Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2014/15: Partner Abuse

Results from the Partner Abuse module of the 2014/15 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey.

1. The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey

1.1 Introduction

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey ( SCJS) is a large-scale social survey which asks people about their experiences and perceptions of crime. The 2014/15 survey is based on around 11,500 face-to-face interviews with adults (aged 16 or over) living in private households in Scotland.

The main aims of the SCJS are to:

  • Enable the Scottish population to tell us about their experiences of, and attitudes to, a range of issues related to crime, policing and the justice system; including crime not reported to the police;
  • Provide a valid and reliable measure of adults' experience of crime, including services provided to victims of crime;
  • Examine trends, over time, in the number and nature of crimes in Scotland, providing a complementary measure of crime compared with police recorded crime statistics;
  • Examine the varying risk and characteristics of crime for different groups of adults in the population.

The findings from the survey are used by policy makers across the public sector in Scotland to help understand the nature of crime, target resources and monitor the impact of initiatives to target crime. The results of this survey provide evidence to inform national outcomes and justice outcomes.

This report presents findings from the self-completion module on Partner Abuse. The report provides data and analysis on the extent of partner abuse in Scotland amongst adults aged 16 or over.

1.2 Survey design

Who took part in the 2014/15 survey?

The design of the 2014/15 SCJS remains broadly similar to the design of the SCJS from 2008/09 to 2012/13:

  • Survey frequency: Following the completion of the SCJS 2010/11, the SCJS moved to a biennial design. Therefore, no survey ran in 2011/12 or 2013/14 [1] .
  • Sample: the sample is designed to be representative of all private residential households across Scotland (with the exception of some of the smaller islands). A systematic random selection of private residential addresses across Scotland was produced from the Royal Mail Postcode Address File ( PAF) and allocated in batches to interviewers. Interviewers called at each address and then selected one adult (aged 16 or over) at random from the household members for interview.
  • Questionnaire: the questionnaire consists of a modular design completed by the interviewer using Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing ( CAPI) and a self-completion section covering sensitive crimes using Computer-Assisted Self Interviewing ( CASI). The most recent questionnaire is available on the SCJS webpage. Questions on sexual victimisation and stalking were included in the self-completion section of the questionnaire, which was undertaken at the end of the main SCJS interview.
  • Interviews and response rate: 11,472 face-to-face interviews were conducted in respondents' homes by professional interviewers, with a response rate of 63.8%. Interviews lasted an average of 40 minutes, though there was variation in interview length, depending on the respondent's reported experience. Additional to the main questionnaire, all survey respondents were asked to fill out a self-completion section (on a tablet computer) on more confidential and sensitive issues, including drug taking, partner abuse, sexual victimisation and stalking.

In 2014/15, 9,986 respondents completed the self-completion module, that is 86.6% of all respondents. The most common reason for refusing to complete the self-complete questionnaire was 'running out of time' (mentioned by almost half of respondents who refused); more details are provided in the Technical Report (section 6.6.2). An equal proportion of men and women answered the self-completion questionnaire. However, the proportion of those who completed the self-completion section decreased with age. Further information on response rates can be found in the Technical Report (section 3.4).

  • Fieldwork: interviews were conducted on a rolling basis between 1 st April 2014 and 31 st May 2015, with roughly an equal number of interviews conducted in each month between April 2014 and March 2015. Challenges in fieldwork delivery were experienced in 2014/15 and as a result, the fieldwork period was extended by two months to increase the achieved sample size.
  • Weighting: the results obtained were weighted to correct for the unequal probability of selection for interview caused by the sample design and for differences in the level of response among groups of individuals. Given that not all respondents chose to answer the self-completion questionnaire, these data are weighted separately to the main questionnaire (using identical weighting procedures). Further details of the weighting used are provided in the Technical Report (section 4).

1.3 Survey coverage

The SCJS does not aim to provide an absolute estimate for all crime and has some notable exclusions. The SCJS is a survey of adults living in private residential households and, therefore, does not provide information on crimes against adults living in other circumstances (for example those living in institutions or communal residences, such as prisons or hospitals, military bases and student accommodation). Those living in some of the smallest inhabited islands in Scotland are excluded for practical reasons (see Annex 1 of the accompanying Technical Report for details).

Some notable survey exclusions

1.4 Conventions used in figures and tables

Each figure or table has a title, the data source (survey year), a base description (the number of people who answered the question), the unweighted base (the number of respondents in each category), and the SPSS variables. For example:

Figure 1.1 Risk of partner abuse since age 16, and whether the respondent's household could find £100 to meet an unexpected expense (%)

Figure 1.1 Risk of partner abuse since age 16, and whether the respondent's household could find £100 to meet an unexpected expense (%)

1.4.1 Percentages

Table row or column percentages may not sum to 100 due to rounding.

Percentages presented in tables and figures where they refer to the percentage of respondents, households or crimes that have the attribute being discussed may not sum to 100 per cent. Respondents have the option to refuse answering any question they did not wish to answer and the majority of questions have a 'don't know' option. Percentages for these response categories are generally not shown in tables and figures.

