Gender based violence

Cutting across boundaries (e.g. age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation), gender based violence covers multiple forms of abuse against people linked directly to their gender identity.

Whilst gender based violence is mainly aimed at women and girls, there are also instances affecting men and those with non-binary and other gender identities. There is significant under reporting of violence against boy and men in regard to domestic and sexual abuse, this is thought to be due to societal stereotyping.

Gender based violence includes:

  • VAWG – violence against women and girls;
  • VAM – violence against men;
  • Domestic violence – based on gender including use of children to maintain control over a partner e.g. by not paying child support, requiring the children to spy, threatening to take children away, legal fights over custody, kidnapping or taking the children hostage to force; and financial violence – controlling access to all of the family resources (time, transportation, food, clothing, shelter, insurance, and money);
  • Sexual violence – rape, forced sexual acts, etc.;
  • Forced pregnancy, abortion or sterilisation;
  • ‘Honour’ based abuse including female genital mutilation, forced circumcision, forced marriage, child marriage;
  • Psychological violence – threats, isolation, emotional abuse;
  • Sexual harassment, including public sexual harassment by those unknown to the victim;
  • Exorcism due to gender, gender identity, sexuality.

Definition of gender-based violence

Gender-based violence refers to any type of harm that is perpetrated against a person or group of people because of their factual or perceived sex, gender, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It is based on an imbalance of power and is carried out with the intention to humiliate and make a person or group of people feel inferior and/ or subordinate. This type of violence is deeply rooted in the social and cultural structures, norms and values that govern society, and is often perpetuated by a culture of denial and silence. Gender-based violence can happen in both the private and public spheres, and it affects women and girls disproportionately.

adapted from: Council of Europe, Gender Matters

Quotation marks

Spotting the signs

  • aggression;
  • non-compliance at school;
  • difficulty concentrating;
  • difficulty developing relationships;
  • reduction in attendance and/or attainment;
  • eating disorders;
  • low self-esteem, depression or anxiety;
  • self-harm;
  • substance misuse.

Approximately 85,000 women are raped and over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year. Sexual violence is even more prevalent for younger women as one in three teenage girls has experienced some form of sexual violence from a partner. (University of Bristol for NSPCC).

Young women and girls affected by gangs experience high levels of sexual violence including sexual exploitation, sexual assault, individual rape and multiple perpetrator rape. (University of Bedfordshire)

Over half (53%) of girls and young women aged 11 to 21 don’t feel safe when they’re outside on their own, and around 1 in 5 (19%) girls and young women aged 11 to 21 don’t feel safe in school (Girls Attitudes Survey 2022, Girlguiding).

60% of LGBT young people feel unsafe on public transport (LGBT Youth Scotland, 2022).

In England, in the year ending March 2019, the police recorded 73,260 sexual offences where there was data to identify the victim was a child.

82% of transgender pupils experienced bullying/gender-based violence (LGBT Youth Scotland and the Scottish Trans Alliance, 2010).

In 2013, the police recorded at least 1,052 reports of sexual violence in schools, of which 134 were reported as rape.


‘It feels like we have to constantly be on the lookout for danger with this being even worse for women of colour, disabled women and women from any marginalised group’.

Young woman, 17-21, Girl Attitudes Survey 2022

What you can do

Create an environment based on equality and informed choice. Settings are well placed to help by…

  • promoting equality;
  • avoiding stereotyping and dispelling societal gender stereotypes;
  • embracing difference;
  • demonstrating tolerance;
  • promoting equality of opportunity across the curriculum;
  • tackling any gender bias based language, assumptions;
  • addressing gender based bullying or harassment swiftly.

Check children and young people have safe relationships – in their family, with their peers and with your staff. Create the environment where it’s ok to talk even about the most difficult things.

Spot the signs & know what to do – use the checklists above, your safeguarding procedures and be confident in raising gender based violence as a possibility. Remember although the highest proportion of GBV is against women and girls, boys and men also suffer.

Take action – and keep taking action until you know they’re safe

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  • Training resources for DSLs to use in team meetings
  • Reference documents for additional information
  • Handout for staff summarising gender based violence
  • Quiz to test staff understanding
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