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Domestic violence – redefined in England and Wales

The UK Government last month extended the definition of domestic violence to include victims aged 16 and 17. The redefinition only applies to England and Wales.

The hope is that extending the definition will increase awareness that young people in this age-group experience domestic violence and abuse, encouraging more of them to come forward and access the support they need – for example, speaking to someone about the abuse or contacting a helpline or a specialist service.

It follows the British Crime Survey 2009/10, which found that 16-19-year-olds were the group most likely to suffer abuse from a partner.  Over 12% of women and 6.2% of men in this age group suffer abuse, compared to 7% of women and 5% of men in older groups.

The new definition, which will come into force by March next year, now states:

“Any incident or 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, the following types of abuse: psychological; physical; sexual; financial; emotional.”

“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.”


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