Director of Public Health Annual Report 2021: Domestic Violence and Abuse

Last updated: 24 August 2021 Download the report (pdf, 857.0 KB)

Who is at greater risk of suffering domestic abuse?

Some people are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse. Tools such as the DASH risk checklist (Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Harassment and Honour Based Violence) help trained health and social care professionals and the police to assess the risk level (standard, medium or high) of domestic abuse victims.

Access the DASH risk checklist PDF.

The checklist identifies vulnerabilities such as mental ill health, financial dependency and disability. High and medium risk victims receive support from independent domestic violence advisors (IDVA), and may be referred to a multi-agency risk assessment conference (MARAC).

However, a lack of complete data on victims limits what we know about who is at greater risk of domestic abuse. Much of our data comes from surveys or services. A lack of data may reflect reluctance to provide information, poor data collection, or barriers to accessing services. This is either because they are not inclusive or are not perceived to be.


Around 14% of disabled adults experienced domestic abuse, compared with 5% of adults without disabilities from 2018 to 2019 (in England and Wales).

Around 14% of disabled adults experienced domestic abuse, compared with 5% adults without disabilities from 2018 to 2019 in England and Wales.

Disabled men are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse compared to non-disabled men (8% and 4% respectively (see Public Health England's disability and domestic abuse topic overview), while disabled women are more than twice as likely compared to non-disabled women (17% and 7%).

National and local data suggest that either disability is not recorded by services, or that disabled victims are not accessing them.

“Having a physical disability meant that it was difficult for me to get advice or support outside home.”

– Victim of domestic abuse, Buckinghamshire

Learning disability

Mental ill health

Domestic abuse and mental ill-health are commonly associated. Recent research from the University of Birmingham suggests that women with mental health problems are 3 times more likely to experience domestic abuse. And women experiencing domestic abuse are 3 times more likely to develop mental health problems.

Older people

Older people are affected by domestic abuse. Police data for Buckinghamshire from 2019 to 2020 showed that 9% of victims of known age were 61 years or older.

However this age group only made up 4.5% of IDVA service users in the same year. Older people may be more vulnerable to coercive control (including economic abuse) given their dependence on family and carers as they age. They may be unwilling or unable to disclose, recognise or leave abusive relationships due to age-related conditions such as dementia. Such situations are both a safeguarding and a domestic abuse concern.


Honour and shame are highly important concepts in certain cultures, and the consequences of dishonouring family or community by disclosing abuse are significant.

Ethnicity is not well recorded in relation to domestic abuse. Recent police data show that in Buckinghamshire, in 70% of cases the victim’s ethnicity was not recorded. Domestic abuse is also commonly under-reported in ethnic minorities.

Although domestic abuse is experienced by people from all ethnic origins, cultural values and norms will affect people’s perceptions of and responses to domestic abuse. For people from some ethnic minority backgrounds, these may include fear (of not being believed, of being exposed, of the criminal justice system), victim-blaming culture, and failure to recognise abuse.

Honour and shame are highly important concepts in certain cultures, and the consequences of dishonouring family or community by disclosing abuse are significant.

The Thames Valley Black, Asian, minority ethnic and refugee (BAMER) Project Report identified barriers experienced by women from ethnic minorities who experience abuse. For example a victim needing a family member to interpret at appointments is denied privacy to discuss abuse with the health or social care professional.

“I will live with the abuse rather than get divorced. Divorce in my culture means my life is over.”

“English isn’t my first language so I use language translation apps when I meet with different workers – it’s not perfect but it works.”

– Victims of domestic abuse, Buckinghamshire

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities

There are limited data around domestic abuse in the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. However, as in other communities, community members and workers have noted domestic abuse as a serious and long-standing problem.

The domestic abuse charity One Voice 4 Travellers estimated as many as 3 in 4 women from these communities experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives.

Sexual orientation and gender identity

National statistics do not report domestic abuse by sexual orientation or gender identity.

However studies suggest that between 25 and 40% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people report one or more domestic abuse incidents in their lifetime. This rises to between 28% and 80% for trans people.

An NSPCC survey in UK schools suggested that 44% of teenagers with same-sex partners had experienced some form of physical partner violence, increased from 20% for those in heterosexual relationships.

LGBT+ victims may face threats of ‘outing’ about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Domestic abuse victims with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or another definition of their gender and sexuality identity are known to present with higher levels of risk and complex needs compared to non-LGBT+ people, such as mental health problems, self-harm and drug and alcohol misuse.

They also face unique issues such as being victim to threats of ‘outing’ about sexual orientation and gender identity, or ‘identity abuse’ which may include withholding of medication or clothing relating to their identity.

“Most of my friends and family didn’t know I was gay so I didn’t want to drop a double bomb-shell on them by telling them I was also being abused by my partner.”

– Victim of domestic abuse, Buckinghamshire