Domestic violence victims

The cross-government definition of Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) is:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour,  violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

  • psychological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.”[1]

The Government definition which is not a legal definition, includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnicity.

The Crime Survey for England & Wales (CSEW) 2012/13 found that, overall, 30% of women and 16.3% of men had experienced any domestic abuse since the age of 16. These figures were equivalent to an estimated 4.9 million female victims of domestic abuse and 2.7 million male victims

On average about seven women and two men are killed by their current or former partner every month in England and Wales (ONS 2012/13)

The relationship between the effects of domestic violence, physical and mental well-being is well documented. Psychological and physical effects of abuse can be felt for many years often with the continuation of psychological/mental health issues, chronic physical health problems as well familial and socioeconomic impacts.

Domestic violence is linked most closely to the following JSNA topics:


Alcohol misuse

Mental and behavioural disorders

Last updated: 2017-11-22 15:50:39
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1. What are the key issues?

A large proportion of domestic abuse is not reported and therefore not recorded. On average, there are 35 domestic assaults before it comes to the attention of the police.[1]

Levels of reported DVA in Middlesbrough are consistently high with the number of reports to Cleveland Police in 2013 showing a 10% (approximately)  increase in incident reporting compared to 2012.

The Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF) shows that Middlesbrough had a rate of 29.2 (per 1,000 population) incidents of domestic violence. This is much higher than the national average (18.8 per 1,000) and North East average (25.2).

Data from Cleveland Police identifies that:[2]

  • There were a total of 869 victims linked to DV offences;
  • 19% (164) were repeat victims;
  • 81% of victims were female ; and
  • The key age groups are 20 to 24-years-olds (19%) and 25 to 30-year-olds (17%).

[1] Jaffe (1982)

[2] Cleveland Police (2013), October  monthly review of performance  (period 01.10.12 – 30.09.13)


Last updated: 21/08/15

2. What commissioning priorities are recommended?



  • Multi-agency partners should continue to support the domestic violence sector to secure funding for those initiatives identified as priorities through the Domestic Violence Strategy Group (DVSG);
  • Agencies should continue to support the DVSG to strengthen the commissioning arrangements for domestic violence to ensure joint commissioning decisions are made through the group in order to strengthen the delivery of the strategy and improve outcomes for victims of abuse;
  • Improve data in areas with information gaps: teenage pregnancy, accident and emergency, alcohol and substance misuse, and diverse community groups affected by abuse;
  • Data collection should be strengthened to ensure quarterly arrangements are in place to inform performance and identify trends;
  • A co-ordinated approach should be taken to ensure capacity issues within work to support children and young people affected by abuse are addressed;
  • The findings from the ‘pilot’ perpetrator education intervention should be reviewed and used to inform the commissioning of further perpetrator work;
  • There is a need to understand the arrangements for the commissioning of female genital mutilation initiatives and further scoping work to identify the work that takes place to address this issue.



  • Continue to review and develop family-focused interventions to strengthen the response to low/medium risk domestic abuse cases;
  • Consider ways of better understanding the needs in complex MARAC cases to put in place longer term support packages;
  • Improve the Special Domestic Violence Court (SDVC) process to ensure more successful prosecutions;
  • Improve the number of unsupported prosecutions for domestic abuse to take the onus away from the victim.



  • Continue to support a domestic abuse training programme and ensure that this includes the relationship between substance misuse and alcohol and working with domestic abuse perpetrators;
  • Complete a scanning exercise of the provision in place in mainstream and voluntary sector services to support the work with children and young people;
  • Develop a children’s workforce and develop ways of strengthening early interventions;

Consider developing locality-based approaches to tackling the abuse agenda in areas of high prevalence.


Middlesbrough’s 2011-14 Domestic Violence Strategy is due to end in 2014. It is recommended that a review of the strategy is undertaken and a new strategy is developed for Middlesbrough from 2015 onwards.  This work will coincide with the ongoing reforms of Middlesbrough’s Domestic Violence Strategy Group.    


The vast majority of DVA services that are delivered in Middlesbrough are commissioned by the Local Authority and contracts for most services are scheduled to cease as of 31 March 2015.

This presents an opportunity to look at further improving and transforming local DVA provision, through improved strategic multi-agency commissioning. Commissioning falls into two key areas, shaping and improving existing of services as part of best practice and the procurement of services themselves. 

