Around 1.2 million women in England are living with the impact of ‘extensive’, lifelong physical and sexual abuse and violence, according to research released today for the launch of Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk .
The charity reports that women with these experiences are around twice as likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms as soldiers returning from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan .
Agenda’s report, Hidden Hurt, shows that one in twenty women in England has experienced repeated, serious physical and sexual abuse both as a child and an adult. This includes for example being raped; being severely beaten as a child by a parent or step-parent; and being choked or strangled by a partner.
Hidden Hurt describes the poor mental and physical health these women face :
- Half (54 per cent) of women with experience of extensive abuse have a diagnosable common mental health condition such as depression or an anxiety disorder
- Half (52 per cent) have a disability that affects their daily life
- One in six (16 per cent) screen positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- One in seven (15 per cent) have three or more mental health problems
- One in three (36 per cent) have attempted suicide
Agenda is highlighting the failure of society to support women with experience of extensive abuse, as the report reveals three quarters (75 per cent) are receiving no mental health treatment.
The charity warns that without proper support, women who have experienced this kind of abuse have very difficult lives. Hidden Hurt shows:
- One in five (21 per cent) women with experience of extensive abuse have been homeless
- One in three (36 per cent) have attempted suicide
- One in three (31 per cent) have an alcohol problem
- A quarter (27 per cent) had experienced a major financial crisis
Women who have experienced this extensive abuse are significantly more likely to be poor with nearly half (46 per cent) in the poorest third of the population.
In many areas, there are no specialist services for women with mental health problems, addictions, or who are homeless. Agenda is warning that many of the non-specialist services women turn to don’t have the knowledge or resources to respond appropriately to the violence they have experienced.
Agenda is calling for better funding of specialist services for women who have experienced extensive abuse, as well as more recognition of issues around abuse in mainstream services.
The charity is calling for leadership from national and local government to make sure women and girls who experience the most extensive abuse get appropriate support.
Katharine Sacks-Jones, Director of Agenda, said:
“Extensive hidden violence is having a devastating impact on women’s lives.
“Around 1.2 million women in England have been repeatedly physically and sexually abused as a child and as an adult: for them, abuse is a constant. At the moment we are failing them. Too many simply can’t get the help they need and are ending up with serious mental health problems, on our streets, and in our prisons.
“The upcoming Violence Against Women and Girls strategy provides a real opportunity for government to make sure the most excluded women get better support. We urge them to take this opportunity.”
Agenda’s launch marks the first stage of the alliance’s activities, bringing together its more than 50 members to campaign for change for women and girls at risk. In addition to releasing Hidden Hurt, the charity is holding a launch event in Parliament.
In response to the findings in its report, Agenda recommends:
- Central and local government must make sure specialist services for women and girls at risk are properly resourced and commissioned–- this should include a central funding pot drawn from different budgets.
- Mainstream services should routinely enquire about and respond to women and girls’ experience of violence and abuse,
- There must be better collaborative working between different professions and services, so women and girls at risk can’t fall through ‘gaps’ in provision.
Agenda is highlighting that the upcoming Violence against Women and Girls strategy provides an opportunity for the Government to act on these recommendations.
Press contact: Franki Hackett, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 07860 519783
 Hidden Hurt: Violence, abuse and wider disadvantage in the lives of women, DMSS Research for Agenda, 2016. The research builds on previous Department of Health funded analysis of data from the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) conducted by the Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit, DMSS and NatCen Social Research. Population patterns in violence, abuse and mental health in England, Scott, S; Williams, J; McNaughton Nicholls, C; Lovett, J; McManus, S (2015) NatCen: London. APMS
 M. Jones, J. Sundin, L. Goodwin, L. Hull, N. T. Fear, S. Wessely, R. J. Rona. What explains post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in UK service personnel: deployment or something else? Psychological Medicine (2013), 43, 1703–1712.
 Hidden Hurt, DMSS Research for Agenda, 2016.
Notes to editors
Agenda is a new alliance of organisations and individuals who have come together to campaign for change for women and girls at risk. We believe society is failing to adequately protect and support women and girls who face the most extensive violence, abuse, trauma and extreme inequality.
We are calling for systems and services to be redesigned with women and girls at their heart so that they can access the support they need to rebuild their lives and reach their full potential. www.weareagenda.org.
DMSS Research conducts research and evaluation with a focus on gender, sexual violence, mental health and services for women, children and young people. www.dmss.co.uk
The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) is a high quality, general population survey of 7,500 adults living in private households across England. The survey includes screens and assessments for a range of mental health disorders and is the primary data source for National Statistics on trends in the nation’s mental health.