – and that men have different needs.

Administrative data collected by housing-related support services[1] show:

  • Men seek support on a wide range of issues at an equal rate to women.  But where domestic violence is the issue, men are a tiny minority – only 3.1%:

All support needs – men and women

 

 

 

 

 

Domestic violence support needs – men and women

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Men are equally likely as women to self-refer to services – to seek help themselves when they experience domestic abuse – but more likely than women to be referred by statutory agencies such as Housing and Criminal Justice.  In contrast, women are more likely to be referred by voluntary agencies.

 

  • Needs are also different, with men less likely to have children with them, and more likely to have stayed put or stayed local when they seek help.

Accompanied by children – men and women

Relocation and distance travelled – men and women

This kind of evidence can help people make the best decisions about support services – that the vast majority of domestic violence services should be provided for women – often accompanied by children – and that men’s needs are different as they are more likely to be staying put and staying local when they seek support.

[1] Department for Communities and Local Government and University of St Andrews, Centre for Housing Research (2012) Supporting People Client Records and Outcomes, 2003/04-2010/11: Special Licence Access [computer file]. Colchester, Essex, UK Data Archive [distributor]. Available from: <http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-7020-1>

 

Poverty and escaping violence

You often hear and read stereotypes and assumptions about the connections between poverty and domestic abuse.  Actual connections are harder to untangle…

 

Some of the (sometimes contradictory) claims made are that:

  • Women with fewer economic resources are more likely to be abused
  • Men with fewer economic resources are more likely to be violent
  • The difference in economic resources within the household is more important than actual resources – but this could work both ways:
    • greater equality between men and women means less violence
    • increasing equality for women leads to a backlash and more violence

 

Whatever the connections between poverty and experiencing abuse, there is the clearer claim that women need economic resources to be able to escape abuse and re-build a new life free from violence.

 

However, one of the difficulties is that leaving abuse is often so private that you are not going to be answering surveys about your income at the time.  And all the main social surveys – such as the Crime Survey of England and Wales – do not survey anyone in temporary accommodation: so women in refuges, Bed & Breakfast or staying with friends or family will not be surveyed.

 

And then there is the fact that women will usually have to give up their jobs, and their studies, to escape – and pay out money for travel, to replace clothes and possessions; and pay over the odds for all kinds of expenses in a new unfamiliar area.

 

So your economic situation before you leave is not the same as your economic situation on the move, or settling in a new area.

 

All in all, it’s difficult to untangle women’s experiences of poverty and domestic abuse – however, research by Jude Towers is working on this, and highlighting how crucial it is that women have access to their own money to be able to leave – and to be able to start again.

Dangerous journeys – Safe research

Women make journeys to escape domestic violence – to escape a known abuser.  They can be at highest risk of violence at the point of leaving, when a controlling partner senses or realises that she is breaking away from his control.  Women’s ongoing safety often depends on keeping hidden – the safety of themselves and their children depends on not being tracked down.  They will often travel to the least likely place, and cut contact with friends and family members, so that there is no chance of anyone disclosing where they have gone.

 

Their dangerous journeys are therefore hidden journeys.

 

Even when women and children are starting to resettle in a new safe area, they will often still keep very secret the details of where they have come from, and why they moved.

 

As a result, it is difficult to research these journeys – and vital that any research is carried out safely.

 

Research using administrative data is one way to carry out detailed research, but research which does not place women and children at risk.  Administrative data are the information that services collect to manage and monitor what they do.  If it is de-identified in terms of individuals (and confidential locations such as women’s refuges) it can be used to provide evidence of women’s relocation to access services.  It can be used to carry out safe research on dangerous journeys.

 

For details of how such data are used in this project on women’s domestic violence journeys, see Administrative data as a safe way to research hidden domestic violence journeys

 

And for further details on using administrative data for research see https://adrn.ac.uk/

 

Hidden from survey data – women on the move

Many of the statistics you might hear quoted about domestic violence are from surveys.  In Britain, this may be particularly the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey and the Crime Survey of England and Wales.

 

However, these surveys are asked of a sample of people from a household register – so specifically exclude anyone who is on the move, in temporary accommodation, staying with friends or family, staying in a women’s refuge…

 

So the survey data you hear quoted has systematically excluded anyone on the move because of domestic violence – the statistics on domestic violence are actually excluding some of the women most affected by domestic violence…

 

It’s a problem.

 

It’s one of the reasons why this ‘Women on the Move’ research uses administrative data about people accessing temporary accommodation because of domestic violence.  Next week at the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN) annual conference in Edinburgh there will be a presentation about using administrative data as a safe way to research these hidden domestic violence journeys.  See http://www.adrn2017.net/agenda.html

 

For a discussion about how surveys could better measure violence, see an article in the new ‘Journal of Gender-Based Violence’ (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tpp/jgbv) where Sylvia Walby and Jude Towers highlight the “long-standing concern as to the exclusion of those who are, temporarily, not staying in their permanent place of residence, since this may be a result of domestic violence”. (Walby and Towers, 2017: 17).

 

You will also see a new article about this ‘Women on the Move’ research – about how policy and practice can further fragment women’s domestic violence journeys (Bowstead, 2017).

 

References:

Bowstead JC. 2017. Segmented journeys, fragmented lives: Women’s forced migration to escape domestic violence. Journal of Gender-Based Violence 1: 43–58 DOI: 10.1332/239868017X14912933953340

Walby S, Towers J. 2017. Measuring violence to end violence: mainstreaming gender. Journal of Gender-Based Violence 1: 11–31 DOI: 10.1332/239868017X14913081639155