Local Partnership Strategic Needs Assessment 2023


I wish to thank the Partnership Board for pulling together the comprehensive needs assessment. The report presents the stark reality of the prevalence and impact of Interpersonal & gender-based violence and abuse in Devon. It clearly shows that IG-BVA affects people throughout the whole of their lives and not just the individual, but it also affects whole families, support networks and communities. The data is clear that we are seeing a rise in cases annually with most victims being women and girls and, although the report highlights some good work happening within Devon, it also raises the challenge that the system needs to do more to protect and support victims and survivors.
Steven Brown (DCC) – Chair of the Safer Devon Partnership

This report highlights the scale of the prevalence and impact that interpersonal and gender-based violence and abuse has on individuals and communities. I want to thank all those who contributed to this report, particularly those who shared their stories and experiences. This report will help inform the steps we need to take next. We have areas of outstanding practice and progress has been made to change the response to victims but there is more to do, especially in tackling harmful behaviours and supporting children affected by IG-BVA.
Michele Thornberry (ICB) – Chair of the Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse Partnership Board

I would like to extend my thanks and gratitude to the Interpersonal and Gender-based Violence and Abuse Partnership Board members for their great contribution to this needs assessment, for being curious, flexible and collaborative and keeping the people affected by IG-BVA at the heart of this piece of work. My thanks go also to the Safer Lives and Communities Team for coordinating and supporting the partnership work and driving this forward on behalf of the partnership over the past 6 months and, finally, and most importantly, to all the experts by experience that have contributed to this piece of work.

Liz Cirasuolo (DCC) – Violence Against Women and Girls Strategic Lead  


Interpersonal and gender-based violence and abuse (IG-BVA) includes domestic abuse, sexual violence and violence against women and girls. It has deep short- and long-term impacts on all affected – including victims, children and young people and those that cause harm – in all aspects of life, and this is broadly recognised in National policy and in law.

Between February and October 2023, the Devon Interpersonal and gender-based violence and abuse Partnership Board, part of the Safer Devon Partnership, undertook a comprehensive thematic needs assessment to better understand the needs of those affected by IG-BVA. Through this process, prevalence and impact of IG-BVA in Devon has been explored and twelve areas of focus emerged through the process, each receiving dedicated attention.

The needs assessment confirmed that IG-BVA is overall a gendered issue with most victims of abuse being women and girls and the vast majority of those causing harm being men and boys, whilst also recognising that males, transgender, gender fluid and non-binary people are also victimised.

IG-BVA continues to be a significant concern in Devon with high and often increasing numbers of victims identified yearly across the system. This includes crime data and across health and social care, with recognition of gross underestimation as this is often a hidden behaviour due to shame, stigma and interfamilial context.

IG-BVA, in most instances and across the different populations and types of abuse, continues to be under-identified, under-recorded, underreported and under-supported.

When gender intersects with other inequalities (intersectionality) it creates a unique experience of abuse and victims from minoritised groups can be more significantly affected. Where intersectional needs are present, an appropriate system response becomes more challenging. There are unique experiences of this in Devon due to its profile including rurality and low prevalence of some minoritised groups and low dedicated resourcing.

Children and young People have been recognised in law as victims in their own right. Children and young people affected by domestic abuse often present with other primary or secondary needs. Their needs are broadly understood in Devon, however, they are still often overlooked, and their needs not sufficiently and systematically identified or met.

Devon has an ageing population and established older population which makes understanding and meeting the needs of older Victims of domestic abuse through our responses paramount.

The impact of IG-BVA does not end when the risk ends, and the experience of recovery from abuse is unique and individual; social, emotional and practical needs will emerge at different times and stages. Because of this, recognition of needs across systems is essential to effectively recover. Victims are affected emotionally by their traumatic experiences and suicidality is highly prevalent in adults and children affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence alike. A trauma informed system response as well as targeted interventions are required to prevent and address this issue.

Devon’s young people, particularly, are influenced by the online manosphere’s  misogynistic messaging and monitoring of this is required to develop a better understanding and response. There is a significant prevalence of different degrees and varied types of peer-to-peer harmful sexual behaviours and interpersonal abuse experienced by young people which is often hidden. Criminalisation of young people’s behaviours is not appropriate in most cases, but the lack of an alternative clear system offer leads to an often-inadequate response for both the young person harmed and those that harm.

Although it is acknowledged that only a fraction of victims will require access to safe accommodation to flee domestic abuse, the lack of sufficient availability of appropriate and dedicated safe accommodation in Devon is evident and adversely affects those experiencing domestic abuse.

It is very clear that currently there is insufficient focus on those that cause harm, adults and young people alike, with limited support available to address behaviours and underlining causes. It is understood that, alongside preventative measures, this is key to addressing IG-BVA and break the intergenerational cycle of abuse.

Through this process we have identified strengths in the system and within Devon communities: significant others and peer support networks have a key role in supporting victims of domestic abuse, the majority of which will not access specialist services to address their needs. Although gaps have been identified, it is to be acknowledged that existing services continue to support those affected by IG-BVA either through targeted support or by meeting their wider needs.

There is a lot we still don’t understand fully or have an adequate response to in Devon such as the profile and needs of victims of sexual exploitation, of so called ‘honour’ based abuse or of those in a position of power and trust. This needs an ongoing system curiosity and commitment to address the gaps and improve the experience for those affected into the future.



Interpersonal and gender-based violence and abuse (IG-BVA) is a global public health problem rooted in gender inequality.

World Health Organization (WHO) estimates show that, globally, almost one in three women (30%) 15 years of age or older have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a male intimate partner and/or sexual violence from someone other than an intimate partner at least once in their lifetime. Women and girls subjected to violence suffer a range of sexual, reproductive, mental and other health problems including injuries and disabilities. Violence against women (VAW) also has socioeconomic consequences for women, their families, communities and societies. (WHO, 2021)[1]

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 came into force in 2004, its purpose being to strengthen and update the law on sexual offences, whilst improving the protection of individuals from sexual offenders.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 prohibits 16 and 17-year-olds from marrying or entering a civil partnership, regardless of whether they have parental consent. This new legislation aims to put an end to child marriages, which can have devastating effects on young people.

In 2015 Domestic Abuse was added to the Care Act 2014 as an adult safeguarding category in recognition of those victims who have care and support needs that limit their ability to protect themselves.

A ‘coercive or controlling behaviour offence’ came into force in December 2015. Victims who experience coercive and controlling behaviour can bring their perpetrators to justice.

The Government’s Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy 2021[2] sets out the approach to tackling crimes which disproportionately affect women and girls including stalking, sexual offences, domestic abuse and female genital mutilation (FGM). The strategy identifies four key aims: prioritising prevention, supporting victims, pursuing perpetrators and strengthening the system.

Pivotally, a new Domestic Abuse Act came into effect in 2021. The Act aims to:

  • Raise awareness and understanding about the devastating impact of domestic abuse
  • Improve the effectiveness of the justice system in providing protection for victims of domestic abuse and bringing perpetrators to justice
  • Strengthen the support for victims of abuse by statutory agencies

To achieve what the new legislation sets out to do, the Domestic Abuse Act does the following:

  • Creates a statutory definition of domestic abuse, includes coercive or controlling behaviours in this definition, recognises 16 to 18-year-olds as victims within their own relationships and, for the first time, recognises children affected by familial domestic abuse as victims in their own right
  • Establishes in law the office of Domestic Abuse Commissioner and sets out their functions/powers
  • Provides for a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Domestic Abuse Protection Order
  • Creates a statutory presumption that victims of domestic abuse are eligible for special measures in the criminal, civil and family courts
  • Places the guidance supporting the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (“Clare’s law”) on a statutory footing
  • Provides that all eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance
  • Creates new statutory guidance

Under this new legislation new statutory duties are placed on local authorities. These are to:

  • Create a new Domestic Abuse Local Partnership Board which needs to: undertake and review a needs assessment, prepare, publish and give effect to a strategy for the provision of support in domestic abuse safe accommodation, and monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy.
  • Provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in safe accommodation.
  • Ensure that all existing policies and new policies are written and carried in such a way as to be inclusive of the new statutory definition of domestic abuse.

The incoming Victims and Prisoners Bill, currently at the report stage at the House of Commons, is expected to introduce measures to help victims of IG-BVA have confidence that the right support is available and that, if they report a crime, the criminal justice system will treat them in the way they should rightly expect, respecting their guaranteed rights, supporting them through the process and adhering to minimum service standards.



We use the term of interpersonal and gender-based violence and abuse (IG-BVA) to describe three categories of harm: Violence against women and girls, domestic abuse and sexual violence and abuse.    







   IG-BVA has short and long-term impacts on all aspects of life including employment, education, housing, social life, finances, emotional wellbeing, physical and mental health.


The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) year ending March 2022 indicates that an estimated 6.9% of women (1.7 million) and 3.0% of men (699,000) experienced domestic abuse in the last year. Over the longer term, this rises to 29% of women (7.1 million) and 14% of men (3.3 million) who experienced domestic abuse at some point in their adult life (16 and over).  It is to be noted that the current categorisation of domestic abuse does not capture the true nature and extent of abuse. For example, situational couple violence, where dynamics of power and control are not as clearly defined, would not be reflected in these figures.

Domestic abuse has a high socio-economic cost: estimates suggest the total cost in England in 2022 to be approximately £78 billion including the cost in anticipation (covering preventative work), as a consequence (including physical and emotional harm, heath services, lost output and victim services) and in response to domestic abuse (police and other justice costs). The largest element of domestic abuse cost is the physical and emotional harm suffered by the victims themselves (£57 billion). The next highest cost is for lost output relating to time taken off work and reduced productivity afterwards (£17 billion). (Home Office, 2019 updated by Women’s Aid and ResPublica, 2023).[3]

Domestic abuse, in extreme circumstances, can have catastrophic effects. There were 134 domestic homicides in the year ending March 2022 nationally and this figure has remained relatively stable over the last decade. Almost half of adult female homicide victims were killed in a domestic homicide and of the 84 female victims, 81 were killed by a male suspect. (ONS (Office for National Statistics), 2023)

IG-BVA is closely linked to health inequalities:

  • A higher proportion of adults aged 20 to 24 years were victims of any domestic abuse in the last year compared with adults aged 55 years and over.
  • A higher percentage of adults with a disability experienced domestic abuse in the last year than those without.
  • A higher proportion of adults who lived in single-parent households experienced domestic abuse in the last year than those living in ‘no-children’ households or households with other adults and children, however, household structure may have changed as a result of abuse experienced.
  • Around 30% of domestic violence begins during pregnancy, while 40–60% of these women are abused during pregnancy.




The Devon Interpersonal and gender-based Violence and Abuse Partnership Board has collaboratively worked on the development of this strategic needs assessment between February 2023 and October 2023 and this document is the summary of this coproduced work to date.

The Partnership approach to understanding the needs of our communities is underpinned by some shared principles:

  • Coproduction – we work collaboratively to understand the needs of our communities.
  • Continuous learning – we undertake this needs assessment with an understanding that this is a moment in time in a process of continuous learning that we promote and support.
  • Mutual respect – all are regarded as equal and our contribution is equally valued and respected.
  • Shared responsibility – we have different levels and types of accountabilities; however, we share a collective responsibility to do what is right for victims, survivors and those that harm.
  • Transparency – we always conduct ourselves with consistent integrity and transparency, creating an environment where open constructive challenge is encouraged.
  • Accountability – we hold ourselves and each other to account in the best interests of victims and survivors and those that harm.
  • Trauma informed – we place relationships between each other and those affected by abuse at the heart of everything we do, acknowledge that trauma may affect us all and display this awareness in our behaviour and interactions.
  • Value lived experience – we focus on what matters, the experience of people affected by interpersonal and gender-based violence, and we ensure that their voice is heard.




This assessment is focused on understanding the needs of those directly affected by IG-BVA including:

  • Victims/ Survivors of IG-BVA
  • Child victims of domestic abuse
  • Those that display domestic abuse and harmful sexual behaviours

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by IG-BVA but this assessment also recognises that men and boys, transgender, gender fluid and non-binary people are also affected as victims/ survivors.

The impact of IG-BVA goes beyond the directly affected individuals. Extended families, friends, support networks and communities are affected daily by the traumatic experiences of IG-BVA.
We also take an intersectional approach to IG-BVA, considering that where gender intersects with other inequalities/oppressions (sexuality, gender identity, ethnicity, indigeneity, immigration status, disability) this produces unique experiences for victims and survivors.





A mixed methodology has been used to gather evidence to inform this needs assessment. In the table below are summarised the variety of data sources used:

Local Evaluations of projects and servicesRegional data analysis (i.e. Police crime, South West and peninsula data)
Local lived experience focus groupsNational data analysis (i.e. Office of National Statistics, National crime survey, NSPCC)
Local specialist providers’ focus groups and consultationSpecialist supporting reports (i.e. Domestic Abuse Commissioner office, Women’s Aid, SafeLives, NSPCC)
Devon Community SurveyAcademic research
Local services data analysis (specialist IG-BVA services in Devon)Case studies, storytelling and appreciative enquiries with victims and survivors
Local system data analysis (i.e. Social care, education, health)Feedback from those with direct lived experience



The scope of IG-BVA is vast and far reaching. IG-BVA is also a hidden harm for a variety of reasons including stigma and shame, the familial and intimate nature of the abuse, victim blaming, barriers to accessing support, societal and cultural norms, lack of identification etc. IG-BVA is also under-reported and under-recorded across the system. Because of this, fully understanding the needs of those affected can be challenging.

