What is Violence Against Women and Girls?

If you or someone is in immediate danger, call 999

Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) is a form of gendered violence. This means it covers situations of violence, abusive behaviours and harassment which are discriminatory based on someone’s gender. This includes a wide range of abuse, for example:

  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • economic
  • emotional
  • psychological

The term VAWG came about in recognition that most of these crimes are targeted at women and girls, but it is important to know that men, boys, and non-binary people can also be victims of such crimes.

United Nations (UN) defines VAWG as

Any act of gender-based violence that is directed at a woman because she is a woman, or acts of violence which are suffered disproportionally by women, that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to a woman or girl, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life".

You can see more by visiting the United Nations website.

Types of violence against women and girls

Domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in most cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member. 

It is more common than you think. In most cases, it is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men, but men and non-binary people can be victims too.

Find out more about domestic abuse

Sexual abuse, violence, and rape

  • Sexual abuse is any sexual behaviour without the consent of the woman or girl 
  • Sexual violence is non-consensual physical and often aggressive acts
  • Rape is a form of sexual violence involving sexual intercourse or other sexual penetration without consent

Perpetrators range from total strangers to relatives and intimate partners, but most are known in some way. 

Find out more on Met Police website

Honour-based abuse

Honour-based abuse is abuse committed to protect or defend the so-called 'honour' of a family and/or community. 

It is a crime or incident committed, often by a relative, because they feel they have been shamed or embarrassed by the acts of the victim and seek to punish them.

Find out more about honour-based abuse

Female genital mutilation (FGM)

Female genital mutilation, also known as ‘cutting’, involves the complete or partial removal or alteration of a female’s external genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is mostly carried out on young girls at some time between infancy and the age of 15. 

It is illegal in most countries, including the UK, and its harmful consequences are widely recognised, including long-term problems with sex, childbirth and mental health.

Find out more about female genital mutilation

Forced marriage

Forced marriage is marriage conducted without the valid consent of one or both parties. One or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities or reduced capacity, cannot) consent to the marriage. 

They are typically pressurised, or abuse or duress is used, to force them to do so, including physical, emotional, and psychological, and financial abuse.

Find out more about forced marriage

Sexual exploitation, trafficking and forced prostitution

Sexual exploitation covers all exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where someone receives ‘something’ (for example, food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, protection money) as a result of them or others performing sexual activities.

Women and girls are forced, coerced, or deceived to enter prostitution and/or to keep them there. 

Trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation and exploitation of women and children for the purposes of prostitution. This does not have to be across borders, but any kind of movement.

Find out more on Stop the Traffik website


Stalking involves the repeated harassment causing the victim fear, alarm, or distress. It can include threatening phone calls, texts, letters, damaging property, spying on and following the victim, as well as some other persistent and unwanted attention. This also includes online, known as ‘cyber-stalking’.

The ‘FOUR’ warning signs of stalking are:

  • Fixated
  • Obsessive
  • Unwanted
  • Repeated

Find out more about stalking

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is the unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can take place anywhere, including:

  • the workplace
  • schools
  • streets
  • public transport
  • social situations

It includes flashing, obscenity, threatening calls, and online harassment.

The legal definition of sexual harassment is when someone carries out unwanted sexual behaviour towards another person that makes them feel upset, scared, offended or humiliated, or when they carry out the behaviour with that intention.

Find out more about sexual harassment

Harmful cultural practices

Every social grouping in the world has specific traditional cultural practices and beliefs. Some of these are harmful to women and girls, such as:

  • female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • nutritional taboos
  • forced feeding
  • child marriage
  • practices harmful to fertility
  • son preference
  • female infanticide
  • child pregnancy
  • dowry price

Find out more about harmful cultural practices

Exploitation of girls by gangs

The exploitation of girls by gangs involves being directly involved in offending (under coercion), including hiding weapons and drugs for partners brothers or associates, fraud, 'honey traps', set ups, violence, robbery, shoplifting and more.

Girls and young women are particularly vulnerable as they are often viewed as objects of status and power and may be pressured into sexual activity with gang members, including when exploitation is used as a weapon between rival gangs, or experience domestic and sexual violence/exploitation from gang members.

Find out more about the exploitation of girls by gangs

What can I do?

Tackling VAWG is everyone’s business. Women and Girls have no choice but to deal with VAWG, but men and boys often deal with VAWG too and should be allies and help nurture an environment where VAWG is not welcome, and victims are seen and supported. 

We all need to be part of the change, and we can all do something to challenge the abuse of women and girls.

The Enough campaign provides valuable information about how you can help stop VAWG, including:

  • simple and safe ways to intervene to stop the abuse of women and girls
  • key signs to look out for if you are unsure whether to intervene
  • how VAWG can be reported
  • and ways to support victims

Find out how you can help stop it

Our strategy to tackle VAWG in Bexley

The London Borough of Bexley is committed to tackling VAWG in Bexley and ensuring that any Bexley resident or person experiencing VAWG in our Borough is safe, supported and empowered to recover.

We do this by working in partnership with the Police and commissioned services, including Solace Women’s Aid, as well as many other partners. 

In the summer of 2022, we asked you what your concerns are and what you would like to see from us. We will be using this information, in partnership with key players, to create a Strategy to Tackle Violence Against Women and Girls.