Press Release

7 July 2021

Refuge responds to HMICFRS interim report on police engagement with women and girls

In response to the HMICFRS interim report on the inspection into police engagement with women and girls, Ruth Davison Refuge CEO said:

‘Refuge welcomes this interim report into police engagement with women and girls. We echo the HMICFRS’ call for urgent strategies to address the significant failings in the current police response to women experiencing domestic abuse and other forms of male violence.

With a domestic abuse call to the police every thirty seconds, (yet only around 20% of people experiencing domestic abuse ever report to the police), this should be a priority issue. Yet time and again Refuge sees reviews which fail to deliver the radical progress we so urgently need to see.

Recent findings from the Victim’s Commissioner’s survey of rape complainants, for example, found that only 14% of survivors felt reporting to the police would help them to get justice. Additionally, police perpetrators of domestic abuse are a third less likely to be convicted than the general public. What sort of message does this send to women who are experiencing domestic abuse? Refuge is concerned that a culture of misogyny runs through the police, unchecked. As the first and last bastion of support, it is incumbent on the police to change.  As things stand, year after year the police continue to fail women.

Today’s report, however, offers the opportunity both for a step change in the response from the police, but also to inform the government’s Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) and Domestic Abuse (DA) strategies, as well as the Victims Bill. Refuge urges the government to seize the recommendations in this report and prioritise, alongside urgent police reform, the following issues to:

-Provide tailored, consistent support to survivors from Independent Domestic Violence Advocates (IDVAs), Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs)and other specialist services which make a crucial difference to women being able to access justice.

-Commit and prioritise ring-fenced, long-term, sustainable funding for the full range of specialist support services.

-Support HMICFRS’ wider call for a ‘whole system approach’ to violence against women and girls. We believe this would be best implemented by introducing a statutory duty o all government departments and public bodies to engage with specialist organisations to better support survivors in all their diversity ensuring the voices of migrant women, black and other racially minoritised women, deaf and disabled women as well as LGBT+ survivors voices are represented.

-Ensure that police receive rigorous gender-informed and trauma-informed training when responding to incidents of domestic abuse to ensure that women are not re-traumatised when they seek help. Too often, women who report abuse to the police find themselves unfairly detained and questioned over malicious allegations of counter abuse.

Refuge looks forward to working with HMICFRS ahead of the final report being published in September and welcomes the opportunity to comment on this interim report.  We stand ready to work with government to ensure that the proposed Victims Bill reflects the findings from the HMICFRS final report by placing the rights of survivors going through the criminal justice system on a statutory footing, and that the findings of the report help inform the VAWG and DA strategies. Refuge hopes this report will start to put in place the change, and action, that is needed – the change that is called for year after year and the action that remains woefully overdue.’


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About Refuge:

Refuge supports more than 7,000 women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For real time automated guidance on how to secure your personal devices Refuge also has a Tech Safety Tool.