Rape conviction rates in the UK are at the lowest levels since records began

Women’s groups including The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) are highlighting the news yesterday that rape conviction rates by the CPS in the UK are the lowest they have been since records began.

Despite a huge rise in reports of rape in recent years the CPS is showing a reduction in the number of convicted rape cases overall. The CPS decisions to prosecute on rape have fallen by over 51% in 5 years. There has been a drop of 37.7% of rape cases charged by the CPS last year (this includes a drop from 2,822 in 2017/8 to 1,758 in 2018/9).

The CPS have blamed falling police referrals but the CPS decisions to not prosecute are almost double the rate of the police referrals to the CPS -51% compared to -27%. As a response to this EVAW has sent a detailed letter threatening legal action against the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in June this year, indicating the CPS is essentially changing its policy and practice in relation to rape cases and a dramatic fall in rape cases being charged has been the result.

Harriet Wistrich, Director of Centre for Women’s Justice commented

‘The CPS have repeatedly denied that they have changed their approach to the prosecution of rape. They have variously blamed the fall in the number of cases prosecuted on the delays caused by disclosure demand post the Liam Allen case, and on the police for failure to progress and refer cases. However, we have gathered evidence from a variety of significant sources which taken together provide a compelling picture that the primary cause of this collapse in prosecutions emanates from a deliberate change in the approach taken by the CPS dating back to late 2016.’

You can read more about conviction rates here

and in a Guardian article here

UK charity Refuge launches short film highlighting children witnessing domestic violence

Refuge the UK domestic violence charity have launched a video highlighting that 90% of domestic abuse happens in the presence of children. They also identify that

  • In 41% of cases of partner abuse there was at least one child under the age of 16 living in the household
  • Of the 6,500 survivors of abuse that Refuge supports every day, around 3,500 are children

Refuge has partnered with Picturehouse cinemas to show a powerful 60 second short film called ‘Hide and Seek’, it is being shown in 25 Picturehouse cinemas across the UK.

You can access this short film  here.

Mental health blamed for 18 year old woman being murdered by her partner








An 18 year old woman Natasha Hill was stabbed 53 times and murdered by her partner in Greenwich, her partner Scott Clifford was sentenced this week to 18 years in prison. Her family had been concerned for some time about his controlling behaviour and that he would kill her. The judge added that Natasha would have suffered ‘extreme pain’ during the assault, because of a single ‘prolonged’ attack or because she woke up briefly after he fractured her skull. The attack occurred after Scott had been drinking all day and when the ambulance staff arrived he pretended she had fallen down the stairs drunk.

The trial also heard how Clifford in 2012 had attacked his ex-girlfriend Michelle Bateman, she gave evidence that he had jumped on her and punched her multiple times and described how afterwards he blamed his violence on  a split personality and alter-ego called ‘Ronnie’. You can read more about the case here.


Paper published in BMJ on alcohol-related harm to others


A paper recently published in BMJ Open reported on the harm caused by alcohol to people other than the drinker. This national survey of almost 5000 adults across England examined the extent, type and frequency of harms associated with other people’s drinking as well as identifying who was most likely to be the victim and perpetrator of harm. This was the largest ever survey of its kind in the UK. The study showed that one in five adults reported harm from another’s drinking in the previous 12 months. Of concern, almost one in twenty people said they had experienced at least one aggressive harm in the previous year which was related to someone who had been drinking (3.4% of respondents said they had felt physically threatened, 1.9% said they had been physically assaulted and 0.7% said they had been forced or pressurised into something sexual). While friends and strangers were the people that caused almost half of all alcohol-related harms, the person causing harm varied depending on the type of harm. Strangers were most likely to be the perpetrators of physical threats and physical assaults. One in five (19%) people who were forced or pressured into something sexual said this was by a stranger, but 23% said this was by a partner they lived with, increasing to almost 40% when partners who lived elsewhere were included.


You can access the paper here.

