Published: 1 March 2016
A recent report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that almost 2 million people have been victims of abuse from partners or family members over the past year.
Their latest bulletin, 'Violent crime and sexual offences in England and Wales: financial year ending 2015' surveyed adults aged between 16 and 59 on their experiences with domestic violence and physical abuse over a 12 month period ending March 2015.
Respondents were asked to answer a 'self-completion module' on intimate violence and the results were published as part of the Intimate personal violence and partner abuse section of the report, which looks at sexual assault, stalking and physical, financial or emotional abuse by partners or family members.
Some of the key findings from the report include the fact that 8.2% of women and 4.0% of men experienced some form of domestic abuse in the past year. This equates to an estimated 1.9 million victims of domestic abuse, of which 600,000 were male and 1.3 million were female. These forms of domestic abuse have been defined as partner/ex-partner abuse (non-sexual), family abuse (non-sexual) and sexual assault or stalking by a current/former partner or other family member.
The report also highlighted that 6.5% of women and 2.8% of men admitted experiencing some form of partner abuse in the last year which equates to an estimated 500,000 male and 1.3 million female victims. Women were also far more likely to have experienced intimate violence or sexual assault then men; for example, 2.7% of women and 0.7% of men had experienced some form of sexual assault (including attempts at assault) in the past year.
Overall, an estimated 6.7 million people have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16, with 2.2 million male and 4.5 million female victims.
The publishing of this report coincides with recent changes to legal aid for domestic violence victims as the Court of appeal have removed restrictions on obtaining legal aid in domestic violence cases, which has been seen as a victory for both victims and women's rights campaigners.
The reversal comes after the campaign group Rights of Women appealed against a high court judgement, arguing that many domestic violence victims were being refused legal aid unlawfully and as a result, a large number of vulnerable people have had to face their abusers in court without legal representation. According to research from the campaign group, 53% of domestic violence victims had chosen not to pursue legal action in the family courts as they weren't able to access legal aid.
The outcome means that the government will now have to change the criteria for people applying for legal aid by removing the stipulation that victims will have to provide evidence of domestic abuse within the last two years, which has previously excluded victims that were abused more than two years ago and also victims of financial abuse.
The President of the Law Society, Jonathan Smithers, stated: "This ruling means that access to safety and justice will no longer be denied to the very people the government expressly sought to protect with its amendments to the regulations."
As Polly Neate, Chief Executive of charity Women's Aid, explained, "[the] ruling will at least mean women and children get some protection in the family courts. We continually hear that survivors and their children are at risk because they can't get legal representation."
She added, "The law has to recognise that abuse very commonly continues after the relationship has ended, so the “two-year rule” for evidence of abuse was grossly unfair. We applaud Rights of Women for this victory."
If you are experiencing domestic abuse and you aren't sure what options are available to you then K J Smith Solicitors can help. Our team of family law specialists are here to listen and advise on the best course of action to take in order to keep you and your family safe.
For more information or to arrange a free 45 minute consultation with one of our team, contact K J Smith Solicitors today on 01491 630000 (Henley on Thames), 020 7070 0330 (London), 0118 418 1000 (Reading), 01753 325000 (Windsor), 01256 584000 (Basingstoke) or 01483 370100 (Guildford).