It is therefore vital that evidence based services are commissioned and shaped to prevent abuse, protect victims and provide for victims and perpetrators. Expected commissioning in 2015 should take into account not just the procurement of services but also the wider commissioning function of shaping and improving existing of services as part of best practice. This will help to shape and further improve local DVA provision.


Secondary Prevention

At the point of accessing services women and families are often at a crisis point and often require a risk management approach from services. A key challenge moving forward is to identify and respond to abuse as early as possible, understanding the needs of not just the victim but the whole family in order to ensure there is a greater balance between resolving issues of abuse with families as opposed to responding to the abuse within families.  Earlier intervention is key in order to reduce the impact of DVA, thresholds at first points of contact for victims should be improved in order to encourage swifter access to services in particular through Police, GP Practices and Children’s services. The development of   a prevention and early intervention model for DVA delivery which focuses on a shift from crisis management to primary prevention, secondary prevention and tertiary prevention following a public health approach is recommended.


There are two types of programmes available and utilised within the UK in respect of DVA perpetrators, criminal justice based programmes and community based voluntary programmes. In Middlesbrough there are currently both provisions in place.  There remains a lack of enforcement options through the Criminal Justice System for perpetrators of abuse and also limited intervention opportunities in place outside of the system. Placements through the court mandated and voluntary programmes are limited and with little or no capacity to engage with perpetrators. There is a need to explore the opportunities to improve and develop provision that addresses and supports DVA perpetrators and increases intervention opportunities with perpetrators outside of the criminal justice system in order to reduce levels of repeat incidents.


Accessible local Domestic Abuse Services that meet the needs of the population of Middlesbrough need to be available. Pathways should be reviewed to ensure that they are appropriate to the local DVA model. Further work also needs to be undertaken to ensure that the needs of repeat victims are met more effectively. 


Improved data collection is required in order to further understand the levels of local need and to monitor the effectiveness of local pathways. Partner performance data, as well as improved information on outcomes and the subsequent impact on local families lives, needs to be collated, measured and used more effectively. This will help to understand locally whether we have been effective in addressing the needs of victims and their families and also whether resources have been targeted appropriately. It will also indicate how effective first responses are and whether opportunities are being missed to provide early intervention.

A further recommendation is that locally there is a dashboard of key indicators developed amongst partners, these should be monitored at regular intervals.  

Last updated: 21/08/15

3. Who is at risk and why?


Women are much more likely than men to experience domestic abuse. Analysis of 10 separate prevalence studies has shown that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence over their lifetimes. [1]

Women are also more likely than men to be the victim of multiple incidents of abuse. 32% of women who had ever experienced domestic violence did so four or five (or more) times, compared with 11% of men. Women constitute 89% of all those who have experienced 4 or more incidents of domestic violence.


Younger women

Younger women under the age of 30 years old are shown to be most at risk of domestic violence, with those aged between 16-19 at greater risk (10.1% of respondents to the BCS), closely followed by the 20–24 year old age group (9.2% of respondents). [2]

Children and young people

Domestic violence is also a child protection issue. Children can experience abuse both directly and indirectly.  On a national basis the Home Office estimate that three quarters of a million children witness domestic abuse every year and that three quarters of children living with a child protection plan live in households where domestic violence occurs. [7]

Domestic violence can have an impact upon a child’s emotional, behavioural and cognitive development. Its effects can include anxiety, fear, withdrawal, highly sexualised and aggressive behaviour, reduced educational attainment, failure to acquire social competence, anti-social behaviour and also in some cases the use of substances. [8]

Older people

Older people may become more vulnerable and therefore more dependent on others for help and support. As with domestic violence and abuse, elder abuse can present in several different forms including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial exploitation and neglect – whether intentional or not.


Research shows that 30% of domestic violence starts or escalates during pregnancy. With the same study showing that domestic violence has been identified as a prime cause of miscarriage, or still birth and of maternal deaths in childbirth. [3]

A further study into women receiving antenatal and postnatal care to examine the prevalence of domestic violence and its associations with obstetric complications and psychological health, found that 23% of women involved had a lifetime experience of domestic violence, and 3% had experienced violence in the current pregnancy. These figures are recognised as underestimates due to the sensitive nature and reporting of abuse.  [4]


Women who separate from their partner are at a much higher risk of domestic violence than women in other marital circumstances. The BCS study found that 22% of separated women were assaulted in the previous year by their partners or ex partners.

Socioeconomic factors

People living in poor and financially insecure households are more likely to suffer from domestic violence. Domestic violence can also lead to poverty as it often creates instability, difficulties in maintaining employment and increases in ill health. As abuse is also found in households that are financially better off.


