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16th Mar 2021

Violence against women in the UK: The facts

Violence and abuse of women at the hands of men in the UK is an epidemic

Nadine Batchelor-Hunt

Violence and abuse of women at the hands of men in the UK is an epidemic

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 1.5 million women were subjected to violence by their husbands, boyfriends, or ex-spouses in the United Kingdom last year.

Between March 2019 to March 2020, 207 women were killed at the hands of men in England, Scotland, and Wales; on average, a woman is killed by a man every three days in the UK.

Across all murder, regardless of gender, nine out of ten killers are men.

A ten year study by Femicide found that 57 per cent of female victims were killed by someone they knew, most likely their current or ex partner.

Over 70 per cent of the women that were killed were murdered in their own homes.

The study also found that 34 per cent of cases the woman killed had at least one child under the age of 18 years old at the time – and there were 29 cases where a woman was killed while pregnant.

And there are indications that Covid-19 restrictions have exacerbated the issue.

In August last year, BBC’s Panorama found that two-thirds of women in abusive relationships suffered more violence during the lockdown, and three-quarters said restrictions made it harder for them to escape.

In November, director of communication and external affairs at Refuge, Lisa King, said: “The experiences faced by women during the first set of lockdown restrictions should serve as a wake-up call as we continue through the next stage of lockdown and Covid-19 response.

“What we know is that demand for our services rose significantly earlier this year – and early signs show that that could well be repeated.”

The Crime Survey for England and Wales shows that 144,000 women were reported as victims or attempted victims of rape in the last 12 months.

However, despite these sobering figures,  just 55,000 rapes were reported to the police.

And conviction levels are disturbingly low.


Just 1,439 people were actually convicted of rape in the last year – the lowest number since 2014-2015.

Figures from 2017 show that an estimated 3.4 million women have been victims of sexual assault in their lives in the UK, with one million having faced rape or attempted rape.

These troubling figures have been described by Dame Vera Baird QC, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, as “catastrophic”.

“In effect, what we are witnessing is the decriminalisation of rape.

“In doing so, we are failing to give justice to thousands of complainants,” she said.

“In some cases, we are enabling persistent predatory sex offenders to go on to reoffend in the knowledge that they are highly unlikely to be held to account.

“This is likely to mean we are creating more victims as a result of our failure to act.”

Data on sexual harassment in the UK is also stark.


A YouGov poll has found that 97 per cent of women aged 18-24 have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.

Claire Barnett, executive director of UN Women UK, told The Guardian: “This is a human rights crisis.

“It’s just not enough for us to keep saying ‘this is too difficult a problem for us to solve’ – it needs addressing now.”

Research by TUC/Everyday Sexism from 2016 found that 52 per cent of women had experienced sexual harassment at work.

Of the one in five women that reported the sexual harassment, three quarters of them said nothing changed, with 16 per cent saying they received worse treatment as a result of complaining.