Thousands of domestic abuse cases recorded by British police forces in a single year reference pregnancy or miscarriage, FactCheck can reveal.
Our analysis suggests as many as 24,000 such cases reached the attention of police in England and Wales in the latest reporting year.
This is on top of figures gathered by a domestic violence campaigner, Nicola Murray, who found that Police Scotland flag pregnancy or miscarriage in 1,460 abuse cases a year on average.
What we found
The 16 forces that provided data following our Freedom of Information request used the term “pregnancy”, “pregnant”, “miscarriage” or “miscarried” in a combined 5,318 domestic abuse records.
Just under half (2,403) were designated as crimes, while the remaining 2,915 were logged as non-crime incidents. Each force provided data over the latest 12-month period for which figures were available. Most covered the year up to April, June, or July 2022.
Together, these 16 forces serve 22 per cent of the population of England and Wales.
On that basis, we might expect to find mentions of pregnancy or miscarriage in 24,176 cases in the same period, if we had access to all forces’ records.
Some forces told us that they couldn’t specify how many cases involved pregnancy or miscarriage in the victim. So, our figure may include cases where the victim was not pregnant at the time of the incident, nor miscarried as a result – but that pregnancy or miscarriage was relevant to the case in some other way and was therefore included in the police record of the incident.
The bigger picture
However, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures from 2018 show that only 18 per cent of women experiencing domestic abuse have reported it to the police. So, it’s likely that our figures underestimate the true extent of violence against pregnant women and girls.
For a fuller picture, we would normally look to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, which is carried out by the ONS. These figures can tell us about domestic abuse incidents that are never reported to the police.
The latest Crime Survey found that an estimated 2.3 million adults in England and Wales had experienced domestic abuse in the year up to March 2020. Of those, 1.6 million were women.
However, these figures can’t tell us specifically about women and girls who have been abused while pregnant, or who have suffered a miscarriage as a result.
So, for now, police records – although imperfect – are one of the few ways to measure this type of violence.
The 2019 Conservative manifesto promised to “support all victims of domestic abuse” and to pass new legislation. The Domestic Abuse Act became law in 2021.
Campaigners welcomed many of its provisions – which include preventing abusers from cross-examining their victims in court, and a ban on the so-called “rough sex gone wrong” defence for those who seriously injure or kill a partner.
However some campaigners, including Women’s Aid, say that the Act should have gone further to deliver “equal protection and support for migrant women”.