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What is VAWG?

Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) is both a form of discrimination and a violation of human rights.
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It is an appalling crime which can ruin or end lives. A true measure of these crimes is not available as victims often suffer in silence and the abuse goes unreported. It is an issue for every community in Lewisham, and it can affect individuals from any socio-economic background.

How we define VAWG

Locally we adopt the United Nations declaration on the elimination of violence towards women, which defines violence against women as:

'Any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women [or girls], including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty'. United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence towards Women (1993, Article 1)

Who commits VAWG?

The vast majority of gender-based violence is carried out by men against women and girls but men and boys can also be victims of gender-based violence. If you are a Lewisham resident and need help and support with any of the issues highlighted below please contact the confidential Athena service.

Ten strands of VAWG

Domestic violence and abuse

Domestic violence and abuse is defined by the Home Office as a pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse. In extreme cases this includes murder.

Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

Sexual violence (including rape)

Sexual contact without the consent of the woman/girl. Perpetrators range from total strangers to relatives and intimate partners, but most are known in some way.


Repeated (that is on at least two occasions) harassment causing fear, alarm or distress. It can include threatening phone calls, texts or letters, damaging property, spying on and following the victim.

Prostitution and trafficking

Women and girls are forced, coerced or deceived to enter into prostitution and/or to keep them there. Trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation and exploitation of women and children for the purposes of prostitution and domestic servitude across international borders and within countries ('internal trafficking').

Sexual harassment

Unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. It can take place anywhere, including the workplace, schools, streets, public transport and social situations. It includes flashing, obscene and threatening calls, and online harassment.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation involves the complete or partial removal or alteration of external genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is mostly carried out on young girls at some time between infancy and the age of 15. Unlike male circumcision, which is legal in many countries, it is now illegal across much of the globe, and its extensive harmful health consequences are widely recognised.

Forced marriage

Forced marriage is a marriage conducted without valid consent of one or both parties, where duress is a factor.

Honour-based violence

Violence committed to protect or defend the 'honour' of a family and/or community.

Sexual exploitation

Involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where someone receives ‘something’ (e.g. food, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, protection money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities.

Faith-based abuse

Child abuse linked to faith or belief. This includes a belief in concepts of witchcraft and spirit possession, demons or the devil, the evil eye or djinns and dakini acting through children or leading them astray.