ADVANCE paper published – The Dynamics of Domestic Abuse and Drug and Alcohol Dependency

A paper in the British Journal of Criminology has just been published from the ADVANCE programme grant (first author Professor David Gadd). The article focuses on the dynamics that occur in relationships where there have been both substance use and domestic abuse. It draws on in-depth qualitative interviews with male perpetrators and their current or former partners. The analysis section highlights different ways in which domestic abuse is compounded for women who have a. not been substance use dependent b. were formerly dependent or c. are currently dependent. The article additionally explores the criminological implications of competing models of change deployed in drug treatment and domestic violence interventions while discussing the policy and practice challenges.

You can access the paper here.

Free seminar in London addressing substance use and trauma for women

Practitioners working in substance misuse services are invited to attend a free seminar on the 18 June to discuss treatment responses for women with trauma symptoms and problematic substance use. The seminar will be held in London, in conjunction with Against Violence and Abuse and King’s College London. More details of speakers and booking can be found here.

Among the speakers will be Karen Bailey who has just completed her PhD at King’s College London. She will discuss her study, which was the first of its kind in the UK to assess the feasibility of delivering an international evidence-based group work programme aimed at women with PTSD symptoms and problematic substance use.

The feasibility study involved 2 cycles of a 12-session group of Seeking Safety delivered twice weekly with two facilitators. The study aimed to answer uncertainties about delivering the  programme in a UK substance misuse service:

  • Could women be retained in the group and study?
  • Did participants and facilitators find the material and group structure acceptable and feasible?
  • Were the facilitators able to deliver the manual as anticipated?
  • What service and environmental factors impacted on the group delivery and women’s recovery?

Come along and hear more about the findings of Karen’s study,  and hear from other speakers from South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, Against Violence and Abuse, and Women and Girl’s Network.



Tenerife resident accused of murdering his wife and son

A German man who is a resident of Tenerife has been accused of murdering his wife and 10 year old son in a cave near Adeje.  The bodies of the woman and child were discovered on Wednesday after hikers found a 5-year-old boy who said his father had taken the family to a cave and attacked them.  Early reports suggest the woman and her 10 year old son were beaten to death.

The father responded violently to the arrest and refused to reveal the location of the rest of his family members, according El Pais newspaper.

Local officials are treating the deaths as a domestic violence case and a local court that specialises in crimes against women has taken charge of the investigation. The Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez commented on the murders saying

‘“The worst news arrives from Adeje (Tenerife). A woman and her son have been killed. Again the #ViolenciaMachista [gendered violence] hits double. A son of the couple managed to escape. All my love for him, for his family and loved ones. We have to end this.”

He has made women’s rights a key campaign topic for the general election this month. More than 990 women have been killed by their partners or former partners since 2003, when official Spanish records on such killings began. Deputy Prime Minister Calvo said 18 women had been murdered by partners or ex-partners so far this year. She condemned the Adeje case, saying “we must stop criminal machismo”.

You can access more about this case here.


ADVANCE Programme – Summary of findings

The ADVANCE team have written a summary of the programme findings:

The ADVANCE study:
ADVANCE is a 60-month programme with 5 workstreams to describe the role of substance use in intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetration by men in substance use treatment and develop and test a perpetrator programme for this group. ADVANCE is led by King’s College London, together with colleagues from the University of Worcester, University of Manchester, University of Bristol, University of York, RESPECT, South London and the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Rochester Institute of Technology.

• IPV includes physical harm, sexual abuse, psychological harm, controlling behaviour and financial abuse between an intimate couple.1
• In the UK, 8% of women and 4% of men experienced past year IPV2 compared to 57% of women attending substance use treatment.3,4 40% of men receiving substance use treatment have perpetrated past year physical or sexual IPV rates four times higher than men in the general population.5-9
• No single factor explains why some people perpetrate IPV but alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine are strongly and consistently associated with IPV perpetration.9-11
• Around 23-63% of IPV incidents involve alcohol as a contributing factor,1 “approximately equal to other contributing causes such as gender roles, anger and marital functioning”.11
• Physical violence is also more severe on days when heavy drinking has occurred and when one or both partners have been drinking.12