There is no significant difference in the risk of domestic violence by ethnicity reported in the BCS. However women from ethnic minorities may have greater difficulties in accessing services due to language, inter-generational issues, and cultural differences. [5]


National research shows that women with a disability are twice as likely to experience abuse as women living without a disability. Issues facing disabled women can make it harder for them to access support. They may be more physically vulnerable and socially isolated than other women relying heavily on the abuser for basic care needs and access to the wider community. [6]


Perpetrators of domestic violence are often still a part of the family. Perpetrators of violence frequently have complex needs, and behaviours, which can include mental health issues, substance misuse issues, self-harm, and offending behaviour. 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT)

Domestic abuse and violence is a considerable problem for members of the LGBT community. People in this group can be reluctant to seek help for fear of homophobia and may be unable to turn to family or friends for support if they are not ‘out’ about their sexuality.  This can leave such people who suffer from domestic violence especially isolated and at risk of further abuse.

Last updated: 31/08/12

4. What is the level of need in the population?

Getting a comprehensive picture of the extent of DVA in any population is challenging as a large proportion of domestic abuse is not reported and therefore not recorded by police. It is acknowledged as a hidden problem with an average of thirty five domestic assaults before it comes to the attention of the police resulting in large discrepancies between estimated victimisation and reported crime levels[1].

The 2010 Home Office ‘Ready Reckoner’ tool based upon British Crime Survey data is a national tool used to estimate prevalence of abuse locally. The tool shows that in Middlesbrough in the past year, 4,628 women and girls aged between 16-59, will have been a victim of domestic abuse (margin of error +/- 1,328) and 7,298 women and girls within the same age range will have been a victim of stalking and harassment (Margin of Error +/- 1,592).

In 2012/13, there were 2644 contacts to the local authority where domestic abuse has been expressed as the primary concern. Of these contacts, 1682 of them involved children (181 of these children went on to be deemed in need of protection and have a child protection plan[2]).

As a cause of homelessness, Middlesbrough has the highest prevalence (64%) of domestic abuse in England, with only Amber Valley (58%), Rossendale (54%) and Durham (40%) having similarly high levels.  The national average is 12% and the North East average is 24%.

[1] Office for National Statistics (2007), Crime in England and Wales 2006/07

[2] Middlesbrough Council (2013), Local Children’s Services data  2012-13


Last updated: 21/08/15

5. What services are currently provided?

Primary prevention (population level prevention)

Refuge and Women’s Aid - provide national campaigns that raise knowledge and awareness around domestic abuse. 

Middlesbrough Domestic Violence Form (MDVF) – co-ordinate awareness work in Middlesbrough and have recently developed and implemented the “No Excuse for Domestic Abuse” campaign.

Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) - provide training on an ad-hoc basis.   

Secondary prevention

Middlesbrough LA commission a service to deliver safe relationship to children and young people. The sessions are group-work based and are informed by the Expect Respect Toolkit. The sessions are aimed at every year 10 pupil (14/15 years) within state funded schools.

Tertiary prevention

Men’s Perpetrator Programme - designed to work with men who are abusive and controlling towards their partners males perpetrators.

Building Better Relationships (BBR) programme - operated by Durham Tees Valley Probation service and is a nationally accredited programme delivered and monitored in line with Home Office criteria. BBR is a court mandated programme for male offenders of DVA that have committed at least one offence against a female partner.

Support and protection

Cleveland Police provide a Domestic Abuse Support Unit based in the Public Protection Unit. The PVP unit is responsible for the risk assessment and investigation of DVA incidents.

Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) - brings local statutory and voluntary agencies together to protect those women at highest risk from repeat domestic violence.

Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) - trained specialists providing independent advocacy and support to high risk victims. There are currently five IDVAs in Middlesbrough.

Specialist Domestic Violence Court (SDVC) - enables police, prosecutors, courts and specialist services to work together to identify and track domestic violence cases, support victims and bring more offenders (from standard to high risk) to justice.

Middlesbrough has a ‘one stop shop’ for women who are, or who have suffered from domestic abuse. The service is based in central Middlesbrough and provides services to women aged 16 years and over. A range of services are offered to victims, including:

  • Instant Access service to women in crisis including late opening for women in crisis
  • Counselling service including specialist trauma therapy
  • Independent Domestic Violence  Advocates
  • Criminal and civil legal advice and support through the court process
  • Sanctuary Scheme support
  • Training and awareness raising
  • Volunteers Scheme

Middlesbrough Refuge - provides temporary emergency accommodation for women with or without children, who are leaving domestic abuse. During their stay women are offered access to advice and information with a range of support needs.

A community outreach service – a place for male victims of domestic abuse.

The Sanctuary Scheme - a partnership initiative, which aims to enable victims at risk of domestic abuse to remain within their own households safely..

There are a number of group work programmes available to support victims of DVA within Middlesbrough delivered by local service providers, these include:

  • The freedom programme;
  • Choices programme;
  • You me and mum programme; and
  • Friends and family sessions.

Services are commissioned locally to provide a Children and Young People’s project to children aged 3 -16 who have or are living with domestic abuse. The service aims to enable children and young people to maintain their safety and deal with the consequences of their experiences through a variety of therapeutic interventions including one-to-one support and group work sessions. The service also works with young people in schools to promote healthy and respectful relationships.

Victim Support - national charity that provides advice, information and support to victims and witnesses of crime and their families.

The Voice project - set up in partnership with Holme House prison and aims to provide a voice to victims of DVA who may have an ex/partner in prison, explaining to them there rights and support available to reduce harassment. 

Services sensitive to equality and diversity

The Halo Project - supports victims of honour based violence and forced marriage by providing appropriate advice and support. Halo provides interventions and advice necessary for the protection and safety of victims.

The North East Domestic Abuse Project - a victim support run initiative that focuses on improving services for victims of domestic abuse within lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) relationships in the North East.

Last updated: 21/08/15

6. What is the projected level of need?

It is difficult to predict the true prevalence of domestic violence, due to the difficulties in obtaining reliable information and the recognised levels of under-reporting. 

Domestic violence is not reducing at the same rate as other types of violent crime. There is the possibility for domestic violence to increase in the forthcoming year as many families struggle financially in the current economic climate.

Last updated: 21/08/15

7. What needs might be unmet?

Local strategy development

Middlesbrough’s 2011-14 Domestic Violence Strategy is due to end in 2014. Having no strategy in place locally would mean that there is no vision, strategic framework and coordination around delivery of domestic abuse in Middlesbrough.   


The vast majority of DVA services that are delivered in Middlesbrough are commissioned by the Local Authority and contracts for most services are scheduled to cease as of 31 March 2015.

The current delivery model for DVA in Middlesbrough has been in place for a number of years and requires review to ensure that the needs of victims are being met and that provision delivered is in line with up-to-date evidence bases.

Secondary prevention

Evidence suggests that women experiencing DVA frequently present to health services and the prevalence of DVA is substantially higher in a general practice population than that found in the wider population.  Recent research from the University of Bristol showed that 80% of women in a violent relationship seek help from health services, usually general practice, at least once[1].

Tertiary prevention

There remains a lack of engagement from perpetrators into voluntary programmes.

Support and protection

The current local delivery model for DVA support has been in place for a number of years.  Evidenced based models for local DVA delivery and subsequent pathways must be appropriate, accessible and meet the needs of the local population of Middlesbrough.


Current data collection methods do not allow the cross-referencing of data sets between various agencies systems. Therefore it is extremely difficult to establish an accurate level of local need and also monitor how effective pathways are.

It is also currently unclear how many standard and medium risk cases are assessed by Cleveland Police and other support agencies.

[1] University of Bristol (2011), IRIS Project commissioning guidance: Responding to Domestic Abuse and abuse in general practice.




Last updated: 21/08/15

8. What evidence is there for effective intervention?

NICE (2014) Domestic violence and abuse: how health services, social care and the organisations they work with can respond effectively

AVA Project (2014) Community Co-ordinated Response Model (Home Office Endorsed Toolkit)

CAADA (2012) MARAC Development Programme (Home Office Endorsed Programme)

Durham University (2010) Briefing note 1: Domestic Abuse perpetrator programmes: What counts as success?

Communities and Local Government (2010) The Effectiveness of schemes to Enable Households at Risk of Domestic Abuse to Remain within their own homes.

Home Office (2009) Together We Can End Violence Against Women and Girls: a Strategy

Crisis (2006) Homeless women: Still being failed but struggling to survive

Hester M et al (2006) Domestic Abuse Perpetrators: identifying needs to inform early intervention.

Walby, Sylvia and Johnathan Allen (2004) Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey. Home Office Research Study 276. Home Office: London.

