In 2020 the England and Wales Office for National Statistics commissioned the research reported here to review the current questions on domestic abuse in the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and to establish how better data for policy and practice might be produced. The CSEW is a representative population survey that since the early 2000s has provided ongoing measurement of domestic abuse via a dedicated domestic abuse module, with regular publication of headline prevalence and other descriptive data. At the same time the measurement of domestic violence in the CSEW has also been the subject of ongoing debate and critique, in particular whether it is appropriate to use catch-all prevalence measures in the context of policy, practice and commissioning of services.
The research included analysis of CSEW user survey data (N = 39), focus group and individual interviews with male and female victims/survivors (N = 11), consultation with core stakeholders (N = 18), and consideration of international surveys and recent legislation.
Current CSEW questions do not capture domestic abuse accurately or reflect lived experience, coercive control needs to be seen at the core of domestic abuse, and while physical assault is an important part of measuring domestic abuse establishing frequency through counting events is probably impossible.
A fundamental rethink of the current CSEW self-completion module is required, with a wider set of questions about domestic abuse and impact. A revised module should identify and provide estimation of prevalence for different ‘abuse profiles’ that would complement improved headline measures and better inform policy and practice.