DATA FROM THE Office of National Statistics (ONS) released on 24 November provides vital insight into the scale and lasting impacts of violence against women and girls (VAWG), says End Violence Against  Women, but lacks an in depth analysis of the harm caused by perpetrators.

The charity is concerned  that without any equalities analysis of which women are targeted and how they are impacted by VAWG, knowledge of its scale, prevalence and long term impact will remain patchy and incomplete. If the issue is to be truly tackled, it is essential to find out who is being affected and in what ways.

Additionally, the charity expressed concern that the data is an under-representation of the true scale of abuse and violence against women and girls, as many women do not report abuse, face barriers to reporting or are dismissed.

Understanding of the prevalence and severity of VAWG must now be matched with investment in support, says the charity. The data shows that 63.37 per cent of rape survivors experienced mental or emotional problems and 10.2 per cent attempted suicide – yet just 5.9 per cent of Rape Crisis network funding comes from health sources. It is clear that the government must stop narrowly focusing on criminal justice solutions alone, and invest in the trauma-informed therapeutic support that survivors really need – including specialist models of support developed by specialist services led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women.

In addition, says End Violence Against Women, if we want to examine the lasting impact of VAWG we must look at the bigger picture and understand its true cost. While it is estimated that domestic abuse costs £66 billion a year, focusing solely on this type of abuse underestimates the cost of VAWG as it excludes so many other forms of abuse. It is critical that government invests in research looking at the cost of all forms of violence against women and girls, so that we can begin to address it effectively and fund services delivering life-saving and life changing support.

Rebecca Hitchen, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: “If we are truly to get to grips with tackling violence against women and girls in all its forms, we need to understand who are most affected. This means looking in depth look at equalities such as race and ethnicity, disability and migration status, and understanding the specific ways Black and minoritised women and girls are impacted.

“The fact that women who are raped are more likely to tell friends, family members, counsellors and health professionals than the police about what’s been done to them means we can’t keep looking to a broken criminal justice system to provide the answers. Survivors certainly don’t. Instead, government investment must reflect survivors’ priorities and fund more specialist support services.

“When we know that one in 10 women who are raped tried to kill themselves, it is unacceptable and unconscionable that there are thousands of survivors on waiting lists across the country for specialist support services.”

While the number of refuge bed spaces in England has increased in recent years – to 4,277 in 2021 – it still remains below the minimum number recommended by the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention), and the data shows there are insufficient bed spaces to meet demand.

The UK signed the Istanbul Convention, the internationally recognised ‘gold standard’ for addressing VAWG, over nine years ago, but has yet to enshrine it in law. It is critical that the government finally ratifies the Istanbul Convention so we can start to address the gaps in support for domestic abuse survivors, particularly migrant women who are not able to access mainstream refuges due to having no recourse to public funds (NRPF)

* Read the ONS analysis here.

* Source: End Violence Against Women