News story

New definition of domestic violence

Victims of domestic violence and abuse aged 16 and 17 will be recognised under a new cross-government definition announced by Nick Clegg.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The definition of domestic violence will now include young people under 18 and is the latest action by the government to tackle violence against women and girls.

A change to the official definition of domestic violence used across government will aim to increase awareness that young people in this age-group do experience domestic violence and abuse. This follows on from the Government’s successful Teenage Relationship Abuse Campaign and is backed up by the British Crime Survey 2009/10 which found that 16-19-year-olds were the group most likely to suffer abuse from a partner. 

NSPCC Young People’s panel

Other measures include:

  • the inclusion of coercive control - a systematic pattern of abuse and control - in the definition of domestic violence
  • and the creation of a new NSPCC young people’s panel, set up to help inform the government’s work on tackling domestic violence, particularly by and against young people

A Young People’s panel set up by the NSPCC was also launched today. It will help to inform the government’s ongoing work to tackle domestic violence.

Home Office Minister for Crime Prevention Jeremy Browne said: ‘It is vital that victims themselves, and those supporting them, are clear what constitutes abuse so they seek the support they need early on and don’t suffer in silence.
‘By engaging young people in the decisions that affect them we will improve the services being delivered and ensure communities are working together to challenge and tackle this dreadful form of abuse.’

The new definition will be implemented by March 2013.

Government action

This is just one of a number of active steps the government has taken to protect and support women, girls and men facing domestic violence including ring-fencing nearly £40 million of funding up to 2015 for specialist local domestic and sexual violence support services, rape crisis centres, the national domestic violence helplines and the stalking helpline. 

The new definition of domestic violence and abuse 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.” *

This definition, which is not a legal definition,  includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

Published 18 September 2012