Government changes the definition of domestic violence to include coercive control and recognise 16/17 year olds

On Wednesday 19th September 2012, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced that victims of domestic violence and abuse aged 16 and 17 will be recognised under a new cross-government definition. The Deputy Prime Minister also announced that the definition of domestic violence will now include ‘coercive control’. (The previous definition defined domestic violence as a single act or incident).

The new definition recognises that patterns of behaviour and separate instances of control can add up to abuse – including instances of intimidation, isolation, depriving victims of their financial independence or material possessions and regulating their everyday behaviour. The new definition will be implemented by March 2013.

The Government also announced  a  Young People’s Panel set up by the NSPCC which will work to inform the Government’s ongoing work to tackle domestic violence. The panel will comprise up to five members aged between 16 and 22, who will work with Government on domestic violence policy and the wider work to tackle violence against women and girls.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:

  • pschological
  • physical
  • sexual
  • financial
  • emotional

In the announcement, the government defines controlling and coercive behaviour in the following way:

“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.


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