Busting the Domestic Abuse Myths #5: Domestic violence is the biggest killer of women under 40 in the world

Another ‘fact’ that is not used so much but can still be found is the claim that “Domestic violence is the biggest killer of women under 40 in the world.”

Radio 4’s More or Less programme debunked this myth in 2009. Cancer and other disease is the most prevalent reason.


Busting the Domestic Abuse Myths #1: 89% of people who suffer four or more incidents of domestic abuse are women.

A very familiar statistic and one used by the two leading charities (Women’s Aid and Refuge) is that 89% of people who suffer four or more incidents of domestic abuse are women.

This has been mutated away from the original British Crime Survey research by Walby and Allen in 2004 who said “Among people subject to four or more incidents of domestic violence from the perpetrator of the worst incident (since age 16) 89 per cent were women”. (British Crime Survey, Walby & Allen, 2004)” This is different to all incidents.

So what are the facts?


The latest British Crime Survey looks at Partner Abuse and produces this table:


Appendix table 4.12:  Number of times victims of partner abuse had been abused by partner(s) in the last year, 2012/13 CSEW1
England and Wales Adults aged 16 to 59
Men Women All
Once 22 19 20
More than once 27 30 29
Twice 6 9 8
Three to five times 13 8 10
Between six and 20 times 4 8 7
Between 21 and 49 times 1 2 2
More than 50 times/Too many times to count 3 3 3
Don’t know 19 11 14
Don’t wish to answer 32 39 37
Unweighted base                  280                  772               1,052
  1. Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales, Office for National Statistics


The same survey estimates that in 2012/13 the gender split for partner abuse in numbers was:

  Men Women
Partner Abuse 517,000 845,000
Partner Abuse – non sexual 460,000 652,000


Therefore, taking more than five incidents as the benchmark (i.e. 6 or more as the benchmark), as the four or more incidents used in the Walby and Allen research is not available, means that

(i) – Partner Abuse

  • Men: 8% of 517,000 = 41,360 (28%)
  • Women: 13% of 845,000 = 109,850 (72%)


(ii) Partner Abuse – non-sexual

  • Men: 8% of 460,000 = 36,800 (30%)
  • Women: 13% of 652,000 = 84,760 (70%)

The conclusion is that of those

  • who suffered more than five incidents of partner abuse in the last year, government’s figures show 30% were men and 70% were women.
  • of men who suffered partner abuse last year, one in 12 (8%) suffered more than 5 times as did one in six women (13%).

Launch of domestic abuse myths series ‘ Busting the Myths’ : The need to end the marginalisation of male victims

Domestic Abuse Myths Series: The need to end the marginalisation of male victims


Over the next week, I will be debunking a number of domestic abuse myths which are being used to marginalise the voices and recognition of male victims of domestic abuse.

The charity’s view is clear: domestic abuse is multi-dimensional. It happens to people of all genders, races and sexualities – it should therefore be defined as a crime. It not a gendered crime – which is an ideological position that is not borne of the facts and has no place in today’s society if we want equality of support for all victims based on need.

These myths are both powerful and dangerous as their use and acceptance leads to the marginalisation of support and recognition of male victims – in heterosexual and same sex relationships and also for female victims in same-sex relationships.

This marginalisation leads to:

  • The development and execution of public policy that only supports female victims and male perpetrators.
  • Public awareness campaigns that frame this issue only as female victims where a man is the perpetrator.
  • The lack of services on the ground to support men – either the extension of existing services or the creation of new ones. For instance there are huge swathes of the UK with no safe house/refuge provision for males and their children.
  • The lack of self awareness for men who are suffering that they are a domestic abuse victim, the lack of knowledge of what they can do to escape and that they will be believed. Without any public information campaigns including males. Men who are suffering domestic abuse are not able to identify as a victim, have no knowledge of what they can do to escape and cannot be confident that they will be believed.
  • The lack of societal recognition so that the overwhelming view is that only women are victims so society does not recognise the signs in a man, and at the extreme end, think it is funny:


The reason this happens is that understandably the media (who are under a lot of pressure) and also service providers wanting to put information in the public domain (councils, police forces, etc) will take statistics that are commonly used and accept them as a fact. Especially if they think the sources are credible. That is why it is necessary to ensure that the real facts are in the public domain.

It has been shown by leading academics in the UK that, in relationships where domestic abuse is occurring, it is mainly mutual (they are both committing it against one another) and according to that research where there is a primary aggressor, it is likely to be a woman and the victim a man. This is not shown in the British Crime Survey because that is anonymous survey, and men routinely under-report or do not recognise or want to admit they are a victim. When this research is published, such as Testing Predictions, this research has not been actively challenged.

The challenges here will be based on the British Crime Survey (the Office for National Statistics standard) which helpfully also uses both domestic abuse and partner abuse (a subset of domestic abuse). This series will try and use both and the partner abuse figures are more powerful as they show the abuse between adults in an intimate relationship whereas domestic abuse statistics include family members.


In the Busting the Myth series, this will cover the following damaging myths:

  #1: 89% of four or more incidents of domestic abuse are women.

#2: The majority of male victims are gay

#3: Services are being taking away from female victims and given to men

#4: Domestic abuse is overwhelmingly committed against women by men

#5: Domestic violence is the biggest killer of women under 40 in the world

#6: Two women are killed each week but no mention of the male figure

#7 Woman are three times more likely to be arrested than a man

#8: Women suffer 35 or more incidents of domestic abuse before getting help

This should provide support to those who are campaigning for recognition of male victims, to ensure all victims are supported. At its core, the charity uses the British Crime Survey statistics through its “25 Key Facts_Feb 2014 (final)” and this busting the Myths series will help to overlay them.

We should concentrate on people and individuals, not, on gender.