The Partnership agreed that for the needs assessment to be meaningful, we needed to be curious and look at IG-BVA beyond the obvious basic understanding of the impact of domestic abuse, sexual violence and VAWG. Therefore, this is seen as an opportunity to explore some specific sub-categories of IG-BVA to gain a better and more in depth understanding of the needs of specific groups, populations or forms of abuse that can be overlooked when considering bigger themes.

Twelve objectives have been, therefore, initially defined as areas of focus in this process. Of these, two were paused or delayed through the process (*) and 10 have been explored in depth:
Focus on the impact on the individual/s particularly on minoritised groups: those identifying as lgbtq+, from ethnic diverse groups, with disabilities and experiencing multiple disadvantages resulting in complex needs.

Objectives : 

  1. Better understand the needs of children victimised through familial Domestic Abuse
  2. Better understand the needs of older victims
  3. Better understand the needs of those not accessing specialist services *
  4. Better understand what life is like in recovery and if there are additional unmet needs
  5. Understand the needs of the family, existing/possible support networks to empower and increase resilience
  6. Understand how long/ short term need differs in the context of the different types of abuse for all people affected by the abuse *
  7. Understand prevalence and impact of so-called ‘honour’ based violence and abuse
  8. Understand needs of victims with suicidal ideation and attempting suicide (men particularly)
  9. Understand peer to peer sexually harmful behaviour and interpersonal violence in young people
  10. Understand the prevalence and nature of abuse from those in a position of power and trust
  11. Understand the needs of those subjected to sexual exploitation, the prevalence of the problem and the ‘abuser’ profile.
  12. Gain a better understanding of relevance, prevalence and impact of misogyny groups




Each objective was explored though dedicated multi-disciplinary working groups that set out to gather evidence in order to understand the specific needs of the individuals in focus for the group. Methodologies and approaches were defined within these groups and the findings below reflect this.




National and local data on interpersonal and gender-based violence and abuse (IG-BVA) has a strong focus on crime.  But crime data often lacks context about the relationships and behaviours involved.  In this section we set out local and national data and analysis related to the broad area of violence against women and girls, domestic abuse and sexual violence and abuse.

Policing and criminal justice are the dominant societal responses to IG-BVA but they appear to have little impact on prevention of harm. Although crimes are committed when domestic abuse, sexual violence and VAWG take place, it is not always helpful to look at these primarily through a criminal justice lens. It is more helpful to explore these issues from a more holistic and social perspective.




Devon and Cornwall Police published Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) profiles for offences that took place between April 2021 and March 2022, including Homicide, Violence with Injury, Violence without Injury, Stalking and Harassment, Rape, Other Sexual Offences and other Offence specific crimes such as DA (Domestic Abuse), Forced Marriage, FGM, Honour Based Abuse, Modern Slavery, Non-Domestic Exploitation of Prostitution, Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Hate Crime.

In the year to March 2022, 29,290 VAWG offences were recorded. In comparison to 2018/19 (pre covid baseline), there has been an increase in the volume of VAWG offences by 15.5%. The long-term trend of offences has been slowly increasing, however since March 2021 there has been a significant increase in reports. There may be several reasons for this, for example covid lockdown restrictions lifting as well as potential engagement events in the community may have led to increased reporting.

Over half of all VAWG offences recorded in the 12 months to March 2022 were DA-related (53.3%). However, the greatest increases in VAWG have been seen in non-DA-related offences, increasing by 21.0% compared to 2018/19.

Over half (55%, 16,413) of all VAWG offences recorded occurred in a Private Space, 70.9% of which were DA-related. 91% of all offences in private spaces were perpetrated by males.

The second largest proportion of VAWG offences occurred in public spaces, making up 21% of all VAWG offences. The majority (76.1%) of these were non-DA-related. Perpetrators of VAWG offences in public spaces were mostly males (69.7%), with sexual offences almost exclusively committed by men.

3214 offences took place (11% of total) in the online space whilst offences in education spaces accounted for only 1% (360 offences) of the total recorded.

There is an emerging pattern of behaviour observed in police data of female perpetrated violence amongst the younger cohort, predominantly with female victims. This is particularly evident in public spaces linked to the Night-time economy. It is also true within the education space, where female perpetrators are responsible for the largest proportion (72%) of VAWG offences, although the number of offences in education spaces are too low to provide data with statistical validity. Whilst this is an emerging trend, there are knowledge gaps.

However, VAWG remains a gendered issue: 84% of perpetrators of VAWG in all spaces are male.

Of these, 70% of offenders were aged between 18 and 45. The highest volume age group was 26-35 years old (accounting for almost a third of identified offenders).




Violence against women and girls and domestic and sexual violence and abuse are often hidden crimes, not reported to the police. The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) includes a long-standing survey on the experience of domestic abuse, which gives insight into experiences that are never otherwise reported.  This data consistently shows that a much higher proportion of the population (5% of adults in the year to March 2022) have experienced abuse in the past year than that reported to the police or presenting to specialist services.

The CSEW suggests that the overall prevalence of domestic abuse, as surveyed has been falling or static for several years[4].  But at the same time, the number of incidents, crimes and referrals to specialist support organisations has been increasing[5].

Domestic abuse is gendered crime. Most people experiencing abuse are women: in Devon, 84% of referrals to the domestic abuse support service are for women. Nationally, 74% of victims of domestic abuse-related crimes are women.  This is true whether abuse is by a partner or another family member.  Based on the CSEW, it is reasonable to estimate that at least:

7 in 100 women in Devon (25,000) experienced abuse in the previous year and 3 in 100 men (10,000). 30 in 100 women (107,000) and 14 in 100 men (46,000) have experienced domestic abuse at some time since age 16[6].

This is a total of up to 35,000 currently victimised in Devon yearly. Most perpetrators of abuse are men: as detailed above, a man was the perpetrator in 91% of VAWG crimes in private spaces in Devon.

Abusive behaviour can be intergenerational and its impact long-lasting. In Devon between 85% and 100% of (male) adults participating in programs to change harmful behaviours have themselves experienced domestic abuse as children.

According to the CSEW, most domestic abuse experienced is non-physical: emotional/psychological and financial. The CSEW probably under-records abuse by coercive control and the survey is being revised to address this. But domestic abuse crime data in Devon shows a high proportion of crimes with violence.  One in five of all crimes recorded in Devon is linked to domestic abuse (over 22,000 crimes annually). This includes 17,000 involving violence[7] which reinforces the conclusion that most abuse is never reported.

In a survey of Devon residents on their experiences of domestic abuse carried out by the Safer Lives and Communities team in July and August 2023, 204 of 258 respondents answered yes to having experienced abuse, 88% of which identified ‘emotional/psychological abuse’ and 76% of which listed ‘controlling or coercive behaviour’. 34% of respondents who had experienced domestic abuse listed ‘physical abuse’ only and the majority indicated experiencing 2 or more different types of abuse.

Based on national police data, Devon and Cornwall Police is not an outlier compared to similar police force areas for most domestic abuse crime (prevalence of crimes/incidents, criminal justice processes).  While domestic abuse-related crimes were 21% of all recorded crimes in Devon in 2021-22, domestic abuse-related prosecutions were only 12% of all prosecutions. The percentage of domestic-abuse-related prosecutions that lead to convictions however is higher in Devon and Cornwall than in comparators (84% in 2021-22).

The number of people referred to Devon’s domestic abuse support service delivered by FearFree has been rising steadily, with a significant jump during and following the Covid-19 lockdowns.  In the year to March 2023 5,930 individual referrals were made to the service. This was a 12% increase on the previous year.  Generally, around two thirds of people referred engage with support to some degree.  This equates to around 11% of the Devon population affected by domestic abuse, based on the prevalence estimate from the CSEW.

In Devon and Cornwall in 2021-22, 407 “Right to Ask” requests under the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme “Clare’s Law”[8] were received and 126 disclosures made. In 20/21 203 requests were made and 114 granted. In 19/20 323 requests resulted in 111 disclosures. The overall number of requests has increased but disclosures have remained at similar levels. In both years, there were also a smaller number of “Right to know” disclosures (where police make a disclosure on their own initiative). We have not compared the levels of applications and disclosures in Devon and Cornwall with other similar police areas.

Those that harm or display harmful behaviours are often overlooked across the system with emphasis placed on victims to reduce or remove risk, often resulting in systematic victim blaming.  Only 5% of respondents to the Devon residents’ survey felt that enough support was provided to those that harm to address their behaviours.




As for domestic abuse, sexual abuse and related crimes are gendered. According to the CSEW, 3.3% of women and 1.2% of men surveyed had experienced sexual assault in the year to March 2022. In the same period, 86% of victims of sexual offences in England and Wales were women. The largest category of sexual assault for both sexes was indecent exposure or unwanted sexual touching. Applying these prevalence rates to Devon suggests that 11,700 women and 4,000 men will have experienced sexual assault in the last year[9].

The CSEW does not show a long-term increase in the prevalence of sexual assault;[10] however, recorded crimes have been increasing. This is also true in Devon[11].  The ONS notes that “Sexual offences recorded by the police do not provide a reliable measure of trends”. Other factors including increased awareness may have a significant influence on the number of reported crimes.

Both the CSEW and crime data show that the experience of sexual assault falls disproportionally on adolescents and young adults. According to the CSEW, adults aged 16 to 24 were more likely to be victims of sexual assault in the last year than any other age groups. Police recorded crime showed that females aged 15 to 19 and males aged 10 to 14 were most likely to be victims of sexual offences.[12]

Devon Rape Crisis offer specialist support to people living in Devon or Torbay who have experienced any sort of sexual violence.  At the time of writing, the service reports no significant variations in demand for their service apart from a small increase in referrals by the police. The service received 179 referrals in the most recent quarter. Self-referrals were the largest source (43%) followed by the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) (13%) and the police (7%). Referrals were overwhelmingly for women (92%).

The Devon Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) in 2023 found that in Devon females represent 88% (N = 303) of adults accessing services and 86% (N = 256) of young people between 13 and 18.  5% (N = 34) of the young people referred age 13-18 to SARC across Devon and Cornwall reported that they were gay, lesbian or bisexual, all but one identified as their sex observed at birth.  Whereas for adults age 18+,  9% (N = 82) reported being gay, lesbian or bisexual, all but 6 identified as their sex observed at birth.

Of all referrals to the Devon and Cornwall Independent Sexual Violence Adviser (ISVA) service in 2022/23, 89.2% were female, 35.3% were under the age of 18 and 43.9% were between the ages of 18 and 34.

The number of ‘acute’ referrals to the ISVA service underwent a significant rise in the first two quarters of 2021-22, particularly true for Devon. This increase was not evident in 22-23.

The service is seeing a high number of cases where individuals choose not to report to the police. The primary reasons are reportedly that they do not believe the police will manage the case sensitively, that they will not be believed or that the case will not proceed to a criminal justice outcome.



 Devon & Cornwall Police Record offences of rape and other sexual offences 2018/19, 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22

For new referrals to the ISVA service in 2022/23 the reported perpetrator was most commonly an ex-partner (24%), a ‘known person/associate’ (20.7%), a friend (16.4%), a family member/relative (12.5%), an ‘unknown person/stranger’ (12.6%) or a partner (2.5%). However, the ISVA service also observed a 104% increase in stranger rapes from 2020/21 to 2021/22.

Recorded ‘Sexual Offences’ by Devon Community Safety Partnership Area  for year ending December 2021

AreaN. sexual offencesRecorded crime rate per 1000
year ending Dec 2021
South Devon and Dartmoor5692.04
East and Mid Devon4932.13
North Devon3902.34



The Partnership made a collective decision to invest resource and time in better understanding in more depth some specific needs identified under the IG-BVA thematic umbrella. In recognition that quantitative data is often lacking across the system and wanting to give more weight to the voices of experts by experience, we explored these objectives through a curious and appreciative lens with a focus on impact over prevalence. 





An intersectional approach to IG-BVA is essential.

Where gender intersects with other inequalities/oppressions (sexuality, gender identity, ethnicity, indigeneity, immigration status, disability) it produces a unique experience of violence and abuse.

People identifying as LGBTQ+ who experience DA also face unique challenges with evidenced low levels of identification, having to face dual allegations more than heterosexual victims, increased isolation and specific forms of abuse. LGBTQ+ survivors are also twice as likely to have attempted suicide than non-LGBTQ+ survivors and face additional challenges due to discrimination.

People with learning disabilities, neurodivergent or both are thought to experience DA at about three times the rate of the general population. Disabled people experience higher rates of DA over a longer period of time with greater severity and frequency. They experience more coercion and control with more barriers to services.

