The definition of domestic violence will be amended from March
with two important changes: the inclusion of coercive behaviour and
the recognition of 16- and 17-year-olds as victims of abuse.
These amendments, although they are not a change in criminal law
- as many have assumed - are broadly welcomed. By highlighting
coercive control, there is now a clearer focus on patterns of
controlling behaviour rather than individual incidents.
The inclusion of 16- and 17-year-olds is a much-needed
development given that 40% of teenagers report abusive intimate
relationships and that, according to the Crime Survey for England
and Wales, those aged between 16 and 24 are the most at risk of
domestic violence of any age group. Hopefully their inclusion will
send a strong message to services and young people that their
experiences are valid and that they need and deserve support. Young
people aged 16 and over are able to get married and may well be
parents themselves, yet until now their experiences of abuse have
not been officially recognised.
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