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Campaigner welcomes new definition of domestic abuse
THE definition of domestic abuse has been widened to include non-physical behaviour and teenage victims aged as young as 16, the Government announced yesterday.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg unveiled the extension of the definition of domestic violence to include people under 18 and coercive behaviour in the latest move by the Government to tackle domestic violence.
While previously domestic violence was defined as a single act, ministers hope the new definition will include intimidating and controlling behaviour, including preventing a partner leaving the house or accessing a personal mobile phone.
Local campaigner Frank Mullane, who has been fighting for a better understanding of domestic abuse after his sister Julia Pemberton and her son Will were murdered by her estranged husband in 2003, welcomed the change but said more work needed to be done.
Through his campaign group Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse, he said: “AAFDA recognises the importance of altering the definition of domestic abuse to include coercive control.
“This should help everybody to understand that domestic abuse is not just a crime of violence but is a crime against liberty.
“It should also mean that agencies will be required to focus on patterns of behaviour rather than single incidents and thus take into account the cumulative effects of abuse. This should lead to more effective responses and more accurate risk assessments.
“However, many of the benefits of this change will take some time to be realised unless accompanied by national awareness raising for key professionals and integration into education, for example, by including in it the UK curriculum.”
The move follows the Government's successful Teenage Relationship Abuse Campaigns and is backed up by the latest British Crime Survey, which found that 16-19 year olds were the group most likely to suffer abuse from a partner – around 12.7 per cent of women and 6.2 per cent of men, compared with seven per cent of women and five per cent of men in older groups.
The decision to create a new definition for domestic violence follows a 15-week consultation, which took views from the public, victims, charities and frontline agencies and will be implemented from next March. As a result, a new NSPCC young people's panel has been established to help inform the Government's work on tackling domestic violence, particularly by and against young people.
Nick Clegg said: “These changes are about Government taking a lead to help expose the true face of domestic violence, which is much more complex and much more widespread than people realise.
“Suffering at the hands of people who are meant to care for you is horrific at any age. But it can be especially damaging for young people – the scars can last a lifetime.”
Chief Constable Carmel Napier, Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on domestic abuse, said: “ACPO supports the Home Secretary’s amendments to the cross-Government definition of domestic violence.
“Domestic abuse ruins lives, in some cases it ends in homicide. This amended definition will help us all to work together to defeat this dreadful crime.”
Anyone suffering abuse can contact Wiltshire Police on 101, or Swindon Women’s Refuge on 01793 536447, Splitz outreach service on 642425 and HomeTruths on 617589.