Who is affected?

GBV is common in society. Precise data, however, are difficult to obtain since most abuse is hidden from the public gaze and is thus significantly under-reported. Variations in definitions and survey methods across studies make comparative analysis difficult, whilst data from agencies are not recorded routinely or in a standard format. The persistence of attitudes which excuse or condone abuse contributes to difficulties around definition and recording. 

For example, a study by NHS Health Scotland (2005) of 1,395 young people between 14-18yrs found that a third of young men and a sixth of young women thought that using violence in an intimate relationship was acceptable under certain circumstances. It also found that 17 per cent of young women had experienced violence or abuse from a boyfriend.

Who is at risk?

Being female is the key risk factor for experiencing abuse. However, not all women are equally at risk. Discrimination in relation to ethnicity, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, age, migrant or refugee status etc can increase and intensify the risk of abuse. 

Men and women who have experienced abuse may fear stigma, disbelief or ridicule following disclosure. Male survivors of childhood sexual abuse may additionally fear that they will be considered potential abusers. Although most survivors of abuse do not go on to abuse others, this assumption can be a very real barrier to disclosing. See www.gbv.scot.nhs.uk for further information.

How common is GBV?

There are considerable overlaps in the nature, dynamics and impact of such abuse, for example, domestic abuse encompasses sexual violence, stalking, and forced marriage as well as physical and emotional abuse. Similarly, children who have been sexually abused in childhood may experience further victimisation in adulthood.

Domestic abuse

  • The Scottish Government states that approximately one quarter of women in Scotland will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime.
  • The Statistical Bulletin of Domestic Abuse recorded by Police in Scotland in 2012-13 noted that of the 60,080 incidents reported 80% were female victims with a male perpetrator, 17% were male victims with a female perpetrator and 2% were same sex relationships; in 44% of cases the perpetrator was an ex-spouse/partner.
  • The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey revealed that the police were involved in only 21% of domestic abuse incidents in 2012-13.
  • Stonewall Scotland reports that one in four lesbian and bisexual women have experienced domestic abuse from a partner, which is the same as the general female population, while half of gay and bisexual men have experienced domestic abuse, and a third have experienced domestic abuse from a partner. This compares to one in six men in general who have experienced domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16.
  • In 2014, the UK Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 1,267 cases of forced marriage, 79% involved women and 21% men; 135 cases involved people with disabilities.
  • A UK study by the NSPCC found 1 in 6 girls aged between 13-17 have been hit by their boyfriend; 1 in 16 reported being raped by them.

Sexual violence

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2012/2013 found that since the age of 16 years, 13% of women and 2% of men had experienced some form of less serious sexual assault whilst 4% of women and 1% of men have experienced serious sexual assault or rape. 94% of the perpetrators of these sexual assaults were male; in 54% of cases victims were assaulted by their partner or ex-partner.

Childhood sexual abuse (CSA)

The World Health Organisation estimates that around 20% of girls and 5% of boys experience CSA. A UK report in 2005 found that 21% of girls and 11% of boys have experienced CSA.

Commercial sexual exploitation

Home Office study (2004) found that 70% of women involved in street prostitution in the UK became involved as children or teenagers. 85% experienced physical abuse in their families, 45% experienced sexual abuse in their families.

A survey of women involved in prostitution in the UK (2001) found that 48% of women in indoor prostitution had experienced ‘client’ violence including physical assault, attempted rape, strangulation, kidnapping, rape.


Updated July 2015

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