UK women find reporting to police 'traumatic' - poll

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A new poll released by ActionAid UK today reveals that out of a third of women in the UK who say they – or a woman they know – have reported male violence to the police, less than half (40%) describe the experience as positive. Of those British women who said the experience was negative, 70% said this was because the perpetrator got away with it – with 60% saying the experience was traumatic. 

The research – conducted by YouGov to highlight the charity’s campaign, calling for better access to justice for survivors of violence worldwide – examined women’s experiences of the justice system in the UK, South Africa and India. An estimated 1 in 3 women and girls will experience violence at the hands of a man in their lifetime.[1] Most of this violence goes unreported, with women typically put off by barriers such as a lack of legal support, funds and fear of retribution.

The poll found that on average globally, 37% of women said that they, or a woman they know, have reported male violence to the police – but of those who did, just 43% said they would describe the experience as positive.

In the UK, 60% of women surveyed said they, or the woman they knew, found the experience of reporting to the police to be traumatic. This was more, as a proportion, than in South Africa (51%), and globally (56%).

Proportionally, more women in Britain (70%) than the average of 68% across all three markets said that after the crime was reported, the perpetrator got away with it.

Women also reported mixed experiences with the court system. According to the research, nearly 1 in 5 women surveyed (19%) have either been involved in a court case relating to male violence, or know a woman who has been, where they were the victim.

Overall, just over half of these (51%) said going through court was a positive experience; of those who reported a negative experience, some 63% found the experience traumatic, while 57% felt they were blamed for what happened.

Commenting, Girish Menon – CEO of ActionAid UK – said:

“These findings confirm concerns about a global ‘justice deficit’, where women – in the UK and around the world – find that when they report violence, the justice system ends up working against them. Too many women and girls find the experience traumatic, and feel that they, not the perpetrator, are the one on trial. It’s little wonder that so many women have no faith in the justice system, and don’t report male violence – even though 1 in 3 women and girls will experience it in their lifetime.

“It’s vital that we tackle this crisis head on. ActionAid works with women and girls to ensure that survivors have a voice and can claim their rights, but more needs to be done. Governments around the world must urgently start listening to survivors, and showing women and girls that when they speak up, they will be supported.”


For further information, contact the ActionAid UK media team on email:, or; or if out of hours, call +44 (0) 7753 973 486.

Notes to editors

1. ActionAid is an international charity that works with women and girls living in poverty in over 40 countries. Our dedicated local staff are helping end violence against women and girls and changing lives, for good. We won’t stop until women and girls are out of danger, out of poverty and on track to create the future they want.

2. Full poll results are available on request.

3. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3611 adults, of which 1,895 were women. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd March‐7th April 2019. The survey was carried out online. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been given an even weighting for each country to produce an ‘average’ value. UK results (2,095 respondents of which 1,127 were women) are weighted and are representative of all UK adults aged 18+. India results (1,015 respondents, of which 513 were women) are weighted and are representative of adults online. South Africa results (501 respondents, of which 255 were women), are weighted and are nationally representative, based around urban areas.

4. ActionAid UK is campaigning to secure access to justice for survivors worldwide. To find out more, visit