The experience of IG-BVA in women and girls from ethnically diverse groups is unique. Victims of DA from non-white ethnic groups experience additional barriers to recovery due to the inadequate system response to their unique needs. Barriers include discrimination and racism, language, lack of cultural competence across the system, insecure immigration status, lack of access to relatable support, lack of understanding of support and justice systems, barriers to reporting etc. In Devon, this is likely to be exacerbated by the lack of ethnic diversity in our communities, rurality, lack of dedicated support and of an ethnically relatable community response, creating a further sense of isolation and opportunity for repeated abuse.

Women experiencing multiple disadvantages such as homelessness/ rough sleeping, drug and/or alcohol dependence, who are involved in criminal activities and who are experiencing mental health difficulties, face additional challenges and stigma. The vast majority (75-90%) of women in this cohort have experienced DA and sexual violence as adults but most of them are unable to seek support for this, face challenges in being heard/ believed and are often even unable to recognise the victimisation themselves due to stigma and shame.

Rurality is also a unique factor in a county as large and rural as Devon, which creates additional challenges in seeking and accessing support as well as creating opportunity for isolation and abuse that goes undetected.

Finally, although DA is not more prevalent necessarily in specific class or income brackets, poverty and deprivation are a significant factor in the impact of DA, particularly exacerbated by the current cost of living crisis. Women in poverty are likely to experience the most extensive violence and abuse. One research report found that 14% of women in poverty have faced extensive violence and abuse, compared to women not in poverty (6%). Victims with better financial means and independence are also more likely to be able to leave abusive relationships and recover.





Children and Young People that experience familial domestic abuse are severely affected by this and the trauma of these experiences has long-standing effects. Evidence suggests many children who experience domestic abuse are not identified and may, therefore, miss out on support. Child victims are mostly completely reliant on adults identifying and responding to their needs as these are often hidden because of the very nature of domestic abuse.

Children are not a homogenous group, and there are a range of factors that may determine the nature of their experience and the short- and long-term traumatic impact of this. However, the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which include domestic abuse, is widely understood. Harm is greatest in the youngest children and those that have experienced it for the longest amount of time.

Traumatic experiences of domestic abuse can often occur for children in the context of other adversities such as parental substance and mental health issues, neglect and other forms of abuse. Additionally, intersectionality with other characteristics such as learning disability, neurodiversity, ethnic and cultural diversity and LGBTQ+ will create a unique experience for children and young people. Any targeted support offer should take this into account.

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner report ‘A Patchwork of provision’[13], indicates that while 85% of Domestic Abuse services report that they have specialist child provision, only 29% of victims and survivors said they were able to get support for their children. The South-West was the lowest area nationally for survivors being able to get support for their children (18%). Reports indicate that children are not consulted regarding their needs, despite being more capable of expressing these than they are credited for.

In Devon, 867 cases were discussed at MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences for High Risk) in 2022/23 and these included 1081 children, comparable to national figures. It is not possible to identify from available data what percentage of cases discussed at MARAC include children within the household as this data is not collected currently, however there will be opportunity for this.

Just over two thirds of cases referred to the Devon domestic abuse community support service have children or young people under 18 in the household.

In 2022/23, 36% of young people (aged 14-19) engaged in structured activity with Y SMART, the service that supports young people vulnerable to substance misuse in Devon, reported having experienced domestic abuse as victims in their lifetime. This is significant when considering the impact of adverse childhood experiences such as domestic abuse, on young people.

Between September 2020 and October 2021, Devon and Cornwall Police made 2502 Child Protection referrals related to domestic abuse, in relation to children within Devon. In the following year, September 2021 and October 2022, this increased to 2725; this is an increase of 9%. Figures may be impacted by lockdown restrictions and a decrease in reporting.

87% of respondents to the survey associated to this needs assessment indicated that they felt not enough support is available for child victims in Devon. Over 50% suggested more activities in school and preventative educational activities to raise understanding and provide early support in youth-facing settings would be a good way to support children and young people. 15 individuals (15/206) identified counselling, therapies and/or psychological support as required to improve the support for children and young people.

Over half (52%) of contacts into the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), the front door to Children Services, where domestic abuse was listed as a factor were recontacts, which means that there had also been previous contact/s for that child within the last 12 months. Whilst that previous contact may not have related to domestic abuse, it is improbable that the current and previous reasons for contact happened in complete isolation. 44% of all MASH contacts where Domestic abuse was a feature resulted in social care action, suggesting significant levels of risk.

An Action for Children Report[14] indicates that a number of interventions directly targeting children are needed and effective, including emotional and psychological support and psychoeducational interventions.

Current available evidence suggests that children in Devon would benefit from more direct community-based support focused on the impact of the traumatic experiences of domestic abuse and that non-violent parents would also benefit from additional support to enable them to support their children well. Although support in safe accommodation settings is invaluable, the number of children that can be supported in this setting is limited; in 2022/23, 47 children were supported in safe accommodation in Devon. A wider community response would allow for a better reach and earlier interventions.

Doing the work with you makes me feel like my anger is going away. I still get angry, but I can deal with it better.  

Child – Flourishing families @ SAFE   

Early identification of domestic abuse and early intervention is essential to reduce the traumatic impact of domestic abuse and give Children and Young People the best chance of recovery. A recent thematic audit of repeat Child Protection planning showed that 90% of re-referrals were for the same primary reason as the original referral.  This suggests that the first period of child protection planning was likely to have ended too early and before changes were embedded to evidence sustainability. To support early identification, there is an opportunity to upskill adults with direct contact with children in community settings to identify domestic abuse and take appropriate action.

Children have shown us, through their engagement with existing support, that they are aware of and understand domestic abuse, including more complex areas such as coercive and controlling behaviour. However, the child(ren)’s concerns and needs are not always listened to when decisions are made about them. For example, claims of parental alienation are a known tactic deployed by adults that cause domestic abuse harm to exert control, yet it has been found, as evidenced by the ‘Assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law children cases’ report, that family courts have a pro-contact culture based on pre-conceived ideas of what children want and need which side-lines their actual desires. An effective whole system response would allow us to listen to children and enable them to have a voice, share their experiences openly and seek support.

It has been observed that there are emerging needs for support for families where non-adult children display harmful behaviours towards adult carers and/or siblings. It is unhelpful for children who show harmful behaviours to be considered and responded to as perpetrators of abuse, so considering this in the context of a binary perpetrator/ victim lens would be inappropriate and could lead to labelling of young people at an early age. Evidence shows that these behaviours are often consequential to childhood exposure to abuse and consequential trauma and/or due to the young person’s additional needs such as neurodiversity or learning disability. Taking a therapeutic approach to the issue and exploring the root cause of behaviours is a favoured approach. Currently, support in these circumstances is primarily provided through whole family support; however, we need to recognise that this is not always possible due to parental constraints and that children and young people’s needs could be best met through targeted child facing interventions.

On average, 85% of adults displaying harmful behaviours that have engaged in programmes[15] in Devon report having experienced domestic abuse as children, evidence of the likely cyclic nature and longstanding impact of abuse.




Older people have been identified as a specific group that requires additional focus and is particularly vulnerable in Devon. Almost half of the adult population of Devon is over 60.

Those 61 or over are more likely to experience abuse by an adult family member or from a current intimate partner and to be living with the abuser than those 60 and under and they are significantly less likely to attempt to leave an abusive relationship, according to a SafeLives report[16] .

Attitudes around what constitutes domestic and/or elder abuse fuel the crisis as domestic abuse and the abuse of older people are coinciding concepts: an incident of domestic violence may constitute the abuse of an older person and vice-versa. This means that domestic and sexual abuse of older people can often be hidden, minimised and misinterpreted by professionals engaging with older victims. It also creates a presumption that being an older victim equates to frailty and dependency on health and social care support, in turn creating an ‘othering’ attitude to the victimisation of older people.

How abuse is recorded and categorised in adult social care settings and across our health and social care systems accessed by older people, may reinforce these tensions and create difficulties for practitioners in identifying and appropriately responding to incidence of domestic or sexual abuse.

Although, for example, improving the identification and response in services such as domiciliary care would undoubtedly improve outcomes for older victims, we must not forget that many people aged 60+, or even 70+, are still active members of society, often still in employment and functioning within societal networks you would not associate with ‘the elderly’. A more comprehensive system wide response is required to improve the experience of older victims in Devon, who constitute almost half of our adult population.

Crime Survey data shows that 1 in 30 people aged 60 to 74 and approximately 1 in 50 people aged 75+ have been subjected to domestic abuse in 2021. However, public awareness is low and misplaced:

34.4% of respondents to an Hourglass survey did not consider “domestic abuse or domestic violence directed towards an older person” as a form of abuse.

The experience of domestic abuse for older people is unique, often tainted by cultural and generational interpretations of relationships, lack of understanding, recognition or tolerance of abuse, stigma and shame and support that feels inaccessible.

The rurality of Devon and the attraction of Devon for retirement relocation creates opportunities for isolation that can increase risk of harm and enable and abet coercive control for older people.

Older victims are not accessing support: 49% of the adult (16+) population of Devon is over 60, yet over 60s represent between approximately 9% (Domestic Abuse community service) and 19% (GP Interpersonal Trauma Response Service) of the population accessing specialist support services. There are a variety of reasons for this which may include:

  • lack of identification from professionals
  • lack of self-identification or misplaced levels of tolerance
  • lack of targeted and relatable messaging and promotion
  • support provision not being accessible to older people
  • familial, community, cultural, religious and generational norms that impede access to support

‘Older women are less likely to speak openly about past and present sexual and domestic violence including child sexual abuse. Reasons for this include a legacy of societal norms, dependency on their perpetrator for daily care and fear that disclosure may be misinterpreted as part of dementia’ (The Chilling Silence Report[17])

There is a shared local understanding that risk identification processes, such as the DASH, do not necessarily engage with and support older people well. A recent study by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Partnership[18]identifies that older victims present with different risk issues to younger people and that the DASH does not adequately identify those risks, which may result in the victim being assessed at a lower risk level. SafeLives advocates the continued use of DASH assessments for all groups with the use of signposting and prompts to encourage the completer to consider the needs of specific groups.

Housing is an issue for older victims. It can act as a barrier to leaving an abusive relationship, as an enabler of coercive control but also creates challenges in seeking appropriate safe accommodation and support when owning assets.

Housing is an issue when leaving I had no help because I left the marital home and the council said I had options to go back to that home! This was after me being evicted from private rental and waiting for financial settlement which never happened […] I’ve sofa surfed and moved [several] times. 

70+ female survivor  

Complexities associated with aging, such as dementia, declining health and associated care needs are also to be factored in when thinking about older people harming and being harmed, as evidenced by local case reviews. This can exacerbate victimisation when victims find themselves in caring roles, can create barriers in identification of abuse when behaviours can be associated to presenting conditions (i.e. stroke, dementia, cancer treatment etc.) and can ultimately result in re-victimisation by systems and inadequate support for those causing harm.

Another consideration is that domestic abuse is not one single traumatic event and people may experience multiple traumatic events over their lifetime. The reality is that for many older victims, their experience can feel like a life sentence, a burden that they carry alone riddled with shame affecting their self-worth. The abuse may have started when they were younger or even in childhood, perpetuated over decades of control and submission, with the impact of those traumatic experiences affecting their daily life, and their perception of what is acceptable or abusive warped by the very experience/s of abuse.

Devon County Council, as part of the EOS Board, a collaborative partnership of Commissioners and Strategic Leads across Devon and Cornwall, has recently commissioned a development project specifically focused on older victims, creating opportunity to further improve our understanding of the needs of and response to older victims of IG-BVA, which we should be considering as a primary target group for support in our county.



Sexual exploitation refers to a range of activities and behaviours in which an individual or a group takes advantage of another person’s vulnerability for personal, financial, or other gains, always without their informed and voluntary consent. This can involve various forms of coercion, manipulation, or force to engage in sexual activities against one’s will or in situations where they cannot freely give consent.

Within this context, sexual exploitation can manifest in different ways, including but not limited to:

Child Sexual Exploitation: Minors are at risk of grooming, manipulation, and abuse, both in person and online. Child sexual exploitation always involves coerced or non-consensual activities.

Online Exploitation: The digital age has led to a rise in online sexual exploitation, including the sharing of explicit content without consent, sextortion, and the grooming through social media and other online platforms such as Only Fans.
Sex Working and Prostitution: In cases where individuals engage in sex work due to coercion, desperation, or a lack of viable alternatives, rather than voluntarily choosing sex work as a profession.

Sexual Assault and Rape: Sexual violence, including sexual assault and rape, can occur in various settings and is a significant concern. Survivors often face physical and psychological trauma.
Forced Marriage: Forcing someone into a marriage against their will, which often involves sexual exploitation within the context of the marriage.

Pornography: individuals may be coerced or forced to participate in pornography against their will, this is seen as becoming more prolific as technology develops, especially around Dark Web resources.

