2. Individual (victim/survivor)
It is clear from prevalence studies that domestic violence is very common and research shows that it can affect everyone regardless of age, social class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, disability or lifestyle. However, some groups are more vulnerable than others. The biggest risk factor for experiencing domestic violence is having a disability, being young and poor and domestic violence is most commonly perpetrated by men against women although gay men are also particularly at risk.
Domestic violence tends to increase in frequency and severity over time. It is not more common in any specific ethnic group but barriers to seeking help may mean that survivors from some ethnic minority communities may stay in a marriage or relationship longer and thus endure more abuse.
Domestic violence is associated with broader gender inequality, and should be understood in its historical context, whereby societies have given greater status, wealth, influence, control and power to men. It is part of a range of behaviours constituting male abuse of power, and is linked to other forms of male violence.
The existence of violence against men is not denied, nor is the existence of violence in same sex relationships, nor other forms of abuse, but domestic violence requires a response which takes account of the gender specific elements and the broader gender inequalities which women face.
Throughout this toolkit, we have attempted to be as gender neutral as possible in that we have not automatically assumed that all victims / survivors are female or that all perpetrators are male. In some instances, however, we have not been gender neutral. This is mostly because some of our knowledge about domestic violence is indeed gendered. For example, we know that leaving a violent relationship is extremely dangerous for heterosexual women. However, the evidence does not suggest that the reverse is true so it would be misleading to state that leaving is a particularly dangerous time for all victims.
We have also been gendered when presenting research findings that derive from studies that have only focused on female victims / male perpetrators or referring to gender-specific services such as domestic violence perpetrator programmes. Finally, in some instances, to reduce cumbersome grammatical constructs, we have referred to victims as female and perpetrators as male in recognition of the fact that this is true in the overwhelming majority of cases. However, this is not meant to imply that this is always the case.
This section examines how domestic violence is experienced by different groups of survivors/victims. It will also include information on the various manifestations of abuse that are included within the Government definition of domestic violence, such as so called honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. This section will also provide extensive information on the following categories/groups of survivors/victims: