Understanding the nature and prevalence of unreported domestic abuse

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Essex

Principal Researcher

Ruth Weir

Level of Research


Project Start Date

October 2013

Research Context

It is estimated that one in four women and one in six men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, but only between 23% and 43% of victims will report their abuse to the police. This leaves a substantial hidden problem and with two women a week dying as a result of their abuse at an estimated cost to the British economy of £5.5 billion per year, it is not an issue that can be ignored.


It is not known whether those who report to the police are similar in profile to those who do not report. Do they have the same demographic, social and geographic characteristics? Understanding these factors will greatly improve the provision that is provided to victims and will give more of an understanding of the risk factors that may lead to abuse.


Key policy questions:

  • Where should Essex County Council focus their resources and services to have the most impact in reducing domestic abuse?
  • Can Essex County Council rely on Essex Police recorded crime data to predict the service requirements of those who do not report their abuse to the police?

Key academic question:

  • Are individual or neighbourhood variables a better predictor of domestic abuse?

Research Methodology

​Data from Essex Police will be modelled using Geographically Weighted Regression to identify neighbourhood predictors. Individual level predictors will also be explored and combined with the neighbourhood predictors in a multi-level model. Modelling will also be carried out with data from other agencies such as housing, Cafcas, refuges and NHS to see whether the predictors are the same for those who do not report to the police.

Interim reports and publications

R Weir; July 2014; Society Central, Essex University - "​Domestic abuse: Telling the untold story"

Date due for completion

April 2019
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