Gender-Based Violence: Sexual exploitation is often a manifestation of gender-based violence, and addressing it is linked to broader efforts to promote gender equality and protect the rights of all individuals.

Modern slavery & Human trafficking: Sexual exploitation is one type of exploitation considered within modern slavery.

In the context of this needs assessment, we focus primarily on gaining a better understanding of the needs of adults who are sexually exploited.

Data and intelligence on sexual exploitation is limited. There are a variety of factors that make sexual exploitation difficult to measure:

  • Levels of understanding of sexual exploitation are varied and the terminology open to interpretation
  • Categorisation of those factors that result in sexual exploitation is challenging
  • Sexual exploitation is hidden and covert
  • Sexual exploitation is not a distinct criminal activity; therefore, from a crime recording perspective, analysis is complex
  • Sexual exploitation is underreported and under recorded
  • Sexual exploitation is often a sub-type of abuse and exploitation which is not always captured across data sets
  • There is a lack of recognition of sexual exploitation of vulnerable adults at a system level nationally and locally

There are limited data sets that look at ‘sexual exploitation’ as a standalone offence or vulnerability. Instead, we must explore the elements that may be indicators of exploitation.

Online Exploitation / Pornography and Revenge Porn: A total of 13,860 intimate image offences across 24 police forces were recorded between 1st January 2019 and 31st July 2022. There are no records for 19 forces for the same period. In just 4% of all offences recorded, the reported offender was charged or summonsed and 22% of recorded offences resulted in no further action due to evidential difficulties.

In the majority of cases the victim of revenge porn will know the perpetrator. In 2021, 60% of the reports by female victims to the United Kingdom Revenge Porn Helpline had the victim’s previous or current partner as the suspected perpetrator and additional 22% percent suspected a known person in their life, while 11% of reports pointed at semi-organized criminal gangs.

Sex working and Prostitution: it is estimated that around 70,000 to 110,000 people are actively engaged in sex worker trapped in survival prostitution at any given time in the UK, but it is suggested that this number is significantly underreported. Not all sex workers will be subject to sexual exploitation but many that are sexually exploited may be sex working.

Sexual Assault and Rape: CSEW estimates 3.3% of women (798,000) and 1.2% of men (275,000) aged 16 years and over experienced sexual assault in England and Wales in the year to March 2022. Charges had been brought in just 1,276 rape cases for the same period, which is 1.9% of all reports.

Forced Marriage: In 2021, there were 320 reported cases of forced marriage in England and Wales – 76% of victims were British nationals, including dual nationals, and 19% of victims were non-British nationals.

Modern slavery & Human Trafficking: The main data source for adult human trafficking is the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Consent is required where a referral is made for an adult.

Referrals to NRM have increased year on year: 



 There were 16,938 potential victims of modern slavery referred to the Home Office in 2022, a 33% increase compared to the preceding year and the highest annual number since the NRM began in 2009. 52% of these were adults, 22% of which were females.  49% of all adults claimed exploitation in the UK only.

Exploitation for sexual purposes made up 14% of all adult NRM referrals in England with the highest prevalence victims being Albanian (384), Iranian (86), Eritrean (63), Chinese (56) and UK nationals (39).

Females made up 84% (948) of total victims of exploitation which included a sexual purpose.

55% of all adult females referred for all types of exploitation contained a sexual element.  This was only 3% for males. Although we know sexual abuse is a gendered offence, we also know that men are less likely to disclose, particularly in the context of sexual exploitation. Evidence from work within migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking communities locally suggests the prevalence of men sexually exploited could be higher.

The Home Office received 4,580 reports of adult potential victims via the Duty to Notify (DtN) process, the highest annual number since the DtN began. 13% of all exploitation was of a sexual nature, only second to labour exploitation.

The national challenge in obtaining and determining data around adults and sexual exploitation is reflected in Devon with this form of abuse being hidden, under-identified and underreported with a shared view that this needs to change.

SARC report that for paediatric services in 2023 there were 152 Young People who were assessed ‘at risk of CSE’, that could mean actively being exploited, at risk of, or if there was an online element to their abuse. However, it is challenging to obtain accurate and relevant data due to the reasons identified above and more. This is even more true when exploring the experience of sexual exploitation for adults.

Devon and Cornwall Police data does not provide any clear insight into the experience of those that are sexually exploited, nor does it give indication of the prevalence of the issue. As described, there is no single crime that links to adult sexual exploitation, and the offences linked to selling sex are not often pursued due to public interest; encouraging those in sex work to engage with support over punishment. In reference to those controlling prostitution, there is little evidence that can be drawn from crime data.

In 2018 an Exeter-based study worked with 41 women who reported sex working.   Of these, 73% of the women who engaged were aged 18-34 and 47% of women had sold sex in the last week and a further 25% had done so in the last month.

These women reported that the biggest issues that impacted on their decisions to become involved in the sex industry were:

  • debt, economic and financial pressure (66%)
  • substance misuse (44%)
  • homelessness (25%)
  • lack of training and employment opportunities (22%)

78% responded that they had experienced actual or threats of physical and sexual violence.

Over 50% reported that they had experienced physical and sexual violence from clients including rape, kidnap and physical violence.

In Devon, services are reporting a perceived increase in women sex working, affected by the cost-of-living crisis and financial pressures:



Mums will do webcam sex around the kids’ school hours – it makes it easier” 

“I’m constantly worrying that I will not be able to provide for myself as my child comes first.” 
Out of the Shadows

The Eddystone Trust engaged with Devon and Torbay women who have sex worked and found high levels of domestic abuse, sexual violence and exploitation reported. They also found that the women that were consulted often did not prioritise sexual health and often experienced multiple disadvantages.

There is an opportunity to further focus, understand and take action against sexual exploitation with the Out of the Shadows[19] work which will allow us, through partnership and collaborative working, to take a broader approach to this which will consider all possible populations affected. This would include those experiencing multiple disadvantages, migrant populations that may be more exposed to exploitation, young women and girls and victims and survivors presenting for support due to IG-BVA. This will allow us to create the necessary system response to the issue and formulate a multi-sector partnership action plan supported by the IG-BVA Partnership Board.





Friends, families and, more broadly, support networks are fundamental in providing, through trusted relationships, support to victims. If supported and enabled, these groups can make a great difference to people affected by domestic abuse.

The reality is that the majority of victims never engage specialist or statutory services, but many will seek support from their immediate network. A 2014 Citizen Advice Bureau report[20] found that of respondents to a survey who had personally experienced domestic abuse: a third had told no-one, only 14% had told police, 6% had told a lawyer or legal professional and only 2% spoke to a specialist service, yet 48% had told a family or friends.

Almost 70% of Devon respondents (207) to a survey published as part of this needs assessment, who disclosed having been a victim of domestic abuse, reported that they first disclosed and sought support from friends or family.

There are challenges in identifying and measuring the level of need and prevalence for people supporting victims as data is not currently routinely collected on this from specialist or universal services. However, specialist domestic abuse services routinely and increasingly provide information and guidance to people contacting them either advocating for victims or seeking advice on how to best support.

People in our communities can also identify risk and intervene as well as act as a direct source of support and provide advocacy. Between April 2022 and March 2023, 11.21% (195) of all contacts with MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) where Domestic Abuse was listed as a factor were from family (7.36%), acquaintances or anonymous. Of these, 48.21% resulted in a safeguarding assessment or referral, and 28.21% were allocated to Early Help action. Only 46 contacts resulted in no action, indicating that family and significant others also play a significant part in identifying risks and needs for children alongside professionals.

We consulted with a focus group of experts by experience that had provided support to friends or family members, to explore with them their needs in that capacity.   In answer to the question ‘What support did you get in order to support and what helped?’, they responded:

  • Coaching by someone knowledgeable who is not emotionally invested, including improving knowledge and skills around safety planning and how to hold conversations with compassion and non-judgmental approaches
  • Being able to spot the signs/ risks in the first place was an advantage
  • A safe space to have conversations and ask questions in an informal setting
  • Having a relationship of trust with the person who is supporting you and the person you are supporting
  • Not being afraid of consequences for the victim or the person supporting (i.e. statutory obligations to report)

When asked what would enable others to support victims more effectively, the suggestions were many including: 

  • The use of peer mentors and domestic abuse champions to support and help with the vicarious trauma that could be experienced because of exposure to the victim’s own trauma
  • Safe community spaces that are peer to peer led but where people with knowledge can be available to support
  • Improving skills and knowledge for by-standers
  • Initial guidance from a professional
  • A toolkit of resources to assist with continued support
  • There were more public/ social messaging/campaigns and thematic events in community spaces
  • Commercial/ publicly trusted organisations were able to provide safe spaces, support and information (i.e. shops signing up to schemes that support Domestic Abuse, drop ins in libraries)
  • Access to professional advice was easy and prompt without long waits
  • There was access to finances and structures to make leaving practically easier
  • A local well publicised online resource for up-to-date advice and information was available
  • Language was reviewed to ensure it is accessible to all, challenging domestic abuse in a way that makes sense to all. (i.e. young people may not relate to the language of domestic abuse and nor do older people)

It was also agreed that a system wide response is required to empower communities to ‘step up’. Suggestions as to how this could be manifested included: having DA leads in key organisations, up-to-date information on DA on different organisations’ communication boards and websites, and a coordinated community response including not just health, social care, schools and statutory services but also shops, businesses and the entertainment industry etc.

 Although contribution from experts by experience is invaluable, members of this focus group were all white women mostly from Northern Devon with an age range between 16 and late 50s. This, alongside the size of the group, poses some limitations around the reliability of responses at a wider scale. Further exploration is required to better and more fully understand the needs of those supporting victims, including people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, males, people from the LGBTQ+ community and those with disabilities.

Nonetheless, there is little doubt that providing significant others with professional support, guidance, knowledge and tools to manage conversations and help identify risk as well as increased knowledge would increase our community assets to respond to DA. Additionally, there are opportunities to engage the wider Devon communities through targeted campaigning and awareness and skill raising activities. 






Honour-based abuse (HBA) is a crime or incident committed to protect or defend the ‘honour’ of a family or community when it is perceived this has been compromised. We preface this with ‘so-called’ to clarify that there is nothing honourable about HBA.

HBA can include forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic and sexual abuse in all its forms, financial abuse and slavery and can result in honour killings. The victim/survivor can face abuse from a number of people within their family or community rather than by a single person, as is more prevalent with Domestic Abuse cases.

This form of abuse is particularly hidden because of the familial and community context in which it takes place and the high levels of perceived shame and stigma.

One of the biggest challenges for any support agency is firstly appropriate identification of HBA and then providing a culturally competent and safe response to the victim/s. Lack of full understanding of HBA can cause delays in response or even increase risk.

HBA overall has historically been poorly recorded, but recording is slowly improving following changes within police reporting and acknowledgement within Public Health[21] that more needs to be done to study the issue.

The national Honour Based Abuse helpline is the only helpline supporting all victims of Honour Based Abuse, and since its inception in 2008, it has responded to over 100,000 contacts with almost ten thousand in the year ending 2021, including children at risk of forced marriage.

The helpline has seen a 60% rise in reported child marriage cases from March 2021 to March 22 compared to the same period in the previous year.

According to Karma Nirvana data[22], in the year ending March 2022, there were 2,887 HBA-related offences, including 77 FGM and 141 forced marriage offences, recorded by the police in England and Wales. This was an in-year increase of 6%. There may be several reasons for this increase including increased victim and public reporting, improved police identification and recording and an increase in offending.

In 2022, the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) gave advice or support in 302 cases related to a possible forced marriage or possible female genital mutilation (FGM) with an additional 545 general enquiries received. 6% of these (9) were from the Southwest.

HBA is a crime that disproportionately affects women and girls, but men and boys can also be victims. Karma Nirvana’s HBA Helpline offered support to 184 male victims including 14 children. Their data suggests that male victims are more prone to receive threats of violence and stalking compared to their female counterparts but less likely to being abused by grandparents. They also face additional barriers to seeking support due to the perceived male roles within cultural norms.

The presence of any disability is a specific additional vulnerability and a risk factor when it comes to HBA, particularly in males.

Evidence suggests that the most common age for reporting HBA is between 25-34, however, it is understood that victimisation, particularly through forced marriage, can start in childhood.

Victims of HBA may face several challenges that will make it difficult for them to disclose or engage in support including total isolation from their support networks due to the potential associated risk from their community, cultural barriers to accessing help that is tailored to their needs, a lack of victim’s recognition of the abuse and awareness of their rights, financial dependence on their abuser and their or their abuser/s’s immigration status.

Determining the scale and impact of HBA in Devon has been challenging; however, it is believed that the key issues highlighted nationally are relevant to Devon also.

Devon Census data tells us that 96% of the Devon population in 2021 was white. Of the 4% of the population that is listed as non-white, 43% (approximately 12 thousand people) reside in the Exeter district.

