One in seven of all women in poverty (14%), which is one million women, have faced the most extensive violence and abuse. This is more than twice the rate for women not in poverty (6%), according to a report released today by Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk.
Agenda’s report, joining the dots, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is the first to combine data on women’s experiences of poverty, mental health, life circumstances, and abuse and violence, to paint a picture of how different forms of inequality combine in the lives of women in poverty in England.
According to Agenda, being poor can make women and girls more vulnerable to perpetrators of abuse and prevent them from escaping abusive situations, while the impact of abuse can trap women in poverty.
The combination of experiencing extensive abuse alongside poverty creates a web of adversity in women’s lives. Of women who have experienced extensive abuse and poverty:
- A third (38%) had attempted suicide, compared with 4% of women in poverty who had not been abused.
- More than half (55%) had a common mental disorder such as anxiety or depression, compared with 17% of women in poverty who had not been abused
- One in five (21%) have been homeless, compared with 3% of women in poverty who had not been abused.
Joining the dots also found:
- Women in poverty are twice as likely as other women to experience almost every form of interpersonal violence and abuse covered in the study.
- The extent of abuse a woman experiences, as well as the form it takes, is strongly linked to poverty. Women in poverty are much more likely to have the most extensive experiences of abuse and to experience multiple types across their lives.
The charity is calling on the Government to prioritise the provision of support which improves the life chances of women facing this combined disadvantage.
Katharine Sacks-Jones, Director of Agenda, said:
“We’ve got to start joining the dots between poverty, violence, and disadvantage in women’s lives.
“Women are more likely to be poor, be abused and suffer mental health problems. The impacts of these are cumulative and often feed each other.
“Women in poverty have fewer resources and can find it harder to escape perpetrators of abuse, while experiencing abuse can contribute to women’s poverty.
“Without support, women and girls can move from crisis to crisis, so investing early on is vital to help women turn their lives around, which not only has a huge impact on them and their children but also comes with a saving to the public purse.
“We are calling on the Government to break the links between poverty and abuse by developing a cross-government approach to improving the life chances of women who face this combined burden.”
Agenda is recommending:
- A cross-government approach to improving the life chances of women who face the most extensive abuse, poverty and disadvantage.
- ‘Routine enquiry’ (asking women and girls whether they have experienced violence and abuse) becomes standard practice across a range of health and support services and is accompanied by comprehensive support for those who disclose past or present experiences of abuse.
- Central and local government ensure specialist services providing holistic support are adequately funded and properly commissioned.
Press contact: Lucie Russell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 07919 091090
Notes to editors
Agenda is an alliance of more than 60 organisations 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.
This research was funded by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, an independent organisation working to inspire social change through research, policy and practice. For more information visit www.jrf.org.uk
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
Heriot-Watt Trading Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Heriot-Watt University, conducts commercial activity within the university including consultancy, where academics carry out consultancy research for third parties under the university’s consultancy procedures.
Joining the Dots, describes the circumstances of women in England who live in poverty, examines the nature and extent of violence and abuse experienced by women in poverty, and profiles the mental health and quality of life of women who experience both poverty and violence and abuse. This report provides a powerful statistical picture of the combined adversity of poverty and extensive violence and abuse in women’s lives.
Our data source is the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007 (APMS) which has a large representative sample of 7,500 women and men of all ages and is the best available data on rates of mental illness in the general population. APMS also provides rich information about other aspects of people’s lives: including their economic circumstances, social relationships and experiences of sexual and physical abuse, violence and coercive control in childhood or adulthood.
Poverty calculation While APMS contains a wide range of poverty indicators, it is not a specialist survey of poverty. In order to identify which women in the sample were in poverty, analysis was conducted drawing on the poverty profile found in the Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) survey. This work identified the indicators and characteristics in the APMS dataset that best identified who in the sample was in poverty. These included measures relating to personal and household income; fuel poverty and poor housing condition indicators; borrowing from friends and non-standard money lenders; and being seriously behind with utility, rent, mortgage and a range of other debt repayments.
Typology of abuse and poverty: Building on previous analysis, A typology of the population in terms of people’s life histories of abuse and violence was used which placed people into four distinct groups.
- Little or no experience of violence and abuse
- Physical abuse from partner
- Sexual abuse as a child or adult (and sometimes as both)
- Extensive violence and abuse: sexual and/or physical including women who have experienced extensive coercive control and physical violence from a partner and women who have experienced both physical and sexual violence in both childhood and adulthood
 Extensive abuse is sexual and/or physical abuse and includes women who have experienced extensive coercive control and physical violence from a partner and women who have experienced both physical and sexual violence in both childhood and adulthood
 This is the first study to examine national survey data looking at the links across these areas and using high quality assessments of mental illness
 Hidden Hurt (McManus S, Scott S 2016) http://weareagenda.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Hidden-Hurt-full-report1.pdf