Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: violence against women and girls

Updated 8 May 2015

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/ending-violence-against-women-and-girls-in-the-uk. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


In the latest figures from 2012 to 2013 published by the ONS it is estimated that around 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse and over 330,000 women were sexually assaulted. Domestic and sexual violence is often hidden away behind closed doors, with the victim suffering in silence.

We are determined to support victims in rebuilding their lives, 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

  • re-launching the highly successful This is Abuse campaign, including collaborations with Hollyoaks and MTV, and with a new focus on reaching young male perpetrators

  • completion of the domestic violence disclosure scheme (Clare’s Law) pilot and the national roll-out from March 2014. This allows the police to disclose information to the public about a partner’s previous violent offending and thereby empowering people to make an informed decision about the future of a relationship

  • evaluation of the domestic violence protection order pilot, and the national roll-out from March 2014, which prevents perpetrators of violence from returning to their home for up to 28 days, giving the victim time to consider their options

  • a review of the police response to domestic violence by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which reported in March 2014

  • setting out a programme of work through the National Group on Sexual Violence against Children and Vulnerable People to prevent sexual abuse happening in the first place; to protect children online; to make sure the police can identify and deal with abuse; and ensure victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system. We are ensuring that the work of this group links in effectively with the broader agenda on violence against women and girls

  • 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

  • progressed legislation that criminalised forced marriage in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to ensure that this unacceptable practice can be robustly prosecuted

  • in February 2014, ministers signed a joint declaration on female genital mutilation to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to end this terrible form of abuse, which includes part-funding a new study into the prevalence of FGM in England and Wales. The new research will be the first update since a 2007 study revealed that over 20,000 girls in the UK could be at risk of FGM each year

  • maintaining one of the most robust sex offender management regimes in the world which has included introducing new legislation to reform the civil orders available, Funding the development and delivery of a training package on stalking to further assist frontline workers to identify cases of stalking, and support and advise victims appropriately

  • engaging closely with local commissioners, including issuing a violence against women and girls fact pack and holding a conference on commissioning for police and crime commissioners


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.

In March 2011 we published an action plan committing government to a wide range of actions to end violence against women and girls. We also published a full response to the Stern review.

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.

We published a further refreshed version of our action plan in March 2014, setting out cross-government progress on actions to reduce violence against women and girls since our last plan was published. Our new plan sets out our ambition to: protect victims through early intervention rolling out programmes such as Clare’s Law and domestic violence protection orders; support effective local approaches by giving local commissioners the information they need to tackle violence against women and girls; ensure that other programmes – such as tackling sexual violence against children and young people, gang related exploitation of girls and modern slavery support our approach to ending violence against girls and women.

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 February 2012, we launched a consultation to ask for views on how we can protect victims of stalking more effectively. Read the summary of the responses to the consultation.

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
  • 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).

The Anti- Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act was introduced in 2014. The Act:

  • criminalises forcing someone to marry against their will
  • criminalises the luring of a person to a territory of a state for the purpose of forcing them to enter into marriage
  • makes it an offence to use deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the UK for the intention of forcing that person to marry
  • criminalises the breach of a Forced Marriage Protection Order

Appendix 1: stalking

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Stalking is an appalling crime that destroys lives. We will make sure victims have the protection they need and bring stalkers to justice for making others’ lives a misery.

Our response to stalking is included within our violence against women and girls action plan.

New stalking offences

Following a public consultation in November 2012, 2 specific criminal offences of ‘stalking’ and ‘stalking involving fear of violence or serious alarm or distress’ came into force in England and Wales, along with additional related police search powers. This will provide extra protection for victims, highlight the serious impact stalking can have on their lives, and help bring more perpetrators to justice.

As well as introducing the new offences, we worked with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure that guidance and training for police and prosecutors reflects the new offences.

Further information

The following guidance is available:

Appendix 2: sexual violence

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We want every report of sexual assault to be treated seriously from the point of disclosure; we want every victim to be treated with dignity, and every investigation and every prosecution to be conducted thoroughly and professionally.

Our main concern is the rights and welfare of the victim. We are committed to ensuring that every victim of sexual violence has access to appropriate support. In particular, we have provided £1.72 million per year to part fund 87 independent sexual violence advisor posts from 2011/12 to 2014/15.

Independent sexual violence advisers

We have part funded 87 independent sexual violence adviser posts (ISVAs) to work with victims of recent and historic serious sexual crimes to get the help they need.

The support provided by an ISVA will vary from case to case, depending on the needs of the victim and their particular circumstances. However, the main role of an ISVA includes making sure that victims of sexual abuse have the best advice on:

  • what counselling and other services are available to them
  • the process involved in reporting a crime to the police
  • taking their case through the criminal justice process, should they choose to do so

Young people’s advocates

As part of our Ending gang and youth violence programme, we are providing £1.2 million over 3 years (from 2012 to 2015) for 13 young people’s advocates to support young people at risk of or suffering sexual violence and/or sexual exploitation, particularly by gangs.

The funding has been awarded to 8 organisations with experience of working with young people, victims of sexual violence and gangs from the voluntary and charity and public sectors, and will further improve the help and support available to young people.

Young people’s advocates work in the areas most affected by gangs and understand the specific risks gang violence can have for young people. They work closely with local authorities, the police, youth offending teams and other local partners and share knowledge.