Our previous research found:
• 77% of men in substance use treatment in England had perpetrated IPV, only 25% had been arrested for it, and even fewer had received support13
• Substance use treatment staff have concerns about role boundaries, competency and confidence in asking service users about IPV perpetration. Staff highlighted a lack of care pathways including perpetrator programmes.14
• A systematic review was conducted to determine the efficacy of interventions to reduce IPV by men who use substances. Limited evidence that IPV interventions targeting substance-using men reduce IPV. Individual trials report short-term improvements in IPV and substance use outcomes. Integrated IPV and substance interventions showed no difference IPV outcomes compared to usual treatment.15

Gaps in knowledge
• There remains an urgent need to explain and address the high prevalence of IPV amongst men receiving substance use treatment and to develop evidenced based, integrated interventions for IPV perpetrators who use substances.
Findings to date from ADVANCE:
Two studies were conducted to explore how substance use featured in survivors’ and perpetrators’ accounts of IPV to inform the development of the ADVANCE intervention to reduce IPV perpetration by men receiving substance use treatment:

1. A systematic review of 26 qualitative studies 16
Whilst perpetrators depicted their violence as typically motivated and moderated, the studies exposed assaults that were uncontrolled and brutal, the repetition of which survivors anticipated. The review found that substance use and IPV were linked in the following complex ways:

Intoxication: Survivors and perpetrators both explained IPV perpetration in terms of a change or disinhibition in self when under the influence of alcohol or stimulant drugs.
Withdrawal: There was an increased risk of IPV perpetration when men were in withdrawal or craving alcohol, heroin and stimulant drugs due to irritability and frustration or because they needed money to obtain substances. Failure or refusal of a partner to procure money for drugs increased the likelihood of violence.
Impact of substance use on relationship: Perpetrators who used substances were more likely to blame their violence on intoxication or their partner’s behaviour. The substance user’s lifestyle further created environments experienced as emotionally unstable and unpredictable. Survivors reported hypervigilance in anticipation of their partner’s abusive behaviours and bore the burden of an unequal share of childcare, domestic duties and economic finances to support the family.
Power and control: Survivors often depicted their partner’s intoxication and withdrawal as part of a wider pattern of behaviour, including controlling tendencies and emotional unpredictability. Male perpetrators’ controlling behaviours were exacerbated by intoxication
Psychological vulnerabilities: Childhood trauma, mental health and emotional instability were further linked to substance use and IPV perpetration.

2. A qualitative study of 14 male IPV perpetrators in substance use treatment in England and their current or former female partners17,18
The majority of men used heroin, crack, cocaine and/or alcohol. Four female partners were current heroin and/or crack users, and two had previously used substances. Eight men reported they had been arrested for IPV and 6 men reported having received a custodial sentence. Eleven men and 8 women disclosed mental health problems. At least three couples reported that their children had been taken into local authority care.

Overall men minimised and/or denied their violence. Some men viewed it as a one-off incident and/or context specific, whereas women reported violence as part of an ongoing pattern of abuse and controlling behaviour. Men were more likely to describe violence as bi-directional. Women’s accounts of hypervigilance (being constantly aware and assessing the environment for signs that violence may occur) featured. Women who used substances often fought back. Perpetrators considered their behaviour to be protecting their partners against other men or the woman’s escalating drug use however survivors experienced the man’s behaviour as controlling and stifling. Both partners brought histories of adversity, psychological disorders, childhood abuse and IPV in previous relationships with them.

Overall a complex interplay between the psycho-pharmacological effects of intoxication, withdrawal and craving, gendered power relations and controlling behaviours were found.

Intoxication was found to exacerbate IPV within the context of anger, aggression and sexual jealousy and could be the tipping point into violence, although other contributory factors were involved. Whilst both partners blamed intoxication for the violence, men viewed their violence as a one-off incident in isolation while often blaming their partner in some way for their violence. Women however were more likely to report IPV as part of a long-standing pattern of abusive and controlling behaviours.
Withdrawal, craving and ‘coming down’ from substances presented conflict situations due to the psychopharmacological impact of the drug making them irritable or frustrated. In addition, when the need for procuring funds to support dependent substance use became the focus, some men coerced their partners into sex work or other criminal activity, threatening them to provide money or using the family finances to support their habits. Exerting financial control over the women sometimes involved threats of and actual physical violence. In relationships where both partners used substances disputes around unequal shares of substances or procuring funds to support substances could spill over to physical violence or jealousy over sex working. Women who use substances are made particularly vulnerable by their substance dependence often keeping them in abusive relationships. Secretive substance use, whether due to relapse or otherwise was also an area for conflict where the woman was unaware of their partner’s use/relapse, sometimes intensifying a situation in which IPV could occur.

