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Realities of domestic abuse not widely known, says Citizens Advice

2 July 2015

Almost one in three people do not know that domestic abuse happens between former partners, new findings from Citizens Advice reveal.

Research has shown that even though victims can be at greater risk of being harmed when leaving an abusive relationship, many people are unaware that domestic abuse can continue when victims try to move on with their lives.  

The Crown Prosecution Service announced on Thursday (25 June) that in the year to April a record 107,000 people were prosecuted for domestic abuse and other violence against women and girls offences.

Citizens Advice is drawing attention to how important it is that people can identify domestic abuse so that abusers are prosecuted and victims get the support they need. To help people recognise when friends or family may suffering from abuse, the national charity is highlighting that abuse can happen after a relationship has ended and can include a financial or psychological element.

The survey of over 2,000 British adults carried out for Citizens Advice by ComRes, also reveals:

  • Just 1 in 5 (22 per cent) think it is always easy to tell what counts as domestic abuse;

  • People are more than twice as likely to know that domestic abuse can include a psychological element than a financial one, with only 2 in 5 (39 per cent) aware of the financial side of abuse compared to four in five (86 per cent) who are aware of the psychological side;

  • 2 in 5 people (39 per cent) are not aware making a partner account for all their spending can constitute domestic abuse

  • 13 per cent believe domestic abuse can only be between two people in a relationship who live together, not among those who are casually dating.

The Citizens Advice report Controlling money, controlling lives last year revealed that victims of financial abuse had access to their bank accounts restricted, were stolen from and had their property destroyed. Some victims sought help after being left with huge debts when they were forced to take out loans for their abuser. The financial abuse was in some cases accompanied by intimidation, physical violence and even repeated death threats.

An analysis of almost 200 cases of financial abuse brought to local Citizens Advice between January and June last year revealed that 9 in 10 victims were women.

Earlier this week the Justice Secretary spoke about reforming the criminal justice system to ensure victims of domestic abuse are not made to suffer again by waiting years for a trial.  

Citizens Advice’s evidence also shows that getting out of an abusive relationship can be a difficult and lengthy process and that abusers are able to use the courts or joint finances to make cutting ties even harder.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The suffering of domestic abuse victims is going undetected. Many people do not realise abuse can occur after a relationship has ended and be financial or psychological, as well as physical.

“Without the knowledge and understanding of the extent of abuse it is difficult for family and friends to make sure people get the help they need.

“New measures from the Government to make coercive control illegal will ensure those found guilty of these crimes are punished. For this to truly help victims the public and authorities need support to identify abuse.

“It is encouraging the Justice Minister wants to do more to tackle domestic abuse. There is an opportunity for the Government to review the restrictions placed on legal aid for domestic abuse cases. As it stands it is a struggle for many victims to get the professional help they need to legally protect their children and separate from an abusive partner.”

To ensure the Government’s announced law is able to deliver strong protections for domestic abuse victims Citizens Advice is working with specialists to provide tools to tackle financial abuse.

The national charity is also developing guidance that will better equip everyone, from friends and family through to professionals, to better identify all forms of abuse and take the right steps to help victims get the support they need.

Notes to editors

  1. If you are experiencing domestic violence or abuse, or you are concerned someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, you can seek help by calling confidential freephone helplines:
    • If the victim is a woman, you get help from the National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline on 0808 2000 247
    • If the victim is a man, you can get help from the Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327
    • If the victim is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, you can get specialised help from Broken Rainbow on 0300 999 5428
  2. ComRes interviewed 2,063 British adults online between the 8th and 10th May 2015 and 2,014 British adults online between the 15th and 17th May 2015. Data were weighted to be representative of British adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Data tables are available at www.comres.co.uk
  3. 31 per cent of surveyed GB adults either agreed that it is not called domestic abuse if it takes place after the relationship has ended or said they didn’t know.
  4. Research findings from 2001 cited by Women’s Aid found that “[w]omen are at a higher risk of violence and of being killed after leaving violent partners”.
  5. Last year the Government announced that it would address financial and other forms of non-physical abuse by making ‘coercive control’ a crime.
  6. An analysis of 198 people who sought help for financial abuse in their local Citizens Advice between January and June 2014 revealed 19 were men and 179 were women.
  7. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  8. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  9. To get advice online or find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  10. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  11. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.