Although this indicates potential low prevalence of ethnic diversity across the county, particularly in rural areas, we must consider:


  • There is a potential additional adverse impact for HBA victims from ethnic minoritised groups caused by the rural nature of the county, which is explored in more detail below.
  • We know HBA particularly affects some ethnic groups and is most prevalent in cultures originating from South Asia, Africa and the Middle East with the highest victim group being Asian females. However, HBA is not exclusively experienced by these ethnic groups. For example, HBA is present, to different degrees and different manifestations, in gypsy-traveller communities and other white non-British ethnically diverse groups.
  • HBA can also be experienced by those identifying as LGBTQ+, through family unacceptance or disapproval of their sexual orientation or identity.
  • Services across Devon are supporting victims of domestic abuse where faith and religion plays a significant part in the abuse. In some of these cases HBA or the fear of HBA from the religious community is present.
  • The intersectional experience of all or some of the above will create a unique experience for victims.


The table below shows numbers of HBA offences recorded by Devon and Cornwall Police since 2018. 



YearCrimes in DevonCrimes in Devon and Cornwall Police area

 It is believed that local recording has been affected by a combination of factors including inaccurate and low levels of reporting and changes in recording criteria. Nationally we have seen an increase in reporting for the same period.


In contrast, Karma Nirvana received 65 contacts from the Devon and Cornwall (Police area) in 2022 alone, 50 of which were females and 15 males.

Local Police data cannot, therefore, currently be considered a good benchmark for prevalence.

Based on existing accessible data, the prevalence of known HBA in Devon is low; however, prevalence and numbers of people affected should not be the only determinant of the problem. Essentially, whether we are talking about one victim or one hundred victims should not affect the level of significance we apportion to understanding the needs of victims and survivors.

HBA victims’ experience and consequential needs may also be affected by the very nature of the location. Victims in Devon may experience:


  • overt, covert, systemic and structural racism and other discrimination
  • increased levels of isolation due to the rurality and size of the county
  • barriers to accessing support due to language, unmet cultural needs, lack of trust, challenges in navigating support systems and understanding their own rights and legal protections
  • lack of understanding from services due to low cultural competence, lack of adaptable facilities, and lack of skills and understanding around unique needs such as not having recourse to public funding
  • lack of community support due to the lack of multiculturalism and evolving communities
  • additional barriers due to the unique issues of migration, asylum seekers and refugees
  • Interfamilial cultural clashes for young girls of first-generation migrants
  • Diverse experiences across the county with more urban areas having more multi-cultural populations than rural areas


Our understanding of the needs of victims of HBA in Devon is currently low. There are many complexities that impact on our ability to better understand this: 


  • Complexity of the issue: HBA is a complex issue that is often rooted in cultural and religious beliefs. This can make it difficult for professionals that do not specifically deal with HBA to understand and respond to the needs of victims.
  • Underreporting: Many victims of HBA are too afraid to come forward and face barriers to seeking help as identified above, resulting in underreporting. The true scale of the problem is likely to be higher than the number of reported or crimed incidents, not allowing us to get a full-scale picture of the issues at hand.
  • Lack of identification, under or mis-recording: it is likely that some people supported across the system that are ‘categorised’ as victims of other forms of abuse, may have also experienced HBA but this may not have been identified or recorded.
  • Lack of awareness: There is still a lack of awareness of HBA among professionals and the public which may result in lack of identification and appropriate support.
  • system and legislative weakness to recognise HBA: systems are designed to respond to need against statutory and legal obligations. Therefore, this favours the identification of categories of abuse that have a stronger legislative context like domestic and sexual abuse, potentially leading to reduced focus on the wider implications of HBA in processes such as MARAC and Safeguarding adult and children processes.

Through this process a disparity between data recording, subject matter expert understanding and wider system understanding was noted, including differing levels of competency and understanding of HBA and of its impact and a lack of a shared understanding of possible solutions.


The focus of this needs assessment on the topic is allowing us to open up a conversation about HBA that has not been previously had in Devon with a view to developing shared understanding. There is a current and live opportunity for the system to listen to the voice of lived experience and learn more about HBA through a new project targeted at asylum seeker and refugee women and girls experiencing or at risk of HBA, led by the Olive Project.

There is also an opportunity to bring the system together to improve the response to HBA, starting with improving professional cultural competence, eliciting appropriate identification and improved recording which will allow us to better understand the needs of victims of HBA in Devon.




Since 2012, suicide rates have remained stable nationally, and although this could be perceived as a positive, the fact that we have not seen a reduction is concerning. 


‘There is a high likelihood that someone presenting to services in suicidal distress is a victim of Inter Personal Violence. Health, social care, and welfare professionals need to ask people who have self-harmed or are at risk of suicide if they are experiencing IPV, and professionals should be prepared – and supported – to act accordingly.’

Sally McManus (Senior Lecturer in Health, University of London)


A new national suicide prevention cross-sector strategy (2023) identifies domestic abuse victimisation as a child or adult as a significant risk factor in suicide and recommends a targeted approach to providing improved support to victims, including children. Surprisingly, however, it does not identify sexual abuse as a significant factor, possibly because of limited evidence. The same strategy calls for an improvement in data collection and analysis in reference to suicide nationally. The lack of reliable data is echoed locally, where we have had great difficulty in finding reliable measures to understand the prevalence and impact of suicide for victims of interpersonal and gender-based violence and abuse.

Of women who were victims of rape or assault by penetration since the age of 16 years, the national crime survey (2020) records that 63% reported mental or emotional problems. 10% (11.8% male – 10% female) of the total population had reported that they had attempted suicide as a result.

According to a national sample survey published in 2022 in the Lancet[23], the odds ratio of a past-year suicide attempt were 2.82 times higher in those who have ever experienced Intimate Partner Violence, compared with those who had not.

Analysis of 68 studies by psychologists at the University of Manchester and University of South Wales revealed that children who experience physical, sexual, and emotional abuse or neglect are at least two to three times more likely to attempt suicide in later life.

80% of Devon Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) currently being undertaken are as a result of the victim completing suicide. Other cases have been highlighted by specialist services where the person causing harm completed suicide.

Police data on suspected/ completed suicides has not historically cross referenced to experiences of IG-BVA. This will be reviewed in light of the highlighted need from this analysis.

During 2019 to 2021, Devon suicide rates were 12.5 per 100,000 population (263 cases, with a rate of 19.6 for men and 5.6 for females) compared to England rates of 10.4/100,000. Comparatively, for the same period, Torbay rates are 17.2 per 100,000 and Plymouth 10.7 per 100,000 population.

Devon rates show male rates of suicide are 3.5 times higher than female rates. However, when looking at those that seek support for their experiences of sexual abuse, feedback indicates that both men and women are equally affected, although, we must take into consideration that men are not equally represented in specialist services and are also likely to underreport compared to females.

According to data from SAFE Foundation almost 38% of children and 14% of adults they support, at comparable rates for males and females, reported having had suicidal ideation, with 17.5% of adults having attempted to take their own life.

Intersecting identities and experiences associated with systemic disadvantages, including poverty, disability, and ethnicity, exacerbate risks of both suicidality and IG-BVA.

Data from Devon Rape Crisis suggests that there is a prevalence of suicidal ideation at around 35% for individualsusing their service who self-identify as male or female, again with similar prevalence for both genders, and an average rate of 65% for survivors that identify as transgender, non-binary or ‘other’. This supports the belief that the experience for those identifying as LGBTQ+ will be affected by intersectional needs creating a unique experience of abuse and additional vulnerabilities.

Suicidal ideation, attempts and completion in victims of IG-BVA must be viewed as a resulting outcome of poor mental health due, at least in part, to the impact of the trauma experienced. There was a clear message from specialists in the sector that the system is not adequately responding to the mental health needs of victims of IG-BVA soon enough or early enough.


Too often I will refer a client to an organisation (statutory and non-statutory) and it will come back as ‘too complex’ or the waiting list is horrific. Secondary mental health support is almost non-existent and those who do exist are breaking at the seams.

Independent Sexual Violence Advisor


Devon Public Health has a leading role in the prevention of suicide. In the Devon Suicide Prevention Statement and Action Plan 2023-24 a priority has been identified to better understand local needs in reference to links between suicide and domestic and sexual violence and abuse. This offers an opportunity to further our understanding and for future action to benefit survivors.

The imminent launch of the ‘Trauma Stabilisation’ domestic abuse and sexual violence workforce training program[24] in Devon, provides an opportunity to ensure staff supporting victims of IG-BVA are better equipped to support those that have experienced trauma, and who are possibly experiencing suicidal thoughts and ideations.

The work of the Trauma Responsive Therapeutic Intervention Service for victims and survivors of domestic abuse not only responds to the need for therapies and counselling for those that have experienced trauma and are at risk of experiencing suicidal ideations or attempting suicide, but will also improve our understanding of their needs going forward.

However, there is still a need for more accessible, targeted, specialist and trauma informed mental health support for those affected by IG-BVA across the intersecting systems of health and social care. Opportunities should be sought to model future delivery to ensure that services are responsive to their needs and that adequate capacity is considered to enable services to be responsive.





The online influence of Andrew Tate has drawn vast public and media attention, but it is only one example of the “manosphere”, a collection of online spaces that oppose the empowerment of women and promote anti-feminist, misogynistic attitudes. Many of these spaces promote resentment and even hatred of women.


“… there is an emerging body of evidence demonstrating that increases in online misogynistic and anti-woman sentiments are related to broader offline behaviours, with strong support of these views also being related to an increased likelihood of support for extremist violence” 

Dr Lewys Brace

 The manosphere is a relatively new concept and any research and interest in this is still emerging with a growing body of evidence.


 The manosphere includes a range of loose groupings of attitudes, some self-adopted, ranging from “pick up artists” and male isolationists to “incels”.  Some sets of attitudes co-exist and overlap with far right and “alt right” views, with male supremacy linked to white supremacy.

Researchers have a working hypothesis that individuals may be at risk of going through a “pipeline” of increasingly extremist views, enabled by the recommendation algorithms of social platforms based on user-generated content.

There is also a consideration amongst those with a special interest in this area that consideration should be given to the context in which the manosphere is taking hold.


‘The foundations of the manosphere may not strictly centre on misogyny, as is popularly imagined, but that it has more to do with young men’s search for connection, truth, control and community at a time when all of these are increasingly less clear and defined.’  

Ben Rich & Eva Bujalka, Curtin University


Individuals are likely to experience push, pull and personal factors which lead them towards online misogynistic content and subscribing to the views presented, e.g. experiences of racism in urban areas, possibly social exclusion/isolation, especially in more rural areas. These factors may also vary according to age. In younger groups, these may be the emotional changes of adolescence; in young men, feelings of powerlessness linked to economic factors such as employment and housing.

Some researchers suggest that online influencers present misogynist/anti-feminist material as an easy focus for other wider male insecurities to monetise “solutions”, which are presented as self-improvement materials.

It may therefore be questionable whether interventions or campaigns that specifically target misogyny and/or sexism will be effective, as the root causes of engaging with misogynistic material and consequently subscribing to a misogynistic ideology may lie elsewhere.


“Labelling” boys and young men as misogynists through specific interventions may be counterproductive 

Youth Justice learning  


The influence of the manosphere is mostly felt in young men. We must look at the attraction of this through a compassionate lens and consider the possible motivating factors for this when exploring solutions to the issue.


As a society, we’re arguably still trying to figure out gender roles and relations and have not yet achieved consensus. We should, therefore, avoid shutting down, correcting or, worse, shaming young men who are grappling with these complexities.” 

Emily Setty, Senior lecturer in criminology, University of Surrey


While the online space attracts a great deal of attention, these influences interact with young people’s “offline” lives, so it is not realistic or helpful to consider them in isolation.

Concerns about misogyny in education settings are high. Devon’s school/college reporting is becoming the most consistent source of data on the range and prevalence of concerns in the lower part of the 5 – 25 age range. Both Devon BPRI (Bully, Prejudice and Racism Incidents) and School Harmful Behaviour survey data show significant levels of concern about incidents of sexism/sexual harassment, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Devon BPRI data should be considered cautiously as education settings are still learning to report incidents appropriately. Thus, the data is limited.  BPRI data from the 2022/23 school year (until May) shows sexism/sexual harassment incidents at 5% of the total, gender identity at 2.5% and sexual orientation at 12%. In May 2023 there was a spike of reports in the Year 3 age group.






Age breakdown of incidents reported as sexism/sexual harassment






Harmful behaviours witnessed in Devon schools by staff


The Devon Schools Harmful Behaviour survey data, which received 142 responses, shows misogyny and reports of harmful sexual behaviours (plus homophobia & biphobia) ranked as the third most seen harmful behaviour in schools after general bullying and racism. 35% of all schools reported witnessing misogyny, with this increasing to 61% in schools that have secondary provision. In order of behaviours that practitioners said they were most concerned by, misogyny ranked as the second greatest concern after general bullying.

Misogyny is not used by police to categorise/flag crimes and incidents.  It is possible that a misogynistic world view underpins or motivates crimes/incidents such as gender-based hate crime and sexual harassment. It is debatable whether adding a specific flag/category for misogyny to crime data would be valuable.






“…girls told us that sexual harassment and online sexual abuse, such as being sent unsolicited explicit sexual material and being pressured to send nude pictures (‘nudes’), are much more prevalent than adults realise.” 

