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Key Facts

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Key facts about violence against women


  • Violence against women is widespread, affecting women of any age, class, race, religion, sexuality or ability
  • Women are most at risk from men they know
  • Factors which may increase women's vulnerability to some types of violence include age, disability and poverty
  • When asked, significant numbers of women describe patterns of abusive behaviour and repeat victimisation, rather than discrete assaults
  • Women experience violence at different points in their lives, and significant numbers of women experience more than one type of violence

Source: Violence Against Women: a literature review, Scottish Government 2005

Domestic Abuse

Domestic Abuse, as gendered based violence, can be perpetrated by partners or ex partners and can include physical abuse (assault and physical attack involving a range of behaviour), sexual abuse (acts which degrade and humiliate women and are perpetrated against their will, including rape) and mental and emotional abuse (such as threats, verbal abuse, racial abuse, witholding money and other types of controlling behaviour such as isolation from family and friends.

Source: National Strategy to Address Domestic Abuse in Scotland, Scottish Partnership on Domestic Abuse, Edinburgh, November 2000

It can be characterised by a pattern of coercive control often escalating in frequency and severity over time.

There were 51,926 incidents of domestic abuse in Scotland recorded by the police in 2009-10. Women are far more likely to be victims than men, with incidents involving a female victim and a male perpetrator representing 82% of reported incidents. Many women never report the abuse to police. This is partly because the abuse may not be physical and may not constitute a 'crime'.

Source: Scottish Government 2010, Statistical Bulletin Crime and Justice Series: Domestic Abuse Recorded by the Police in Scotland.

A Scottish study involving 1,395 young people aged between 14 and 18 found that a third of young men and a sixth of young women thought that using violence in an intimate relationship was acceptable under certain circumstances. The same study found that 17% of young women had experienced violence or abuse in their own relationship with a boyfriend.

Source: M and Cartmel, F (2005) Young People's Attitudes Towards Gendered Violence, Edinburgh: NHS Scotland

The 'Raising the Issue of Domestic Abuse in School' Study revealed that 32% of pupils in one secondary school in Scotland disclosed anonymously that they were currently experiencing or living with domestic abuse.

Source: Alexander, H, Macdonald, E and Paton, S (2005) @Raising the Issue of Domestic Abuse in School', Children and Society, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp187-198

Rape and sexual assault

Rape and sexual assault involve unwanted or coerced sexual activity including anal, oral and vaginal penetration, and sexual touching.

In 2009-10, there were 884 recorded cases of rape (of women); 112 assaults with intent to rape (of women).

Source: Scottish Government 2010, Statistical Bulletin Crime and Justice Series: Recorded Crime in Scotland 2009-10.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey found that more than half (53%) of adults who had experienced serious sexual assault since the age of 16 were assaulted by their partner with over nine in ten (91%) saying the offender(s) was male and seven per cent saying the offender(s) was female.

Source: MacLeod, P et al (2010) Scottish Crime and Justice Survey: Sexual Victimisation and Stalking.

83% of rapists are known to the women they rape.

Source: Walby, S. and Allen, J. (2004) Domestic Violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from British Crime Survey, Home Office research Study 276, Home Office: London.

Stalking and harassment

Stalking and harassment involve unwanted, persistent and often threatening attention such as following someone, constantly phoning, texting or emailing them at home or work. This often occurs within the context of domestic abuse.

The Scottish Government highlights studies that show that between 78% and 86% of stalking victims are female, with between 18% and 31% experiencing sexual violence within the context of stalking behaviour.

Source: Safer Lives; Changed Lives.

Women, and younger women in particular, are the most likely victims of stalking and tend to experience severe and lasting effects.

Source: Walby, S. and Allen, J. (2004) Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey, Home Office research Study 276, Home Office: London

Childhood sexual abuse

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) involves the exploitation of a child/young person by an adult for their own or other's sexual gratification. It often involved serious and degrading assault.

Studies indicate that 90-95% of CSA is perpetrated by men, often someone known to and trusted by the child.

CSA is substantially under-reported but prevelance studies show a range of rates of 7-30% of girls and 3-13% of boys.

There are links with domestic abuse, other 'intimate partner violence', rape and prostitution.

Sources: NHS Scotland 2009, Childhood Sexual Abuse (Adult Survivors) What health workers need to know about gender-based violence.

Commercial sexual exploitation

Commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) includes a wide range of often linked sexual activities which (typically) men profit from or buy from women and which objectify and harm women. It includes prostitution, pornography, lap dancing and sex trafficking.

Between April 2007 and March 2008, 79 individuals believed to be victims of human trafficking came into contact with agencies in Scotland. The majority were adult female victims who had been trafficked into sexual exploitation.

There is strong evidence that women abused through commercial exploitation have experienced other forms of abuse. Women involved in prostitution report much higher levels of violence than other women, including childhood sexual abuse.

Source: NHS Scotland, (2009) Commercial sexual exploitation: what health workers need to know about gender-based violence.

'Honour' crimes

'Honour' crimes describe abuse which is thought justified to protect or restore the 'honour' of a family. 'Honour' may be damaged, for example, by defying parental authority, including refusing marriage; having or being suspected of having sex/relationships before marriage or with others from different ethnic, cultural or religious groups.

Police estimate that 12 women are killed in 'honour' killings each year in the UK although this is likely to be an underestimate.

Source: House of Commons Home Affaris Committee (2008) Domestic violence, forced marriage and 'honour'-based violence. Sixth report of session 2007-2008, volume 1, House of Commons, London.

Forced marriage

A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both parties do not (or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Duress includes both physical and emotional pressure. It is very different from arranged marriage, where both parties give their full and free consent to the marriage.

In 2010, the UK Government's Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 469 cases of forced marriage, of which 2.7 per cent originated from Scotland.

Female genital mutilation

FGM involves procedures that include the partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for cultural or non-therapeutic reasons. The practice is medically unnecessary, extremely painful and has serious health consequences, both at the time when mutilation is carried out and in later life.

It is difficult to quantify the scale of the problem of FGM in Scotland. A study in 2007 for England and Wales estimated that nearly 66,000 women aged between 15 and 49 living in the UK had undergone FGM and over 20,000 girls were at risk.

Source: Drokeno E et al (2007) A Statistical Study to Estimate the prevelance of Female Genital Mutilation in England and Wales, London: Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development.

More info: http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/pdf/travel-living-abroad/when-things-go-wrong/multi-agency-fgm-guidelines.pdf

More on violence against women

Scottish Government (2010) Tackling Violence Against Women: a review of key evidence and national priorities.

Scottish Government (2009) Safer Lives: Changed Lives; A Shared Approach to Tackling Violence Against Women in Scotland

Scottish Government (2005) Violence Against Women: a literature review.

NHS Scotland gender-based violence and health: www.bgv.scot.nhs.uk

National training materials on violence against women: www.womenssupportproject.co.uk/vawtraining

Advice and Help

Domestic abuse campaignFor advice and help, call the Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline FREE on 0800 027 1234 or visit our Domestic Abuse website.