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What is violence against women and girls?

Violence against women is violence directed at women and girls because they are women or girls, or is experienced disproportionately by women and girls as a group.

Violence against women includes domestic abuse; rape and sexual violence; stalking; forced marriage; so-called honour based violence; female genital mutilation (FGM); trafficking and sexual exploitation including through the sex industry; and sexual harassment in work and public life.

Violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men, a violation of human rights, and a result of an abuse of power and control.

Definition of ‘violence against women’

‘Violence against women’ is defined by the United Nations and others as acts of violence which are suffered disproportionally by women that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. Violence against women shall be understood to encompass but not be limited to:

(a) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family, including battering, sexual abuse of female children in the household, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence related to exploitation;

(b) Physical, sexual and psychological violence occurring within the general community, including rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and elsewhere, trafficking in women and forced prostitution;

(c) Physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the State, wherever it occurs.¹

Why a focus on violence against women?

These forms of violence and abuse are predominately experienced by women and girls, and perpetrated by men, however, men and boys can also be victims and women can also be perpetrators. For example, in 2014/15 domestic abuse cases 92.4% of defendants were male and, where recorded, 84% of the victims were female.

Although not all violence against women occurs within a context of traditional power relations, perpetrators’ behaviour stems from a sense of entitlement supported by sexist, racist, disablist, homophobic and other discriminatory attitudes, behaviours and systems that maintain and reproduce inequality.

We are committed to supporting women, men, girls and boys who experience violence and abuse; to challenging all those who perpetrate violence and abuse, and to preventing it from happening in the first place. We advocate a gender-responsive and trauma informed response, which is needs-led, strengths-based and enables survivors achieve independence and freedom.

Anyone affected by these forms of violence and abuse should be able to access help and support when they need it and every case should be taken seriously. The Live Fear Free Helpline is a 24 hour helpline for women, children and men experiencing domestic abuse, sexual violence or other forms of violence against women on 0808 80 10 800.


¹United Nations: ‘Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women’, General Assembly http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/48/a48r104.htm

²CPS Violence Against Women and Girls Crime Report 2014/15 https://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/docs/cps_vawg_report_2015_amended_september_2015_v2.pdf

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