Young women more likely to suffer partner abuse, figures suggest

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Girls and women in their late teens and early twenties are significantly more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of a current or former partner than those in older age groups, official statistics show.

Females who are bisexual, from the poorest households or suffering from a long-term illness also face a greater risk of partner abuse, analysis suggests.

The findings were detailed in a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which examined data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales covering a three-year period to March 2017.

Partner abuse as defined by the survey includes the use of physical force, emotional or financial abuse, threats of violence, sexual assault, and stalking carried out by a current or ex-partner.

The latest estimates suggest that 985,000 women aged 16 to 59 experienced partner abuse in the previous 12 months.

The ONS study said young women aged between 16 and 19 years (7.6%) and 20 and 24 years (7.4%) were significantly more likely to have experienced partner abuse in the 12 months before interview than women aged between 45 and 54 years (5.6%) and 55 and 59 years (4.4%).

This follows a similar trend shown by women who experienced any domestic abuse, where younger women were also more likely to be victims than older women, according to the paper.

It also said:

– Women who had a long-term illness or disability were more than twice as likely to have experienced some form of partner abuse (12.4%) in the last 12 months than women who did not (5.1%).

– Bisexual women were nearly twice as likely to have experienced partner abuse in the last 12 months than heterosexual women (10.9% compared with 6.0%).

– Women who identified with mixed/multiple ethnicities were more likely to have experienced partner abuse in the last year (10.1%) than any other ethnic group.

– Women living in households with an income of less than £10,000 were more than four times as likely (14.3%) to have experienced partner abuse in the past 12 months than women living in households with an income of £50,000 or more (3.3%).

– Women living in social housing (11.1%) were nearly three times as likely to have experienced partner abuse in the last year than women who were owner occupiers (4.1%).

Glenn Everett, of the ONS, said: “Today’s analysis gives insight into the characteristics of women and girls who are more likely to experience partner abuse. 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.”

Sian Hawkins, head of campaigns and public affairs at Women’s Aid, said: “From our work with survivors, we know that women of all ages are living with domestic abuse – regardless of whether they have just embarked on their first relationship or have been married for decades.

“We also know that younger women experience abuse at shockingly high rates but are less likely to access vital support services.

“Today’s ONS statistics show that a higher proportion of younger women between the ages of 16-24 experienced domestic abuse in the last year than women aged 45-59.

“Our culture often portrays controlling behaviour as a sign of being desired or loved when in fact coercive and controlling behaviour is at the heart of domestic abuse.

“This can make it more difficult for younger women, who may be entering into their first relationship, to identify abusive behaviours or question them, and as a result they may not speak out about the abuse or know that domestic abuse services can help them.”

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