Child sexual exploitation and grooming

Recent court cases involving the appalling sexual exploitation of children have raised a number of important issues not just for the government, but for social services, the police and the criminal justice system in how we protect our children.

Our response to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry, Child sexual exploitation and the response to localised grooming, outlines how we will:

  • prevent abuse happening in the first place
  • protect children online
  • make sure the police and others are best placed to identify and deal with problems
  • ensure victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system

Appendix 3: domestic violence and abuse

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Definition of domestic violence and abuse

In March 2013, we introduced a change in the definition of domestic violence and abuse. It was widened to include young people aged 16 to 17 who exhibited coercive control – a pattern of controlling behaviour. The decision followed a consultation that saw respondents call overwhelmingly for this change.

Extending the definition increases awareness that young people in this age-group experience domestic violence and abuse, encouraging more of them to come forward and get the support they need.

Read more about the government definition of domestic violence and abuse.

Domestic violence disclosure scheme

Under the domestic violence disclosure scheme an individual can ask the police to check whether a new or existing partner has a violent past (‘right to ask’). This scheme is commonly known as ‘Clare’s law’. If police checks show that a person may be at risk of domestic violence from their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information.

A pilot of the scheme in 4 police areas ended in September 2013 and the scheme has been extended across England and Wales from 8 March 2014.

Independent domestic violence advisers

Independent domestic violence advisers help keep victims and their children safe from harm from violent partners or family.

A number of organisations and agencies successfully bid for funding to support independent domestic violence advisers (IDVAs) and multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC) co-ordinators or administrators.

We also fund co-ordinated action against domestic abuse (CAADA) to provide a limited number of IDVA training places and to run the MARAC development programme, which provides support and resources to help MARACs improve their effectiveness.

Domestic homicide review guidance

When a person has been killed as a result of domestic violence, a domestic homicide review should be carried out to find out what happened and, most importantly, to identify what needs to change to reduce the risk of such tragedies happening in the future.

To support those establishing or contributing to domestic homicide reviews we have updated our multi-agency statutory guidance for the conduct of domestic homicide reviews.

An online domestic homicide reviews training package is also available to help community safety partnerships understand the process, and chairpersons training is available in 9 regions.

Community safety partnerships must notify the Home Office of their decision to either conduct a domestic homicide review, or not to conduct a review.

Find out more about domestic homicide reviews.

Domestic violence protection orders and notices

Domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs) are being implemented across England and Wales from 8 March 2014. This follows the successful conclusion of a 1 year pilot in the West Mercia, Wiltshire and Greater Manchester police force areas

Under the scheme, the police and magistrates can prevent the perpetrator from contacting the victim or returning to their home for up to 28 days. DVPOs are designed to help victims who may otherwise have had to flee their home, giving them the space and time to access support and consider their options.

Appendix 4: ‘This is abuse’ campaign

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

The most recent phase of the This is Abuse campaign ran from December 2013 until April 2014. The campaign is aimed at 13- to 18-year-old boys and girls and encourages teens to rethink their views of violence, abuse, controlling behaviour and sexual abuse and what consent means within their relationships.

The latest phase of the ‘This is abuse’ campaign started on 13 March 2014 and helps teenage boys to understand what constitutes abusive behaviours in relationships. We have worked with YouTube stars, Mandem on the Wall, Charlie McDonnell, Jamal Edwards of SBTV and Twist and Pulse, who have all produced new video blogs (know as vlogs) where they discuss issues such as consent, sexting and controlling behaviour.

The campaign also included a TV advertising campaign with ‘Hollyoaks’, the ‘call it out’ campaign with MTV, and a run of radio advertisements on Kiss FM.

All campaign activity encouraged teenagers to visit the campaign website www.thisisabuse.co.uk, which provides support and advice, as well as moderated forums where teens can discuss the issues with their peers.

Resources are available to support local campaigns; these include a discussion guide to help in conversations with young people on abuse within their relationships.

Partners can email VAWGcampaigns@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk to request a copy of the campaign brief, which contains further information and details on how to order materials.

Appendix 5: female genital mutilation

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

FGM is an unacceptable form of abuse and violence against girls and women, and the government is committed to preventing FGM. FGM is illegal in the UK; it is also illegal to take a British national or permanent resident abroad for FGM or to help someone trying to do this.

Campaign to prevent female genital mutilation

The Home Office has secured £250,000 from the EU PROGRESS fund to put a stop to female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK.

Part of the money was used to run a campaign to raise awareness of FGM within the UK. Campaign activity highlighted the free 24-hour NSPCC FGM helpline (0800 028 3550). Callers to the helpline will remain anonymous, however any information that could protect a child from abuse will be passed to the police or social services

There is also a NSPCC website on FGM where members of the public and professionals can get help, advice and support on FGM issues.

A FGM DVD has been produced featuring survivors of FGM and doctors discussing the issue and warning mothers and carers of the health dangers of the procedure.

You can find further background to the campaign and details on how to order support materials by emailing FGMEnquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk for more information.

A range of measures to end FGM were announced to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance on 6 February 2014.

Find out what we’re doing about FGM (including posters and leaflets) and the statement opposing FGM.