Domestic abuse refers to a range of behaviours – psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional – that are directed towards partners, ex-partners or family members. This POSTnote examines the prevalence and nature of domestic abuse and the policing response. It examines how the policing response could be informed by research about the effectiveness of current and alternative approaches, and the possible benefits for victims, their families and offenders.Jump to full report >>
Domestic abuse itself has not been a criminal offence, so single incidents are prosecuted under a range of offences, such as common assault or rape. However, the Serious Crime Act (2015) introduced the new criminal offence of coercive control, which entails repeated controlling or coercive behaviour between two ‘personally connected’ individuals. Individuals will be prosecuted for multiple abusive behaviours that as single instances may appear minor.
It is difficult to measure the prevalence and nature of domestic abuse, but estimates can be made from a national survey of victimisation (the Crime Survey of England and Wales) and Police Recorded Data.
Domestic abuse has both short and long-term impacts, on both victims and their families. Children are particularly vulnerable; witnessing abuse can be as damaging as being abused directly.
Several police forces are evaluating existing practices as well as alternative approaches to improve their service to the public. The College of Policing's What Works Centre and the National Police Chiefs Council help with this and publish information about effective approaches and guidance. Interventions include:
You can read more about all of these, and many other research projects that the police are trialling in the POSTnote.
Authors: Sarah Bunn; Genevieve Waterhouse
The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.