• Perpetrator programmes need to address the multifaceted complex interplay between substance use and IPV.
• The findings should be used as robust and scientific evidence to help support the funding and commissioning of services within central Government and locally, which target both the substance use and IPV within substance use services.

Next steps:
• These findings have informed the development of the ADVANCE group intervention which is currently being tested among 108 male perpetrators in substance use treatment settings in England. Findings will be reported by the end of 2019.

Financial implications:
In England, the costs associated with alcohol and illicit drug use, are estimated at over £32 billion in terms of economic, social, health and crime.19 In England and Wales, domestic violence costs around £16 billion including costs of (largely public) services to those who experience domestic violence; the value of lost economic output; and the associated human and emotional costs.20 The estimated cost of social services supporting and caring for children where there has been domestic violence are £283 million.20 Investing in interventions which tackle the behaviours that result in such financial costs to society and the tax payer would help to reduce those costs potentially representing substantial savings.

ADVANCE https://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/depts/addictions/research/drugs/advance.aspx is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Programme Grants for Applied Research programme (RP-PG-1214-20009). The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

About the National Institute for Health Research
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research. Established by the Department of Health and Social Care, the NIHR:

• funds high quality research to improve health
• trains and supports health researchers
• provides world-class research facilities
• works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all
• involves patients and the public at every step
• For further information, visit the NIHR website www.nihr.ac.uk

1 World Health Organization (2012) Understanding and Addressing Violence Against Women. Geneva: WHO.
2 Office for National Statistics (2016) Compendium Intimate personal violence and partner abuse. Results from the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2015.
3 Tirado-Muñoz, J., et al. (2018) Psychiatric comorbidity and intimate partner violence among women who inject drugs in Europe: a cross-sectional study. Arch Women Mental Health, 21:259–269.
4 Gilchrist, G., Blazquez, A., Torrens, M. (2012) Exploring the relationship between intimate partner violence, childhood abuse and psychiatric disorders among female drug users. Adv Dual Diagnosis, 5(2):46-58.
5 Gilchrist G, et al. (2015) Factors associated with physical or sexual intimate partner violence perpetration by men attending substance misuse treatment in Catalunya: A mixed methods study. Crim Behav Mental Health, 25(4): 239-257.
6 Smith, P.H., et al. (2012) Intimate partner violence and specific substance use disorders: findings from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Psych Addict Behav, 26:236–245.
7 Fleming, P.J., et al. (2015) Risk factors for men’s lifetime perpetration of physical violence against intimate partners: Results from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) in eight countries. PLoS One, 10(3), E0118639.
8 Chermack, S.T., et al. (2008) Partner aggression among men and women in substance use disorder treatment: correlates of psychological and physical aggression and injury. Drug Alc Depend, 98:35–44.
9 Choenni, V., et al. (2017) Association Between Substance Use and the Perpetration of Family Violence in Industrialized Countries. A systematic review. Trauma Viol Abuse, 18(1):37-50.
10 Cafferky, B., et al. (2018) Substance use and intimate partner violence: A meta-analytic review. Psych Viol, 8(1):110-131.
11 Leonard, K.E., Quigley, B.M. (2017) Thirty years of research show alcohol to be a cause of intimate partner violence: future research needs to identify who to treat and how to treat them. Drug Alcohol Rev, 36:7–9.
12 Graham, K., et al. (2011) Alcohol may not cause partner violence but it seems to make it worse: a cross national comparison of the relationship between alcohol and severity of partner violence. J Interpers Viol, 26(8):1503-1523.
13 Gilchrist, G., et al. (2017) The prevalence and factors associated with ever perpetrating intimate partner violence by men receiving substance use treatment in Brazil and England: a cross-cultural comparison. Drug Alcohol Rev, 31(1):34-51.
14 Hughes, L., Fitzgerald, C., Radcliffe, P., Gilchrist, G. (2015) A framework for working effectively and safely with men who perpetrate intimate partner violence in substance use treatment settings. London: King’s College
15 Stephens-Lewis, D., et al. Interventions to Reduce Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration by Men who use Substances: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Efficacy. Trauma Viol Abuse (under review)
16 Gilchrist, G., et al. (2019) The interplay between substance use and intimate partner violence perpetration: A meta-ethnography. Int J Drug Policy, 65:8-23.
17 Gadd, D., et al. The Dynamics of Intimate Partner Violence Perpetrated by Substance Using Men. Br J Crim (under review)
18 Radcliffe, P., et al. How do men and women explain Intimate Partner Violence and what is the role of substance use in this? (in preparation)
19 Public Health England (2018) Alcohol and drug prevention, treatment and recovery: Why invest?
20 Walby, S. (2009) The Cost of Domestic Violence: An Update, 2009. Lancaster University, Lancaster.