A percentage may be quoted in the report text for a single category that is identifiable in the figures/tables only by summing two or more component percentages. In order to avoid rounding errors, the percentage has been recalculated for the single combined category and therefore may differ by one or two percentage points from the sum of the percentages derived from the figures/tables.

Also, percentages quoted in the report may represent variables that allow respondents to choose multiple responses. These percentages will not sum to 100 per cent with the other percentages presented. They represent the percentage of the variable population that select a certain response category.

1.4.2 Table abbreviations

' - ' indicates that no respondents gave an answer in the category.

'n/a' indicates that the SCJS question was not applicable or not asked in that particular year.

' * ' indicates that changes are statistically significant at the 95% level.

1.4.3 Decimal points

Results from the self-complete section of the survey are generally reported to one decimal place. The self-complete questionnaire collects information on a range of often rare events, therefore, many of the figures reported are small (often under 1%). There is a range of uncertainty around all survey estimates. As outlined below (in sections 1.4.4 and 1.4.5), statistical testing is conducted to assess whether changes and differences between survey results are statistically significant. Only changes and differences which have been tested and assessed as representing statistically significant are highlighted as such in this report.

1.4.4 Survey error

There may be errors in the recall of participants as to when certain incidents took place, resulting in some crimes being wrongly included in, or excluded from, the reference period. A number of steps in the design of the questionnaire are taken to ensure, as far as possible, that this does not happen (for example repeating key date questions in more detail).

The SCJS gathers information from a sample rather than from the whole population and, although the sample is designed carefully, survey results are always estimates, not precise figures. Estimates can differ from the figures that would have been obtained if the whole population had been interviewed.

It is, however, possible to calculate a range of values around an estimate, known as the confidence interval (also referred to as margin of error) of the estimate. At the 95 per cent confidence level, over many repeats of a survey under the same conditions, one would expect that the confidence interval would contain the true population value 95 times out of 100. This can be thought of as a one in 20 chance that the true population value will fall outside the 95 per cent confidence interval calculated for the survey estimate.

Because of this variation, changes in estimates between survey years or between population subgroups may occur by chance. In other words, the change may simply

1.4.5 Statistical significance

We are able to measure whether changes in data across years, or differences between categories, are likely to be the case using standard statistical tests. From these, we can conclude whether differences are likely to be due to chance, or represent a real difference in the underlying population.

Many of the tests for statistical significance in this report, particularly when examining results by different demographic sub-groups, were carried out using the Pearson chi-square test in SPSS [2] , based on individual scaled data. All significant changes highlighted in this report were found to be statistically significant at the p ≤ 0.05 level.

The assessments of statistical change over time which are presented in this report use estimated confidence intervals around survey results to examine whether the change is statistically significant. The estimated confidence intervals used in these tests use generic SCJS design factors of 1.2 for 2014-15 results. More detail on the derivation of these confidence intervals and design factors is available in Chapter 11 of the SCJS Technical Report.

Only increases or decreases that are statistically significant at the 95 per cent level are described as changes within this report and in the tables and figures these are identified by asterisks. Where no statistically significant change has been found between two estimates, this has been described as showing 'no change'. The presentation of uncertainty and change in this report reflect best practice guidance produced by the Government Statistical Service ( GSS) [4].

1.4.6 Accessing Survey Data

Information on how to access SCJS data is available on the Data Access section of our webpage.

1.5 Key definitions and measures

Respondents are asked about their experiences of partner abuse within the last 12 months and additionally, their experiences of sexual victimisation since the age of 16.

Partners: The report focuses on abuse carried out by partners, against adults aged 16 or over. A partner is defined as 'any boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife or civil partner'.

Partner abuse: The SCJS definition of partner abuse is consistent with the definition adopted by the police in recording domestic abuse:

'any form of physical, non-physical or sexual abuse, which takes place within the context of a close relationship, committed either in the home or elsewhere. This relationship will be between partners (married, co-habiting or otherwise) or ex-partners.'

However, it should be noted that there is no single, universally accepted definition of domestic abuse. The Scottish Government defines domestic abuse, set out in the National Strategy to Address Domestic Abuse in Scotland (2000), as follows:

'Domestic abuse (as gender-based abuse), 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, withholding money and other types of controlling behaviour such as isolation from family or friends). (National Strategy for Domestic Abuse 2000) [3] .

This is consistent with a body of academic literature that distinguishes between coercive control and situational couple violence (see Johnson, 2001. Also Stark, 2007, 2009, 2010; Myhill, 2015).

Coercive control: Johnson (2001) distinguishes between different types of partner abuse. Coercive control refers to an on-going process whereby one partner (most commonly a man) uses various means (to hurt, humiliate, intimidate, exploit, isolate and dominate the other partner (most commonly a woman). Coercive control can extend beyond physical violence, to a range of tactics, including financial, sexual and behavioural control, for example, depriving a partner of money, controlling their communications, or regulating how a partner dresses.