Ofsted Review of Sexual abuse in schools and colleges 

NSPCC statistics indicate that around a third of child sexual abuse is by other children or young people. HSB (Harmful Sexual Behaviour) is most identified in adolescent boys, but girls and younger children can also exhibit HSB.

A significant proportion of children who display HSB also have a learning disability and the majority of children who display HSB have themselves experienced trauma, including abuse or neglect. They also often experience other emotional, behavioural and peer-related difficulties.

There is no current reliable evidence to suggest that the displaying of HSB by children and young people is a reliable indicator of sexual offending as adults.

Crime statistics for peer-to-peer interpersonal violence include a very wide range of violent behaviour not specifically related to harmful sexual behaviour (HSB), some of which are being considered under the Devon needs assessment for the Serious Violence Duty. The focus for this needs assessment is on the scale, nature and drivers of harmful sexual behaviour affecting children and young people.

Devon and Cornwall Police data indicates that 15% of all crimes between November 2021 and October 2022 were peer to peer (victim and suspect/offender under 26). 70% of suspects/ offenders were male with Violence with and without Injury being the highest crime type for under 26 peer to peer violence.

Data shows a significantly higher proportion of female victims of rape and other sexual offences and stalking and harassment than male. However, females make up 22% of the offenders/suspects in this crime type, which is more than they do for other sexual offences.

26% of all peer-to-peer crimes were flagged as Domestic Abuse.

There are several definitions of HSB, which can create problems in comparing research and data nationally and locally. There are also two identification/assessment scales that are widely recognised and used: the Brook Traffic Light Tool and Hackett Continuum[25].

The Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted use this definition:

“Sexual behaviours expressed by children and young people under the age of 18 years old that are developmentally inappropriate, may be harmful towards self or others, or abusive towards another child, young person or adult.”

National reports and local surveys/reporting suggest that for some children and young people, sexual harassment and online sexual abuse “are so commonplace that they see no point in reporting them” (Ofsted, 2021). Because of this, actual prevalence of harmful sexual behaviour is difficult to determine.

Data is available on serious cases of HSB that have been referred to the Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) and the Independent Sexual Violence Advocacy Service (ISVA). There is likely to be double counting of individuals who have received more than one type of support.


Devon & Cornwall SARC (2022)

1500 CYP in Devon referred 
 Deep-dive study and dip sampling  
 40% cases likely as a result of HSB   



Devon & Cornwall ISVA Service (2022/23)

254 CYP in Devon referred  
25% of referrals were for “acute” support  
60% involved harm by a partner/ex-partner/known person or associate  

It is reasonable to assume that the available data on sexual harassment and harmful sexual behaviour is significantly under-reporting the prevalence of these behaviours. The Ofsted rapid review “recommends that schools, colleges and multi-agency partners act as though sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are happening, even when there are no specific reports.” The Ofsted review makes recommendations for actions by schools and colleges, and by local multi-agency partners.

At least one Devon setting (Newton Abbot College) has responded directly to the Ofsted recommendations by investigating the understanding and incidence of harmful sexual behaviours in the college, with an action plan to address the findings.

Using a survey in Sept 2022, 601 students were consulted and suggested that sexual harassment through rumour-spreading, name-calling and verbal harassment was common. While physical harassment (unwanted touching, pressure/blackmail for sexual contact or intercourse, image-sharing) was less common, each form of harassment was reported as being experienced “everyday” from approximately 4% of students sampled. A large majority of students (68%) said that they did not believe that a member of staff would know if a student experienced sexual harm. Students also shared that while relationships and sex were taught at their school, they did not think what they were taught reflected real life. 95% of parents surveyed said that they believed their child would make them aware if they had been the victim of sexual harm at school.

A SPACE and Young Devon consultation of 17 young people in Devon highlighted the online space as an area of concern, with 76% reporting that the sharing of sexual images online was a form of HSB they had witnessed or experienced.

The Devon BPRI (Bullying, Prejudice and Racism Incidents) data suggests sexism/sexual harassment incidents amount to around 4% of the total incidents reported in the academic year 22/23.

The Devon Schools Harmful Behaviour survey data, which received 142 responses from school staff in Devon,identifies harmful sexual behaviour as the third most prominent concern after general bullying and racism. Reports of harmful sexual behaviour was also the third most common harmful behaviour (alongside misogyny and homophobia/biphobia) seen by school practitioners.

As with domestic abuse and sexual offences, peer to peer harmful sexual behaviour is a gendered behaviour with females overwhelmingly being the targets and males being the harmers.

The roles of perpetrator and victim are even more undistinguishable when looking at peer to peer HSB. There is intersectionality of need for both harmers and the people harmed, particularly in relation to previous experience of trauma, mental ill health, disabilities and other emotional and behavioural problems. The Devon ISVA service reports that around 40% of the children and young people who received support in 2022 had at least one disability.

There is widespread recognition that harmers are also vulnerable themselves and there is little or no assessment or support for them.


“Boys come to people’s attention labelled as criminal, girls come labelled as victims, but they’re both.” …  “There’s a lack of understanding that young people who come to the attention of the criminal justice system for harmful sexual behaviour or offending are victims themselves.”

Devon professional, 2022

National and local research suggests a relationship between easily available online adult pornography and HSB in children and young people, with pornography often being used by children and young people as sex education.

A deep-dive case study of referrals to the Devon and Cornwall SARC in 2021 identified:

  • Acts commonly see in pornography present in 29% of cases
  • Professionals found to be victim blaming/ apportioning responsibility
  • Entitlement and coercive control in 34.5% of cases 90% of  which involved 13-17 yr olds
  • 39% of referrals in the study were for HSB
  • Invisibility of YP harming – 70% 13-17 yrs unassessed anywhere across the system


There are a number of services, resources and provisions in Devon that would currently interface with or provide support to CYP affected by HSB including SARC and ISVA services, which support victims of sexual harms, the YP IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advocate) in FearFree and the YP Behaviour Change worker with the Youth Justice Service. SPACE and Young Devon currently deliver HSB psychoeducational work in schools but this is still in its infancy.

Substantial guidance resources for professionals are available online (e.g. NSPCC, legacy of SWGfL HSB Support Service etc.) and DCC Education Safeguarding is issuing updated guidance to schools on reporting HSB, with signposting to resources and the purchase of a 5-year licence for a risk assessment checklist focussed on HSB. There is also relevant ad-hoc activity in youth spaces such as specialist services attending music festivals.

However, specialist services are oversubscribed at present and the provision of resources to education staff may have limited impact due to staff resources and capacity constraints.

There is a lack of provision for those that harm, especially those 13+ and they are invisible across the system. Information about them is not well recorded, they are not spoken to, not assessed and not supported.

There is an overreliance on criminal justice processes which is unhelpful as the criminalisation of young people is not appropriate in most cases. Many YP that harm have significant issues and needs themselves which requires support and much of the harmful behaviour would not meet threshold for prosecution or child protection. Additionally, it puts additional pressure on the victims of HSB, potentially retraumatising them.





When talking about abuse from those is a position of power and trust, the scope is vast and far reaching. This could include a broad range of professional contexts and types of vulnerabilities and reaches into hierarchical structures within organisations and professions.

Nationally and in legislative terms, abuse from a position of trust is often related to abuse from adult professionals to children and young people in their care. The focus has been reinforced by recent changes in the law (June 2022), with Sections 16 to 19 of the Sexual Offence Act 2003 defining that it is illegal for an adult in a position of trust to be involved in sexual activity with a person who is 16 or 17 years old and who they look after.

Vulnerable adults are also affected by abuse from those that have power over them and that they should be able to trust. In legislative terms, the Care Act 2014 makes provision for this, but the focus is on people who we have statutory responsibility for that come into contact with care and support services.

It is unquestionable, however, that these are not the only circumstances in which adults may suffer abuse at the hands of those that have power over them and that the scope of this task could be incredibly far reaching.

To remain focused and due to availability of intelligence and data, although we recognise the harmful impact of all forms of IG-BVA, this section focuses only on abuse and harassment that includes a sexual element and excludes other types of interpersonal or gender-based abuse (emotional, financial, coercive control etc.).

To get a better and deeper understanding of local needs, the needs assessment explored local data and information available which inevitably resulted in a focus on the public sector, where information is more accessible and reliable. For future learning, interrogation of richer local “cross-society” information would be required.

In a national “snapshot” review the Care Quality Commission examined notifications of “sexual incidents” from regulated social care providers for a period of 3 months. 16% of the incidents were alleged to have been carried out by a member of staff.

There is broad consensus across local stakeholders that incidents that are formally reported are likely to only be the “tip of the iceberg”. The government’s review of Safe care at home noted that “there is a lack of available data on the prevalence of abuse in care relationships and the data that is available is poorly utilised”.

A recent national study by Exeter University highlighted the widespread experiences of abuse of position, including sexual harassment by women within the NHS England surgical workforce population. The study concluded that ‘sexual misconduct in the past 5 years has been experienced widely, with women affected disproportionately. Accountable organizations are not regarded as dealing adequately with this issue.’

The Independent Office for Police Conduct recently reported that “Abuse of position for sexual purpose (APSP) is now the single biggest form of corruption we deal with at the IOPC”. However, figures published by Devon and Cornwall Police show a relatively low level of incidents where abusive behaviour was substantiated.

Local public sector data shows that incidents of sexual abuse and harassment by people in positions of trust are received and investigated across health and social care, education and policing. There was no obvious evidence of an increasing trend.

The only exception to this was for incidents recorded by the Royal Deven University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who recorded a year-on-year increase in allegations from 2019 to 2022. The overall reported numbers for this period are still relatively low and it is likely that this increase is as a result of improved oversight by the trust’s safeguarding team, resulting in better awareness and increased reporting. We should, therefore, refrain from drawing conclusions about increased prevalence from these figures and the additional organisational focus on this issue should be commended. Of note is that the Trust observed a ratio of 1 patient to 2 staff reported as victims, potentially challenging some assumptions.

Where services or processes receive referrals or concerns across a range of risks and harms (e.g. SARC, Local Authority Designated Officers (LADO), safeguarding adults’ concerns), only a very small proportion are identifiable as involving people in positions of trust. The proportion of these referrals or concerns that are substantiated also seem to be low, where the outcomes are available.

It was also not possible to identify relevant crime data held by Devon and Cornwall Police related to abuse of power or trust and related crimes as recorded against main offence types.

While there is a clear process recommended by the Torbay and Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership, there is no centralised PiPOT (Allegations Against People in Position of Trust) referrals database as it is up to individual employers/organisations to have clear policies in line with those of the Safeguarding Adult Partnership for dealing with allegations against people who work with adults with care and support needs.

Devon LADO Data (Local Authority Designated Officers) co-ordinate the response to concerns that an adult who works with children may have caused them or could cause them harm. In the past 2 years, LADO has accepted 1553 notifications onto the system meeting their criteria for LADO involvement.  Of these, 115 related to a sexual risk/allegation, from a variety of occupational groups and with the largest proportion (49.5%) being from education. This is thought to be because children have highest levels of interaction with education compared to any other occupational group and is not an indication of higher prevalence.

Of the 115 total notifications, 29 met threshold for a MAM (Managing Allegations Meeting). 20 of these are still ongoing, a possible indication of the challenging nature of progressing investigations for abuse of a sexual nature which has parallels with the prevalence of “evidential difficulties” that delay or prevent investigations and prosecutions of sexual offences in the criminal justice system.


‘This has a huge impact of victims and suspects and employers who are left in limbo for long periods of time.

 Devon Principal LADO 

In reference to allegations against Police, 2016/ 2021 data on complaints against police officers outlines that a total of 99 complaints were made by the public and staff across Devon and Cornwall in reference to sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, child sex offences and other sexual misconduct. 36% of these were upheld but no rape allegations were.





  Devon and Cornwall Police

Sexual allegations received and upheld

Adult social care received 98 concerns related to allegations of sexual abuse by a service provider from April 2021 to March 2023, 28 of which proceeded to a S42 Enquiry, which relates to the duty of the Local Authority to make enquiries, or have others do so, if an adult may be at risk of abuse or neglect. Over 1600 S42 Enquiries were undertaken in 2021-22, giving some perspective to the overall proportionality. 

DCC (Devon County Council) recorded 5 incidents of sexual harassment by DCC staff for the 5 years to July 2023.

Within professionals there is a sense of concern about abuse of trust in various church and faith environments, supported by national evidence and high-profile cases. Local abuse support service First Light provides a national service for anyone who has been abused by someone associated with the major churches of England and Wales. This area was not explored through this process but there is an opportunity to do so in further analysis in the future.

