The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on Domestic Abuse 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.