In 2012 around 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse, over 400,000 women were sexually assaulted, 70,000 women were raped and thousands more were stalked. These crimes are often hidden away behind closed doors, with the victim suffering in silence.
Fewer than 1 in 4 people who suffer abuse at the hands of their partner - and only around 1 in 10 women who experience serious sexual assault - report it to the police.
We are determined to support victims in reporting these crimes, and to make sure perpetrators are brought to justice. We all need to do more to prevent violence against women and girls happening at all.
Our approach to ending violence against women and girls involves a number of actions, including:
allocating and protecting nearly £40 million of funding until 2015 for specialist local support services and national helplines
ensuring victims of sexual violence have access to specialist support, by part-funding 87 independent sexual violence advisers and pledging £1.2 million for 3 years from 2012 to improve services for young people suffering sexual violence in major urban areas
piloting an ‘Ugly Mugs’ scheme to help protect sex workers from violent and abusive clients
introducing new legislation to make forced marriage a criminal offence in England and Wales
piloting a domestic violence disclosure scheme where individuals have a right to ask about any violence in a partner’s past, funding independent domestic violence advisers and providing guidance for practitioners on conducting domestic homicide reviews
widening the definition of domestic violence and abuse following a public consultation, to include coercive control and to cover 16 and 17 year olds
introducing a number of measures against female genital mutilation and publishing a pocket sized statement for girls and women to carry when abroad, explaining the law and potential criminal penalties
running the ‘This is abuse’campaign to prevent teenagers from becoming victims and perpetrators of violence, abuse, controlling behaviour and sexual abuse
providing protection for victims of stalking by introducing 2 new specific criminal offences, along with additional related police search powers and training for police and prosecutors
signing the Council of Europe’s convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence - the Istanbul Convention - on 8 June 2012
ensuring lessons are learnt from historical child abuse and other child sexual exploitation cases and improving the police, and wider agencies and systems’ response to dealing with sexual violence against vulnerable people
piloting and evaluating Domestic Violence Protection Orders, which can stop a perpetrator re-entering the home and give victims space to get support
establishing the Sexual Violence against Children and Vulnerable People (SVACV) National Group; the group’s action plan, progress report and early findings have been published
In 2010, Baroness Stern reviewed the handling of rape and sexual violence complaints by public authorities.
To mark the international day for the elimination of violence against women in 2010, the coalition government published its strategic vision, outlining our ambition to end violence against women and girls.
This was followed by a progress review in November 2011 and an updated action plan in March 2012, containing 100 actions across areas like prevention, provision of services, partnership working, justice outcomes and reducing risk to victims.
In March 2013 we published a further refreshed version of our action plan. The new plan sets out significant progress since the last report was published a year ago. The updated plan looks at challenging the attitudes that foster violence against women and girls.
Who we’ve consulted
In October 2011 we consulted on a domestic violence disclosure scheme. We sought views on whether the protection available to victims of domestic violence could be enhanced by establishing a national disclosure scheme, which would include recognised and consistent processes for the police to disclose information to potential victims.
In December 2011 we consulted on whether a specific criminal offence would help combat forced marriage and, if so, how it would be formulated. We also asked how to implement the criminalisation of breaches of the civil Forced Marriage Protection Orders.
Following the consultation, we announced plans to make it a criminal offence to force someone to marry.
In September 2012 we announced that the definition of domestic violence would be widened following a public consultation supporting the change. Read about the domestic violence definition consultation.
Bills and legislation
The Female Genital Mutilation Act was introduced in 2003 and came into effect in March 2004. The act:
- makes it illegal to practice FGM in the UK
- makes it illegal to take girls who are British nationals or permanent residents of the UK abroad for FGM whether or not it is lawful in that country
- makes it illegal to aid, abet, counsel or procure the carrying out of FGM abroad
- includes a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and, or, a fine
In November 2012 the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 was updated by provisions made in the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, creating 2 new offences for stalking. The new offences were made under sections 2A and 4A of the 1997 act and cover:
- stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm and distress
The amendments also set out new police powers to enter and search premises (on provision of a warrant – section 2B).