When looking at the issue of abuse from a position of power, intersectionality and additional vulnerabilities that would make an individual even more exposed must be considered:


A female asylum seeker who had resided in Devon for many years was placed into a detention centre. Whilst there a guard began to pursue her in a romantic/sexual way.  They promised they would marry them so they would not be deported.  A ‘relationship’ began whilst they were in the detention centre.  When she was released, she returned to Devon and the ‘relationship’ continued.  After she was released, the guard began to get physically and sexually abusive.  They threatened that they would harm her if she reported to the police and stated they would not believe her anyway, as they were a security officer and she was nothing, just a lying asylum seeker.  The victim decided not to approach any mainstream domestic abuse/IDVA service, instead she went to a colleague/friend from a specialist organisation and told her what happened.  The friend she approached had experience of supporting asylum seeking women and other women from black and minoritized communities.  With support from the friend, she did report to the police and they investigated. The security guard was placed on leave.

Account from The Olive Project


The current available data suggests that prevalence is relatively low; however, as for all IG-BVA we can assume that lack of identification, underreporting and mis-recording play a significant part in this, therefore making the current understanding flawed. Improved centralised recording systems and an organisational level of recording is required to understand the scale of the issue. 

There is also a need and opportunity to improve understanding and competency of abuse of power and trust across the system, with targeted campaigns and training aimed at staff delivering services but also key support staff such as human resources, safeguarding teams etc.

Greater focus on understanding the needs of victims and giving voice to those with lived experience is required, as this was not evident or particularly accessible in this iteration of the needs assessment.






Within the current system in Devon, dedicated support for victims of domestic abuse is often most available at crisis point and is most intense at the point of highest risk. However, the impact of domestic abuse is longstanding, and people’s needs do not end when the relationship has ended, or when risk subsides. Little is known about the process of rebuilding lives post domestic abuse and what support may be needed. 

The Cost of Freedom Report highlights that the needs of child and adult survivors will be varied, multi-faceted and different needs will emerge at different times and stages of recovery. These may include reaching and maintaining a feeling of safety through securing housing and rebuilding a home; connecting to the local community, developing or improving social and relational networks as well as improving health and wellbeing. It may also include needs around parenting and supporting children, education, employment and financial stability (including welfare) as well as being able to navigate and establish new intimate relationships that feel safe.

Women’s Aid ‘The road to Recovery’ Inquiry focuses its attention to the long-term impact of domestic abuse on mental health and the current lack of an effective system response to this:

Evidence to this inquiry has illustrated that survivors not only face a myriad of barriers in trying to access support, but the support available often falls short of meeting their needs. Statutory health services lack sufficient understanding of domestic abuse and trauma-informed practice; and there is an inadequate level of partnership work with – and funding for – the specialist domestic abuse services who hold such expertise.

National evidence supports our local understanding that survivors face significant barriers in accessing help when recovering from the impact of domestic abuse, even more so than during the highest point of risk. This includes stigma and victim blaming, waiting lists, fragmented support and inappropriate interventions and structural inequalities that create even more challenges to access for those from minoritised and diverse groups such as survivors with disabilities, who are LGBTQ+, from ethnic diverse backgrounds, women (especially mothers), and those experiencing multiple disadvantages or with co-occurring needs.

We explored life after domestic abuse with 15 local experts by experience facilitated by the local organisations SAFE Foundation, Sunrise Diversity and the National Probation Service. 14 were female and one male, within an age range of 18-67 and from ethnic diverse backgrounds including white British, white European, Black African and White British, South American, Black African, and Bulgarian.

There was no unique story or voice that came through the dialogues and, as could be expected, it was clear that people present with unique human experiences and needs that cannot be unified in a single response. However, some themes did emerge from the conversations.

Respondents told us that, overall, they felt able to talk about their domestic abuse experience with the professional they worked with and felt generally well supported. 


‘I can talk to someone at any time, whatever I’m feeling. I don’t have to ‘put a face on’ and go outside.’


However, they also told us that although they are generally aware of what is available to them in terms of support, access to support does not always come easily and many need support and advocacy to access what is needed.

Their experiences of abuse and the system response they experience may also lead to distrust of services and professionals and a general sense of weariness. Survivors may also be exhausted by their experiences and at mental and emotional saturation which, combined with issues around access to support and a lack of guidance with navigating services, may leave them feeling overwhelmed.


‘I’ll fight for myself now, but I don’t want to have to fight a service just to get them to listen to me. I have enough battles without that.’ 

‘No one had really listened to me before. Or tried to help me. I don’t know why it would be any different now’  

Furthermore, respondents highlighted additional barriers to support including the location of services, who else might be accessing them and, particularly for those from diverse ethnic backgrounds, language barriers. This was especially the case in rural areas.

Talking about when specialist support ends and how they felt about this, the experiences shared were very different. 


We were offered further help with specific issues, however at the time, our situation was difficult, and we decided to wait until we were ready to proceed. We were encouraged to contact them again if we needed to, that they would help if they could, or advise us on who could help.’


I felt as though I lost all of my support apart from phone-calls. I know I could go back in to CoLab but felt I should be able to manage. At Breathing Space I could see the psychologist which helped me a lot. I was so upset when I had to move out of Breathing Space. Other services don’t seem to care and just treat you like a number. I feel alone and all of my support has finished.


Peer support and friendships through shared experiences are valued and beneficial. It is also felt that workplaces’ understanding of need and the impact of employment on a domestic abuse situation can be influential, from improving confidence to providing flexibility to attend groups such as social or peer support. Although some respondents felt that their workplace had been flexible and supportive, this was often only when the need was framed as a mental health need. Others, however, chose not to tell their employer altogether for fear of judgment or because they had experienced a lack of understanding around what their needs might be once the crisis was over.


This is supported by findings from the community survey where, when asked why they didn’t seek help when experiencing domestic abuse, many cited not wanting their employer to find out or fearing that their career would be compromised or that they would be judged.

Some experts by experience felt there was a lot of ‘talk about support’ for DA in the news but weren’t sure how this translated into day-to-day support in their experience:


‘There’s a poster up at my doctor’s about talking about [domestic] abuse and how understanding they are. When I said to the nurse that I could only have some tests done at a particular time of day because of my abuse she just looked at me blankly. Like, because I wasn’t crying and terrified, she didn’t know how to respond and I was making a fuss.’

Expert by experience through focus group


Respondents experienced having to repeat their story over and over again when seeking support but also that when asking the question about domestic abuse, universal services often lack the confidence to hold constructive conversations.


‘I’m always the one who has to bring up domestic abuse. It’s like people don’t know how to say the words, and if they do, they don’t sound confident and then I’m not confident they’ll understand me, so I don’t want to talk about it.’   

Expert by experience through focus group 


Importantly, they wanted services to talk to them about their experience and learn from this to adapt and change.

There are some key themes identified to meet the need of survivors on their recovery journey:

  • Trusted relationships built over time remain a vital part of recovery.
  • The system presents barriers to access to services because of how these are designed and structured.
  • Providing support through transitions, including appropriate information sharing, is important to ensure continuity of provision and survivors having a positive experience of feeling held, listened to and empowered.
  • Each experience is unique, but everyone needs a compassionate, open and honest system response to feel supported, believed and valued.
  • Recovery is exhausting – it is not easy, so the easier the system is to navigate the better.





Devon County Council in partnership with the Devon and Cornwall Housing Options Partnership (DCHOP) commissioned a mapping and options exercise to better understand the current need for safe accommodation in Devon and explore possible solutions to identified shortfalls. The below reflects the findings of this exercise supported by some additional relevant evidence.

Safe Accommodation in Devon was substantially depleted several years ago following reductions in funding. A small number of providers deliver specialist and intensive ‘designated safe accommodation’ in the county, currently totalling 66 bedspaces including refuge, dispersed housing and accommodation for those experiencing multiple disadvantages. Only a minority of those seeking safe accommodation are currently accommodated within this kind of provision.  The number and proportion of households who are presenting as homeless or at risk of homelessness, and for whom domestic abuse is the primary factor, has been increasing in the county in recent years.

In 2021–22 in Devon, a total of 272 households were accepted as homeless by their local authority with domestic abuse as the primary factor, mostly women with children. It is estimated that at least 80% of these households were accommodated in mainstream temporary accommodation and that, of these, at least 80% were housed initially within B and Bs or similar.

The use of B and Bs is a last resort due to housing pressures. People in this type of accommodation are specifically excluded from receiving support under the DA Act, whatever their level of need.

It should also be noted that the prevalence of domestic abuse means that the number of people approaching councils for homelessness support due to domestic abuse is only a fraction of the number of people experiencing abuse.

This data supports the consensus that there is a shortfall in the provision of safe accommodation in Devon across all types of need. Designated specialist safe accommodation for those with more complex needs is under great pressure.  There is a need for more intensive provision able to provide 24/7 on-site support for those with the most complex needs, continued provision of intermediate on-site support for those with medium levels of risk, and a remodelled and expanded refuge service, with provision of these services available in more geographical places (provision is concentrated in Exeter and North Devon, with only two safe accommodation units elsewhere in the county and none at all in South or West Devon).

The mapping exercise identified that an average of an additional 130 units (minimum 80) would be required to meet the need in Devon. This is in line with a benchmark from the Council of Europe, which suggests that at least 81 family units should be available in Devon.

The unfavourable conditions of the Devon housing market are a major barrier to increasing the supply of safe accommodation in the county, with limited opportunity for affordable private tenancy, lack of social housing and an unaffordable property market, particularly in tourist and coastal areas.

Devon would benefit from a whole-county and whole-system approach to providing safe accommodation, joining up complementary services. This should include:



  1. Designated safe accommodation: Safe accommodation requires expansion, some remodelling and provision across more locations, to include:
    • Intensive 24/7 on-site support – requires dedicated bedspaces in at least two locations (north and south), with a handful of crisis bedspaces at each site, for those experiencing multiple disadvantages.
    • Intermediate on-site support – requires bedspaces across the county, although possibly better provided as self-contained accommodation, not shared.
    • A redesigned and expanded dispersed safe accommodation offer to deliver blocks of 1 or 2 bed flats, with shared space, at different locations.
    • Housing for those that cause harm– there is a case for some dispersed 1 bed flats for those that cause harm, especially where the victim chooses to remain in their home, although this could be met within the provision of additional temporary accommodation.
    • When considering safe accommodation due consideration needs to be given to accessibility in the context of equality, diversity and inclusion.

  2. More temporary accommodation to eliminate the use of B and Bs: a strategy to eliminate the use of B and Bs would require additional provision of housing units across the county, with 80–90% being 1 or 2 bed flats, and the rest 3 beds. These could be multi-purpose but with the primary purpose of providing safe accommodation.
  3. An expanded and joined up support service: county wide support needs to be better joined up with the housing service, including communication, referrals, training and joined up outcome monitoring.
  4. An expanded and improved ‘Staying Put’ support provision to allow victims to stay safely in their own homes if appropriate.
  5. Speeding up the moving-on of accommodated households



It is accepted that this level of improvement is going to require investment and time to identify opportunities, engage stakeholders and grow the offer, including through commissioning activity.


Devon County Council with DCHOP are developing a plan to deliver against the points above, exploring a variety of available options to increase the availability of safe accommodation and reduce the use of inappropriate accommodation as well as working in collaboration with relevant Partnership Board members to design a sustainable Staying Put offer.


A system response is essential. We continue to see a divide within the system, be it between child and adult focus, based on topical specialisms (domestic abuse, sexual violence, substance misuse, mental health etc.), because of the Devon geography, statutory and non-statutory obligations or because of organisational structures. This is not reflective of the needs of our Devon communities.

As evidenced by this needs assessment, IG-BVA affects people throughout the life course, is often present in people’s lives within a broader context of traumatic experiences and adversities, has long standing impacts through people’s life journeys and affects whole families, support networks and communities. It affects a vast proportion of our population and particularly the women and girls of Devon. IG-BVA should be everyone’s business and should be given due value within the ‘safeguarding children and adults’ context. Service delivery and strategies across our system should reflect the significant impact on children, young people, adults and older people as well as the endemic prevalence of IG-BVA, especially in the most vulnerable and/or minoritised in our communities, such as people with disabilities, children, older people, people from ethnic and culturally diverse groups and those who identify as LGBTQ+. It is also important that IG-BVA is not considered in silo and that the blurring of boundaries is explored for the benefit of our communities. Statutory and legislative obligations often define system functioning, but this is not always in line with how people experience IG-BVA and system leaders should consider how to ensure policies, strategies and service delivery harmonises across the system.

Community ownership of the problem could have a significant impact and health and social care systems have a responsibility to empower our communities to become or remain engaged around IG-BVA. Coordinated community strengthening activities would build on local strengths and equip citizens to respond effectively to their community, engage people at earlier opportunities, send a clear non-condoning message to those causing harm and give a voice to the many experts by experience that live within our communities. It would challenge stigma and allow victims and survivors to shed the shame they carry. Engaging, educating, upskilling and enabling our communities should be a priority.

IG-BVA should be viewed through a trauma lens rather than in isolation as a presenting risk. IG-BVA is unequivocally a source of trauma but equally a manifestation of trauma. Through this assessment we have identified the presence of trauma for both those that cause harm and those that are harmed. We identified that this is particularly true for children and young people. We have also identified that non trauma informed responses have longstanding damaging effects on those who have experienced IG-BVA and, given its prevalence, we can conclude that being trauma focused across our system would benefit the majority of the people of Devon whether we are aware of their experiences or not.

