House of Commons Library

Domestic violence in England and Wales

Published Friday, May 6, 2016

This Commons Library briefing paper looks at how domestic violence is defined, how widespread the problem is, and some of the civil and criminal remedies that are available for victims.

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How big is the problem?

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimates of domestic abuse are based on a relatively broad definition covering male and female victims of partner or family non-physical abuse, threats, force, sexual assault or stalking. The latest statistics show that:

  • 8.2% of women and 4% of men were estimated to have experienced domestic abuse in 2014/15, equivalent to an estimated 1.3 million female and 600,000 male victims
  • 27.1% of women and 13.2% of men had experienced any domestic abuse since the age of 16. These figures were equivalent to an estimated 4.5 million female victims of domestic abuse and 2.2 million male victims between the ages of 16 and 59

What legal remedies are there?

There are both civil and criminal remedies for victims of domestic violence.


Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 came into force in December 2015 and criminalises patterns of coercive or controlling behaviour where they are perpetrated against an intimate partner or family member.

A number of other criminal offences can apply to cases of domestic violence - these can range from murder, rape and manslaughter through to assault and threatening behaviour.


Civil measures include non-molestation orders, occupation orders and domestic violence protection orders (which can mean that suspected perpetrators have to leave their houses).

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (as amended) provides both civil and criminal remedies. These include non-harassment and restraining orders. A Library briefing paper on the 1997 Act discusses these in more detail.

What is the Government doing?

In March 2016, the Home Office published its 2016-20 strategy to end violence against women and girls. This includes £80 million of dedicated funding to provide core support for refuges and other accommodation-based services, rape support centres and national helplines. From April 2017, a new Violence Against Women and Girls Service Transformation Fund will support local domestic abuse service provision.

Related Library briefing paper

The Library has also published Domestic violence: a select bibliography.




Commons Briefing papers SN06337

Authors: John Woodhouse; Noel Dempsey

Topic: Crimes of violence

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