Journal Article

Tracking the Evidence for a ‘Mythical Number’: Do UK Domestic Abuse Victims Suffer an Average of 35 Assaults Before Someone Calls the Police?

Heather Strang, Peter Neyroud and Lawrence Sherman

in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice

Volume 8, issue 2, pages 222-228
Published in print June 2014 | ISSN: 1752-4512
Published online May 2014 | e-ISSN: 1752-4520 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/police/pau016
Tracking the Evidence for a ‘Mythical Number’: Do UK Domestic Abuse Victims Suffer an Average of 35 Assaults Before Someone Calls the Police?

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There is a widely repeated claim that victims of domestic abuse suffer an average of 35 incidents prior to someone calling the police. This claim is often made without reference to any evidence. When evidence has been cited, the citations often refer to studies that contain no such evidence. After extensive inquiry, the only evidence we can find for making this claim about abuse victims in England and Wales comes from a 1979 study of police responses in a small Canadian city (London, Ontario; 1979 population = 250,000). The estimate is based on only 53 women who said they had had a prior incident before the police had been called to help them; these women represent 24% of the 222 victims the study attempted to interview. A further 15 respondents said they had had no prior incidents, but their responses were left out of the calculation. By a broad consensus of statisticians, this evidence is inadequate to support an estimated rate of prior assaults in that sample or that city, let alone to support an international generalization to the UK in 2014. We conclude that the claim of ‘35’ in modern Britain has been a prime example of a ‘mythical number’.

Journal Article.  3941 words. 

Subjects: Policing

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