Debra and Kenny, Dora (2002) The Provision of Accommodation and Support for Households Experiencing Domestic Violence in England. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister


Last updated: 21/08/15

9. What do people say?


National research (Department of Health, 2010) shows that women think that the health services (health visitors, GPs, hospitals, dentists, sexual health services, practice nurses) have a vital role in early identification and response to violence, particularly for those who are isolated and therefore more vulnerable. They also felt that the health services should have a key role in supporting and safeguarding women and children, particularly some groups of women who might have difficulty in communicating with them: older women, women with learning disabilities or mental health issues, and women with language barriers, particularly if dependent on violent partners for translation.

In 2011/12, 7.3% of women (1.2 million) and 5% of men (800,000) who were surveyed as part of the British Crime Survey reported having experienced domestic abuse.

The data collated from the British Crime Survey between 2004-2013 (now the Crime Survey for England and Wales) has consistently shown that victims of domestic abuse were more likely to experience repeat victimisation than victims of other types of crime.

The 2012/13 CSEW self-completion module on intimate violence, which is asked of adults aged 16 to 59 years old, included a special focus on the nature of partner abuse and 4.4% of men surveyed reported having experienced any type of domestic abuse in the last year.


Local services held number of consultations events during 2013 in relation to women’s needs in terms of service provision, support and multi-agency responses. Consultation took place through focus groups, online survey’s and through feedback direct to services. Some key themes emerged from consultation, these included:

Myths and assumptions – Women spoke to felt that there was a lack of understanding particularly within criminal justice settings of domestic abuse and that although in theory there appears to be a willingness to recognise the seriousness of coercive control and the impact of emotional abuse this was not their experience in practice. Women continue to fear they will not be believed and are reluctant to report for fear that agencies will not understand or recognise their experiences as domestic abuse. This was something they clearly identified as a training need and they felt that all agencies should undertake initial and continuous training and development around DV issues and that this should include input from specialist agencies. There were also suggestions that this should be a top down approach as the response from supervisors was equally as important in terms of victim engagement.

Communication – This was a key issue for women, they stated that they felt it was vital that they were updated and informed in order for them to make safe decisions about their future, they felt that some processes mainly CJS often left them feeling re-victimised or had a negative impact on recovery due to a one size fits all approach which does not always encourage engagement from victims of domestic abuse. They felt that responsibility was placed heavily on victims to act rather than a duty on agencies to ensure they are engaged and informed. Those consulted felt that dedicated specialists were key within organisations and that there should be better links between agencies and organisations with a more pro-active response to referrals and support, i.e. some commented that they had reported/disclosed numerous times before being offered access to specialist services.

Support & recovery – Women wanted opportunities for therapy and women’s groups, they felt that this was an important part of their recovery. They stated that the biggest barrier for them in pursuing a complaint through the Criminal Justice System was the formality of the process & lack of information/ communication. Throughout consultation the importance of specialist independent services has been stressed and the need for practical support and advice as well as services which can address their emotional needs.

Awareness – All groups felt that it was important that key messages were available to all women and young people regarding domestic abuse.

Last updated: 21/08/15

10. What additional needs assessment is required?

Further in-depth work could be undertaken around the needs of marginalised groups such as BME population in terms of Honour Based Violence, Forced Marriage and FGM. Also more needs to done to understand the needs of the male victims and the LGBT community. 

Last updated: 21/08/15

Key Contact

Key contact: Graeme Nicholson

Job title: Coordination & Development Officer


Telephone number: 01642 728763


Cleveland Police (2014), August monthly review of performance 

Refuge (2014), Myths of Domestic Violence

Women’s Aid Report (2014), Statistics on Domestic Violence




Office for National Statistics  (2014), Statistical Bulletin -  Crime in England and Wales, Year Ending June 2014

Home Office (in Partnership with AVA) (2013), Information for Local Areas on the change to the Definition of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Cleveland Police (2013), October monthly review of performance 

Office for National Statistics (2013), Statistical Bulletin -  Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2011/12

4Children March (2012), The Enemy Within - 4 million reasons to tackle family conflict and family violence,

Middlesbrough Domestic Violence Strategy (2011),

University of Bristol (2011), IRIS Project commissioning guidance: Responding to Domestic Abuse and abuse in general practice.

Office for National Statistics (2007), Crime in England and Wales 2006/07

Department of Health (2005) Domestic violence: A resource manual for health care professionals.

Debra and Kenny, Dora (2002) The Provision of Accommodation and Support for Households Experiencing Domestic Violence in England. Office of the Deputy Prime Minister