Teenagers and single parents 'at highest risk of domestic abuse'

By Joe Lepper

| 31 May 2018

Teenage girls and single parents with children are among the most likely victims of domestic abuse, official data has revealed.

Young women aged between 16 and 19 are the most likely to be victims of domestic violence. Picture: Home Office/posed by models

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that 7.6 per cent of 16- to 19-year-old girls had been the victim of abuse by a partner or ex-partner over the previous 12 months. 

This is the largest proportion among all age groups, with the next largest (7.4 per cent) among 20- to 24-year-olds.  

Among all women 6.2 per cent said they had been the victim of abuse from a partner or ex-partner, which can include physical, emotional and financial abuse, threats of violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The data, which is based on surveys of women conducted between 2015 and 2017, also reveals that single parents are four times as likely to be a victim of domestic abuse than those living with other adults.

A fifth (20.5 per cent) of single women with children said they had experienced abuse from a partner in the previous 12 months, compared with 4.9 per cent among women living with other adults and children.

Single parents are also seven times as likely to have been stalked and three times as likely to have been the victim of sexual abuse by a partner or ex-partner.

"Today's analysis gives insight into the characteristics of women and girls who are more likely to experience partner abuse," said Glenn Everett, ONS deputy director of wellbeing, inequalities, sustainability and environment.

"It also tells us about the types of households they live in. This can help to inform policies and services aimed at ending violence against women and girls - one of the key targets in the United Nations sustainable development goals."

Earlier this week the charity Women's Aid and Queen Mary University of London released a report saying that children's lives are being put at risk as victims are being treated unfairly in court hearings.

Their research found that victims were repeatedly either not believed, blamed for abuse or seen as unstable by judges, barristers and Cafcass officers.

A consultation on measures to be included in the government's forthcoming domestic abuse bill closed this week.

In its response Barnardo's is urging the government to improve support for children affected by domestic abuse, in particular in helping them address trauma.

"Barnardo's knows first-hand that children and young people are often the forgotten victims of domestic abuse. They are not just witnesses, even if abuse and violence isn't aimed directly at them," said Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan.

"Growing up in families where there is abuse or violence can lead to serious emotional effects which can stay with children for life.

"Research in our services shows many children who have been sexually exploited or who show harmful sexual behaviour live in households where there is abuse or violence. They are also more likely to be in abusive relationships themselves later in life.

"Children and young people need specialist support to overcome trauma and go on to lead happy, healthy lives and this bill is a missed opportunity to put them at the centre of their strategy."

In December last year Ofsted criticised councils' response to domestic abuse. The inspectorate's annual report said that more needed to be done to tackle perpetrators and prevent abusive behaviour.

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