Coercive control lies at the heart of domestic abuse yet less than 1% of domestic abuse-related offences are recorded by the police as coercive control – Women’s Aid

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released their Crime in England and Wales: year ending March 2017 which reveals that domestic abuse continues to a significant crime with 11% of all offences recorded by the police being flagged as domestic abuse-related despite low levels of survivors reporting abuse to the police and shocking lack of awareness of coercive control within the police.

Key figures:

  • 11% of all offences recorded by the police are flagged as domestic abuse-related
  • 31% of all violence against the person offences are flagged by police as domestic abuse-related
  • 10% year-on-year increase in police recording domestic abuse-related offences. There were 464,886 domestic abuse-related offences in the year ending March 2017 compared to 421,185 in the previous year
  • Less than 1% of these domestic abuse-related offences were recorded as coercive control. Only 4,246 offences of coercive control were recorded in the year ending March 2017 despite coercive controlling behaviour lying at the heart of domestic abuse

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, says:

The latest statistics on domestic abuse, released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), confirm that domestic abuse and violence is an epidemic requiring urgent and concerted action in policing – and all our public services.

It is shocking that one in ten of all offences recorded by the police is domestic abuse-related, according to police recorded crime collected by the Home Office. While nearly one third of all violence against a person crimes are recorded as domestic abuse-related.

Women’s Aid’s latest research shows that only 12% of survivors report domestic abuse to the police therefore these terrifying figures are just the tip of the iceberg of what is a persistently hidden and much more prevalent crime.

We welcome the news that there has been a 10% year-on-year increase in police flagging offences as being domestic abuse-related. This suggests that the police are making steps to improve their identification and recording of domestic abuse crimes. However, less than 1% of domestic abuse-related offences were recorded as a coercive control offence. As we know from various surveys and our work with survivors, coercive control, that is a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence, lies at the heart of domestic abuse and this figure suggests that much more needs to be done by the police in identifying coercive and controlling offences.

Although this data does not offer a complete picture of the extent and nature of domestic abuse, the ONS’s latest statistics show that domestic abuse continues to be an enormous issue for all of society and how the need for services to take domestic abuse seriously and properly support survivors with in their specific needs is more urgent than ever.

Notes – Women’s Aid has been working with the ONS, and other experts in the sector, on improving the way the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) captures experiences of domestic abuse as their current prevalence estimates do not take into account important context and impact information, which would provide a more accurate picture of domestic abuse. The current Crime Survey, therefore, fails to show the true nature of domestic abuse, especially when it comes to the impact of coercive control and the gendered-nature of domestic abuse. Women’s Aid would like to see further training provided for the police on identifying domestic abuse, especially coercive control, and understanding its impact to give more survivors the confidence to report abuse to the police and seek justice in whichever area they reside in or have experienced abuse.