News | Press Release

26 January 2024

Responding to ONS Crime data and CPS research released on consent

Responding to ONS Crime data and CPS research released on consent, Jess Eagelton, Head of Policy Public Affairs and Research at Refuge said:

“This week we have seen two sets of data released showing the prevalence of violence against women and girls (VAWG). Crime data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on the face of it shows a drop in the amount of domestic abuse and sexual offences crimes recorded by the police. Refuge echoes the Domestic Abuse Commissioner Nicole Jacobs’ concerns that this is not because of a real drop in VAWG crimes but because police have deliberately stopped recording as many crimes around domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse rarely happens in isolation or one-off instances and new rules introduced in summer of last year by the Home Office, instructed police to only count one crime for each time a victim/survivor reports. Data has not been collected in this way previously and thus is deliberately skewed – this apparent fall in domestic abuse crimes is a false picture.

We know data on domestic abuse is often just the tip of the iceberg, as women are faced with a myriad of barriers when reporting crimes that they have experienced to the police. Only 1 in 5 survivors report domestic abuse to the police, with so few women having confidence in the criminal justice system, to do so.

We urge the police and the government to do more to tackle this lack of trust in the criminal justice system rather than present false narratives that underplays the impact of domestic abuse. Despite these administrative changes to collecting the data, reports of domestic abuse offences remain high at 862,765 in the year ending September 2023. Domestic abuse also made up almost one in six crimes reported to the police, and a third of violence against the person crimes, despite this, conviction rates remain disappointingly low at approximately five per cent. Is it any wonder that women do not have trust and confidence to report these crimes committed against them when conviction rates are so low?

False narratives around domestic abuse and sexual violence are hugely damaging, a survey from the CPS also published this week showed only a third of respondents correctly identified women rarely make up rape allegations, this a hugely damaging belief and one of the reasons why so few women feel able to report to the police, they simply feel they won’t be believed. Only 39% of the 3,000 people surveyed accurately identified most rapists know their victim, this is concerning and shows a real lack of understanding about the relationship between domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Refuge is particularly concerned about the findings from this CPS consent survey that shows a lack of understanding and education about consent for young people with only 28% of 18-24-year-olds recognising that if a person says online they want to meet up and have sex, that doesn’t mean they have to have sex when they meet. Furthermore, less than half of young people recognised that being in a relationship or marriage does not mean consent to sex can be assumed, this really shows a worrying trend about young people potentially being coerced into sexual violence and vitally thinking this is acceptable, it isn’t. Coerced sex in relationships is still rape, and sexual violence is a form of domestic abuse.

Refuge urges the government to think carefully about the trends emerging from data released this week on VAWG that shows the impact of damaging myths of victim/survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence and desperately shows vital education must be rolled out amongst young people to address the dangers of this misinformation around consent that is spreading and a root cause of male violence.”