A focus on breaking the cycle of intergenerational experiences of abuse across the system would allow us to much more effectively tackle these problems by focusing on prevention and early intervention to improve the relationships of the future. We have seen here evidence of how domestic abuse impacts on children and young people, how peer-to-peer harmful behaviours affect young people, how so called ‘Honour’ Based Abuse, embedded into intergenerational inherited beliefs, causes harm to women and girls. But we have also seen how the online manosphere influences particularly young men and those most susceptible due to adverse experiences, how those that harm in the context of peer-to-peer youth abuse have unmet needs themselves, and how exposure to domestic abuse and other forms of childhood trauma feature in those that cause harm. We have received feedback from experts by experience and by professionals that focusing on children and young people is essential. It is unequivocable that a life course approach should be taken to addressing the issues presented here if we want to have significant impact.

There is no single response that could be adequate. Victims and survivors will be affected by IG-BVA in unique ways and present with a range of needs that go beyond the experience of domestic abuse, sexual violence or VAWG.  A focus on intersectionality and victim centred approaches is required to ensure all affected by IG-BVA receive a response that feels adequate to them and meets their needs.

This needs assessment should be shared across the health and social care system as well as across our communities to inform decision making, strategies and planning. It will also directly inform the commissioning strategy for domestic abuse support in Devon.

We also know that this is a picture in a moment in time and that needs and understanding of needs will change over time. It is essential that continuous learning remains a focus and that we use this exercise as a benchmark to ensure that we continue to be curious about the needs of our communities, that we seek to improve our understanding where we have identified gaps and that we collectively challenge the system where we find it negatively impacts those affected by IG-BVA.


Women, race and the criminal justice system – Russell Webster

Devon and Cornwall Police, Local Crime Data – UNIFI, November 2019 – October 2022


Safety-before-status-The-Solutions.pdf (domesticabusecommissioner.uk)

Domestic abuse – GOV.UK Ethnicity facts and figures (ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk)

Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities – Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report – March 2021 (publishing.service.gov.uk)

FINAL-Reframing-the-links.pdf (womensaid.org.uk)

Free to be safe web.pdf (safelives.org.uk)

SafeLives briefing on the experiences of transgender victims and survivors of domestic abuse 

SafeLives comparison of bisexual and heterosexual women’s experiences of domestic abuse

LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Service Provision Mapping Study – Galop

Information for Professionals – Loving Me

Galop_domestic abuse.indd


“Parental alienation”: A dangerous and harmful concept – Women’s Aid (womensaid.org.uk)

Record numbers of children and young people affected by domestic abuse | NSPCC

Domestic abuse and the criminal justice system – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)


Domestic abuse of older people – House of Lords Library (parliament.uk)
Domestic Abuse Of Older People.pdf (wearehourglass.org)

Safe Later Lives – Older people and domestic abuse.pdf (safelives.org.uk)

New data on domestic abuse in older people | Discover | Age UK

SOLACE_SupportingOlderSurvivors.pdf (solacewomensaid.org)

SARSAS Briefing Paper Jan20_9307.indd


Modern Slavery: National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify statistics UK, end of year summary 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The Eddystone Trust – Insight Report ‘At risk of prostitution’ 2023


Linkinthechain.pdf (citizensadvice.org.uk)


Statistics on so called ‘honour-based’ abuse offences, England and Wales, 2021 to 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)


Childhood maltreatment and adult suicidality: A comprehensive systematic review with meta-analysis — Research Explorer The University of Manchester

Suicide prevention in England: 5-year cross-sector strategy – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Draft Suicide Prevention Statement and Action Plan.pdf (devon.gov.uk)

Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP) Domestic Homicides and Suspected Victim Suicides 2021-2022 Year 2 Report

Intimate partner violence, suicidality, and self-harm: a probability sample survey of the general population in England – The Lancet Psychiatry, 2022

The lasting impact of violence against women and girls – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)


Underexamined and Underreported Briefing (agendaalliance.org)



How worried should we be about incel-related violence? (crestresearch.ac.uk)



What is the manosphere and why is it a concern? | Internet Matters


The draw of the ‘manosphere’: understanding Andrew Tate’s appeal to lost men (theconversation.com)

The Online Together Project | Internet Matters x Samsung UK

Tackling online misogyny: what needs to be done in schools – and our communities (theconversation.com)

Why misogyny needs to be tackled in education from primary school (theconversation.com)



Statistics about harmful sexual behaviour | NSPCC Learning

Review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Harmful Sexual Behaviour Support Service | SWGfL


Safe care at home review – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Promoting sexual safety through empowerment – Care Quality Commission (cqc.org.uk)

Sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape by colleagues in the surgical workforce, and how women and men are living different realities: observational study using NHS population-derived weights | British Journal of Surgery | Oxford Academic (oup.com)


The Road to Recovery: Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Domestic Abuse Survivors. An Inruiry into Domestic Abuse and Mental Health by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence and Abuse (womensaid.org.uk)

Costs_of_Freedom_Report_-_SWA.pdf (endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk)


SVDVA – Devon Safe Accommodation Mapping Report, v2.3.pdf – All Documents (sharepoint.com)

References and data sources


[1] Addressing violence against women in health and multisectoral policies: a global status report (WHO, 2021)

[2]  Tackling violence against women and girls strategy – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

[3] The economic and social costs of domestic abuse (publishing.service.gov.uk)

Respublica_web.pdf (womensaid.org.uk)

[4] Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)




Graph to show that domestic abuse prevalence has not changed significantly compared with the year before the coronavirus pandemic


[5] Devon: percentage change in recorded domestic abuse crimes and incidents

      • 2020/21 – 2021/22 – 5% increase
      • 2017/18 – 2021/22 – 10% increase (trend is a year on year increase)
      • 2020/21 – 2021/22 – 8% increase
      • 2019/20 – 2021/22 – 12% increase

(From Safer Devon Community Safety Strategic Assessment2022-23)


Total population

Devon has a total population of 814, 440, of which 686,100 are aged 16 or over. The 16+ population is comprised of 52% (356k) women and 48% (330k) men (Census 2021).

In 2022, the CSEW indicated that 5.0% (6.9% of women, 3% of men) of those age 16 and above, within England and Wales, had experienced domestic abuse in the previous year. Data collection for this survey was disrupted due to Covid-19 and these figures are slightly lower than pre-Covid averages.  See also note 3 above.


Figures in this section are from November 2021-October 2022. Figures are given from this period due to the transfer of the police data recording system, that took place in November 2022. 

Within this time period, 21% of all recorded crime in Devon had a Domestic Abuse flag.

When looking at figures for all crime within the Offence Groups of Violence With, and Without Injury, 35% of these offences have a DA flag. Of all crimes within the Offence Groups of Rape and Other Sexual Offences, 19% have a DA flag.

When comparing figures to the same period for the year before, i.e. November 2020 – October 2021, there is little change. There is a slightly higher proportion of DA flags within Violence with and without Injury at 37%, and within the Offence Groups of Rape and Other Sexual Offences, where 22% had a DA flag. This may be due to the impact of Covid and restriction of movement outside of private domestic spaces.

In 2020-21,7638 of total crimes were flagged as DA related, in 2021-22,8190 crimes were DA related. This is a 7% increase on last year.

Devon and Cornwall Police also record ‘Incident’ data. These are events that the police are notified of, but do not always attend. Incidents are not necessarily crimes, but some do go on to be recorded as a crime. Incident data has been less impacted by the transfer to Niche, and therefore can act as a good indicator of crime prevalence, in lieu of formal recorded crime data.

When observing incident data, between August 2022 and July 2023, 9% of all recorded incidents were recorded with a Domestic Abuse Flag.

Caution is to be taken with Incident data, as it is not crime data, in addition there has been a change in recording processes which may impact data. A further limitation is that the Domestic Abuse Flag is inconsistently applied, it is likley that some incidents are related to domestic abuse but have not been flagged as so.

[8] Domestic abuse and the criminal justice system – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)

[9] Sexual offences victim characteristics, England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)





A graph to show there was no significant change in the prevalence of sexual assault for both men and women in the year ending march 2020


Sexual offences victim characteristics, England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)




Sexual violence offences, Devon2021-2022
All crime total39894
Sexual Violence Total% of SO % of total 
Other Sexual Offences139820.43.5
Stalking and Harassment474969.111.9
Total Rape, SO and Stalking/Harassment 686917.2
Total Rape, SO21205.3
All crime total 35881
Sexual Violence Total% of SO% of total 
Other Sexual Offences121218.63.4
Stalking and Harassment467371.813.0
Total Rape, SO and Stalking/Harassment 651118.1
Total Rape, SO18385.1


Due to the transition to Niche, Police data has been taken from November – October. Between November 2020 and October 2021 to November 2021-October 2022, there has been a rise in the number of Rape, and Other Sexual Offences.

There has also been a percentage increase between this year and last of 5%, within the combined offences of Rape, Other Sexual Offences and Stalking and Harassment.

Between November 2021-October 2022, sexual violence crimes (those under the offence groups of Rape and Other Sexual Offences), made up 5.3% of all crimes in Devon. In the previous year, between the same dates, these crimes made up 5.1%.

Interestingly, the combined total of all Rape, Other Sexual Offences and Stalking and Harassment, make a lower percentage of total crimes than they did last year, reducing by around 1%.

Victim and Perpetrator detail

Note, figures given do not relate to unique individuals, there will be repeat victims, offenders and suspects. (N.B. there were numerous entries of ‘unknown’ or blank person sex, therefore percentages will not sum to 100).

Between November 2021 and October 2022, there were 635 female victims of Rape (88%), there were 76 male victims (11%). 318 of all victims were under 18 (44%). In the same period in 2020-2021, there were 561 female victims (89%) and 60 male victims (10%), 40% of rape victims were under 18 in this year.

In 2021-22 there were 1062 female victims of Other Sexual Offences (75%), there were 254 male victims (18%). In 2020-21, 79% of victims were female, and only 14% were male. There were 15 ‘unknown’ entries.

For Stalking and Harassment Offences in 2021-22, there were 4876 total victims, 3229 were female (66%), 1439 were male (30%). In 2020-21, the proportions were largely the same, with slightly fewer female victims, but again several ‘unknown’ entries.

All Crimes should have a corresponding victim, due to reporting rules. However, not every crime will have a suspect or offender, therefore figures will be lower. A suspect is someone identified to be involved in the crime. An offender is a person who has received an outcome for a crime they committed

100% of rapes will be committed by men, due to the offence classification criteria. Therefore, all Suspects and Offenders will be male.

Of all identified offenders of Other Sexual Offences in 2021-22, <99% were committed by men. In 2020-21, this was >98%.

In November 2021- October 22, 276 offenders were identified for Stalking and Harassment Offences, 24% were committed by women, 75% by men. In 2020-21, 26% were committed by women and 74% by men.

Suspect data has also been collected. A suspect has not yet received an outcome for a crime, data should be read with this in mind. In 2021-22, of the 943 suspects for Other Sexual Offenders, 89% were male, 10% were female, this reflects the same proportion of male to female suspects for the offence, within the previous year.

Of the 3743 suspects for the Offence of Stalking and Harassment, 69% were male 30% were female. In 2020-21, 33% of suspects for the same Offence were female, whilst 66% were male.





A Graph to show that adults aged 16 – 24 years were more likely to be victims of sexual assault in the last year than other age groups




 A chart to show Police recorded crime showed that females aged 15 – 19 years and males ages 10 – 14 years were most likely to be victims of sexual offences

[13] domesticabusecommissioner.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/DAC_Mapping-Abuse-Suvivors_Summary-Report_Feb-2023_Digital.pdf

[14] patchy-piecemeal-and-precarious-support-for-children-affected-by-domestic-abuse.pdf (actionforchildren.org.uk)

[15] Based on information from community behaviour change programs delivered in Devon in 2021/22

[16] Safe Later Lives – Older people and domestic abuse.pdf (safelives.org.uk)

[17] SARSAS Briefing Paper Jan20_9307.indd

[18] Cambridgeshire County Council DASV Partnership – Older People (cambsdasv.org.uk)

[19] A collaboration led by CoLab that will explore action planning around sexual exploitation across Devon

[20] Linkinthechain.pdf (citizensadvice.org.uk)

[21] Public health contributes to reducing the causes of ill-health and improving people’s health and wellbeing through:

Health protection – action for clean air, water and food, infectious disease control, protection against environmental health hazards, chemical incidents and emergency response

Improving people’s health – action to improve health and wellbeing and to reduce health inequalities (for example by helping people quit smoking or improving their living conditions)

Health services – ensuring that our health services are the most effective, most efficient and equally accessible

[22] External Data Insights – Karma Nirvana

[23] Intimate partner violence, suicidality, and self-harm: a probability sample survey of the general population in England – The Lancet Psychiatry

[24] Facilitated by the Sexual violence Pathfinder program in partnership with DCC Safer Lives & Communities, starting in 2024

[25] The Hackett continuum explanation Understanding sexualised behaviour in children | NSPCC Learning