UK Domestic Violence and Health Research Forum – invitation for presentations

The next meeting of the UK Domestic Violence and Health Research Forum has been scheduled for Wednesday, 12th of June 2019 from 09:45 am to 14:45 pm at University College London (UCL). The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (Gender Violence and Health Centre) and UCL will be co-hosting the forum on this occasion. The aim of the UK Domestic Violence and Health forum is to present and share research in the field of domestic violence and health. This would include research in progress, completed research studies and the future direction and challenges arising within these studies, prospective areas of research as well as news and events.

The organisers are inviting 15 minute presentations that will be followed by a 15 minute discussion. If you would like to present, please do send an expression of interest with a brief abstract by the 30 April 2019.  If you would like to attend or present please contact  lynn.sardinha@bristol.ac.uk  



Learning from the ADVANCE intervention: cycle one

The three intervention development staff working on ADVANCE have reviewed the first cycle of work having run the intervention in three sites in England. Their key learning points were derived from feedback from staff, clients and their own weekly contact with facilitators of the group. Key learning points include:

  • Sites giving similar feedback strengthened the view that some changes needed to be implemented
  • Amendments needed to be incorporated while ensuring continuity of the programme
  • Seeing facilitators prepare and provide sessions highlighted if materials really worked
  • Participants took away more from the material than was originally anticipated due to the skill of facilitators
  • Reducing the amount and complexity of material in each session has been an important piece of feedback
  • Facilitators are used to listening to clients and not rushing through exercises therefore reducing the amount to cover in sessions was recommended
  • Facilitators found it hard to decide which exercises should be discarded for the next phase as they were seen as all being beneficial
  • The men varied in how much they talked in a session so time to cover each week’s material may vary considerably.
  • Using less wordy verbal tasks does not diminish the impact of a session
  • Using more action and reflection in key messages is beneficial in sessions
  • It is important for the ADVANCE development team to trust that facilitators and clients will understand the main points of each session
  • Good feedback and engagement from staff and participants has increased confidence that the programme can work
  • Feedback indicated that facilitators liked the ADVANCE programme and believed it enhanced their practice

Here are some quotes made directly from the ADVANCE developers about their learnings from cycle one.

‘Much of the feedback which has resulted in amendments was coming from more than one site which reassured me that it was sensible to make the change. It was important to maintain the designed elements and flow of the programme while making amendments which address the delivery experience.’ Sara Kirkpatrick RESPECT

‘Much of the time the participants were taking more from the material than had initially been considered, a great deal of this being linked to the group work skills and sophisticated understanding of both substance use and intimate partner abuse from the facilitators.’ Professor Liz Gilchrist University of Worcester

‘Sessions packed with exercises and tasks created pressure on workers who are used to taking time to listen to clients – moving the session along could seem abrupt and dismissive of clients’ discussion.’ Dr Mary McMurran Independent Psychology Consultant