Using large-scale American survey data, Johnson (2006) found that situational couple violence was largely gender-symmetric, whilst coercive control was strongly gendered. Similarly, based on analysis of data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales, Myhill (2015) found that although the prevalence of situational violence appeared fairly symmetrical, coercive controlling abuse was highly gendered, with women overwhelmingly the victims.

Situational couple violence refers to specific abusive acts perpetrated by one or both partners (both men and women), without an underlying dynamic of domination and control.

1.5.1 Asking about partner abuse:

Respondents are asked to identify which, if any, of the following psychological and physical abusive behaviours they have experienced since the age of 16, and in the previous 12 months:

Psychological abuse

  • Stopped you having your fair share of the household money or taken money from you.
  • Stopped you from seeing friends and relatives.
  • Repeatedly put you down so that you felt worthless.
  • Behaved in a jealous or controlling way.
  • Forced you to view material which you considered to be pornography.
  • Threatened to kill or attempted to kill themselves as a way of making you do something or stopping you from doing something.
  • Threatened to, attempted to or actually hurt themselves as a way of making you do something or stopping you from doing something.
  • Threatened you with a weapon, for example an ashtray or a bottle.
  • Threatened to hurt you.
  • Threatened to hurt someone close to you, such as your children, family members, friends or pets.
  • Threatened to hurt your other/previous partner.
  • Threatened to kill you.

Physical partner abuse

  • Pushed you or held you down
  • Kicked, bitten, or hit you
  • Thrown something at you with the intention of causing harm
  • Choked or tried to strangle/smother you
  • Used a weapon against you, for example an ashtray or a bottle.
  • Forced you or tried to force you to have sexual intercourse when you did not want to
  • Forced you or tried to force you to take part in another sexual activity when you did not want to

Note that the definition of partner abuse is not introduced to respondents at the beginning of the survey and they are not asked about 'partner abuse' or 'domestic abuse' in the questionnaire until the final question.

A full transcript of the survey questionnaire is available on the SCJS website

Box 1.1 Partner abuse and the law

In Scotland, a public consultation on a draft offence of Domestic Abuse concluded on 1 April 2016. The draft offence provides for a general offence of "domestic abuse" that covers the whole range of conduct that can make up a pattern of abusive behaviour within a relationship: both physical violence and threats which can be prosecuted using the existing criminal law and other behaviour amounting to coercive control or psychological abuse, which it may not be possible to prosecute using the existing law.

In England and Wales, Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 [4] created a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship. [5] Prior to this, case law indicated the difficulty in proving a pattern of behaviour that amounted to harassment within an intimate relationship.

Crown Prosecution Service guidelines define coercive behaviour as 'an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.' [6] Controlling behaviour is defined as 'a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.'

1.5.2 Partner abuse, sexual victimisation and stalking

There may be some overlap between the incidents of partner abuse detailed in this report, and incidents of sexual victimisation and stalking, which are asked about in a separate part of the self-completion questionnaire (and examined separately in the Sexual Victimisation and Stalking report). Given that sexual/victimisation and partner abuse can involve similar behaviours and experiences, it is possible that some incidents detailed in this report are duplicated in the Sexual Victimisation and Stalking report. It is also possible that some partner abuse detailed in this report constituted sexual victimisation and stalking, but were not viewed or reported as such by respondents.

1.5.3 Comparisons with crimes and offences

Incidents of partner abuse recorded in the self-completion module are not directly comparable with legal crimes and offences. In part, this is because some types of psychological abuse and coercive control cannot usually be prosecuted under the existing criminal law. [7] In addition, the SCJS asks respondents a limited number of follow-up questions about their experiences (in order to avoid causing possible distress), which prevents the accurate classification of incidents. For further details on comparable crimes in the SCJS 2014/15, see the Offence Coding Manual.

1.6 Structure of the Report

The report is split into three substantive chapters that present data for the majority of questions contained in the self-completion questionnaire and is supported by summary Annex Data Tables. The report also draws on existing academic and policy evidence and literature to provide further context for the findings. The report does not include in-depth, multivariate statistical analysis that would explore the more complex underlying relationships within the data.

Chapter 2 examines the overall and varying prevalence and incidence of partner abuse amongst adults in Scotland. The analysis is based on two reference periods: abuse since the age of 16, and in the last 12 months.

Chapter 3 provides more context and detailed analysis of the headline findings. The chapter examines different types of partner abuse, offender/victim relationships, the presence of children, the impact of partner abuse and perceptions of partner abuse. This chapter also presents new findings on children and partner abuse from the longitudinal Growing Up in Scotland study.

Chapter 4 examines reporting behaviour. The chapter examines which individuals and/or organizations the respondents are most likely to tell about their experiences of abuse. The chapter also looks at patterns of reporting (and non-reporting) to the police, reasons for non-reporting, and if reported, how satisfied respondents were with the police response.

The Annexes provide summary results and further background information.

Annex 1 provides additional data tables.

Annex 2 describes the methodology.


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