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Domestic Violence redefined in the UK

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Young people now included in the definition of domestic violence.

The Home Office has introduced an amended definition of domestic violence in the hope that more sufferers will receive support following abuse.

Currently, the UK government defines domestic violence as “any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse, psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional, between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality”.

The new definition will include violence towards 16-17 year olds as well as a broader understanding of coercive and intimidating behaviour which is not necessarily physically violent.

In particular, it will accommodate “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”.

Although it is not a law change, the refined definition will be used by Government social workers and police officials to be able to combat violence in domestic situations on a much wider scale.

Speaking at a youth club in Westminster, Nick Clegg welcomed the changes.

The new definition, he said, would “help expose the true face of domestic violence, which is much more complex and much more widespread than people often realise”.

Explaining the reasons behind the changes, Clegg said, “When you say domestic violence, people think that’s one act of physical violence, but actually psychological and emotional coercion, abuse over a long period of time is just as unacceptable and that is why we as a Government are saying we are changing the definition. We are saying it’s not just about an act of violence, but it’s also about coercion over a long period of time.

“Secondly we’re saying to youngsters, even if you are 16 or 17, you can be trapped in that kind of relationship, you don’t need to put up with that kind of abuse, so we’re also lowering the age of the Government’s definition of domestic violence.”

Minister for Crime Prevention, Jeremy Browne also added, “We want to raise the profile of domestic violence as an issue.”

He said, “We want particularly women and young girls, but people right around the country, to understand just how seriously the Government takes domestic violence and we want to try and make sure that all of the different agencies of Government, as well as charities, women’s refuges, the police and others, are all thinking in a joined up, co-ordinated way about how they can tackle domestic violence – that people can feel that they can take their concerns, their problems to those agencies and that they can be helped by those people when they find themselves in those desperate situations.”

Deborah McIlveen of Women’s Aid also welcomed the amendment.

She said however, “The challenge is now to ensure that police officers are able to identify coercive control and take appropriate action for both adult survivors and 16-18 year olds. This will require the development and implementation of procedures accompanied by comprehensive training.”

Head of the Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the University of Bristol, Professor Marianne Hester, said that new definition would also allow for government and public change in mindset of how domestic violence is perceived across the UK.

“Up to now the Home Office definition of domestic violence has been about individual acts of behaviour when it is often about a pattern of power and control over time,” she said. “By recognising coercive control, you acknowledge such a pattern exists.

“Lowering the age classification was important as the highest rate of domestic violence is for people between the age of 16 and 25 and the 16 to 18 group were not being identified. This begins to overcome that problem.”

The new amendment will take effect in March 2013.

  1. vicki wharton says:

    Cant really take this Government or any other seriously on sexist violence in the home that does nothing about the promotion of sexist violence in mainstream men’s media = on line porn. You cannot say that wanking yourself off to reportage of women being called whores and bitches and double and triple penetrated whilst being slapped and spunked on has no effect – it flies in the face of everything we know about the media and its effects on public attitudes and behaviour. With men’s overwhelming use of violently sexist media, there simply isn’t a home in the land that isn’t polluted with sexist attitudes now – as those girls up in Rochdale found out when the police and social services turned a blind eye to multiple child rape.

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