Violence against women and girls

Violence against women and girls is under-reported yet very common. This guide offers information and links to organisations that can provide help and support.

Types of abuse

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In Lambeth, we are committed to ending violence against women and girls (VAWG). We will do this by raising awareness of the issue and impact of violence against women and girls, providing a holistic support service to those who experience gender violence, and holding to account those who commit violence.

In line with the Home Office Tackling VAWG Strategy and the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, our approach continues to focus on reducing the prevalence of violence against women and girls and improving the support and response for victims and survivors in Lambeth.

VAWG describes forms of violence and abuse that disproportionally affect women and girls and are usually perpetrated by men. However, people of any gender can experience abuse of this nature and the consequences affect everyone. Male violence has long-lasting, wide-ranging and devastating impact on victims and survivors, children and communities. VAWG robs individuals of their safety in public and private spaces, their choice and wellbeing, and can cause significant trauma but it is not inevitable.

VAWG refers to multiple types of violence and abuse, including:

1. Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is any incident or course of incidents of physical, sexual, economic, psychological, emotional or other abuse, violent, threatening, controlling or coercive behaviour between those who are aged 16 years or over and are or have been in an intimate relationship, are related, or are parents or have parental responsibility for the same child. Abuse can be directed towards a victim via behaviour directed at another person (for example, the victim’s child). A survivor’s experience of abuse is personal, so we need to ensure responses and interventions are tailored and appropriate.

Summary from the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. See Refuge's recognising abuse information for more information.

2. Sexual violence

Sexual violence is any unwanted sexual act or activity. There are many different kinds of sexual violence that exist on a continuum, including, but not limited to:

  • rape
  • sexual assault
  • child sexual abuse (CSA)
  • sexual harassment.
  • revenge porn

Perpetrators range from total strangers to relatives and intimate partners. It can happen anywhere - in the family household, a workplace, public spaces, social settings – and at any point in life. Sexual harassment is often first experienced by women when they are girls and young women are at increased risk of sexual violence. Sexual violence can occur online in the form of grooming, sharing indecent images of someone without their consent and using technology such as apps, websites and other online platforms to coerce or distress a victim or survivor. See Rape Crisis’ sexual violence information for more information. 

3. Forced marriage

A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both spouses do not (or, in the case of some adults with learning or physical disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Duress can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure. This is a form of domestic abuse but can involve people other than family or intimate partners and can be an element of so-called ‘honour’-based abuse affecting victims and survivors of all gender identities. For more information, see Refuge's forced marriage information.

4. Honour-based violence

So-called ‘honour’-based abuse is a collection of practices used to control behaviour within families in order to protect perceived cultural, spiritual and religious beliefs and/or 'honour'. It is often linked to family members or acquaintances who mistakenly believe someone has brought shame to their family or community by doing something that is not in keeping with the traditional beliefs of their culture. This is a form of domestic abuse but in most so-called 'honour'-based violence cases there are multiple perpetrators from the immediate family, sometimes the extended family and occasionally the community at large. It is important to note that since the concepts of ‘honour’, ‘purity’ and what is ‘natural’ exist across cultural borders, so-called ‘honour’-based violence has been witnessed and reported in every community. For more information, see Refuge's honour-based violence information.

5. Sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation is when one person or a group of people abuse or attempt to abuse a position of vulnerability, power, or trust, for sexual purposes. This includes but is not limited to profiting financially, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. It is child sexual exploitation when the victim or survivor is under the age of 18 and can include involvement in sex work, trafficking and modern slavery.

Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain. It covers a wide range of abuse and exploitation and is a form of VAWG when the exploitation is of a sexual nature.

Trafficking is also a form of VAWG when it involves the recruitment, transportation and exploitation of adults (without their knowledge or consent) and children for the purposes of sexual exploitation across international borders and within countries ('internal trafficking'). For more information see Refuge’s human trafficking and modern slavery information and Salvation Army’s spot the signs information

6. Female genital mutilation, or cutting

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but where there's no medical reason for this to be done. This is a traditional practice in some communities and is sometimes portrayed as a religious requirement although there is no basis for this.  It is also known as 'female circumcision' or 'cutting', and by other terms such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan. For more information, see Refuge's forms of violence and abuse information.

7. Stalking and harassment

Stalking is pattern of fixated and obsessive behaviour, which is intrusive and causes fear of violence and/or alarm and distress in the victim. Stalking behaviour is unwanted, repetitive and it is almost always carried out (or orchestrated by) one individual towards another individual. Examples of behaviour can include, but not limited to: sending or leaving materials or ‘gifts’, cyber stalking, threats, violence, property damage, constant attempts to contact, following the victim, violence.

The law states that harassment is when a person behaves in a way which is intended to cause distress or alarm. The behaviour must happen on more than one occasion. It can be the same type of behaviour or different types of behaviour on each occasion. For more information, visit the National Stalking Helpline's stalking help and advice.