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Domestic violence definition to change

The definition of domestic violence is changing from March to help teenage victims and to ensure long-term psychological, emotional and financial abuse is covered.

It will explicitly include “coercive control”, meaning patterns of behaviour rather than individual outbursts or attacks.

The definition since 2004 has been “any incident of threatening behaviour, or abuse between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality”, and did not cover 16 to 18 year olds.

But the British Crime Survey shows 12.7% of women and 6.2% of men aged 16-19 have experienced domestic abuse in the last year.

The Home Office said: “At present, domestic violence committed against a person under 18 would be considered child abuse by most services. Whilst this may be appropriate for children experiencing parental or family-based violence, there is the suggestion that the nature of teenage relationships is often more similar to relationships between adults and as such could be considered an extension of adult domestic violence.”

An NSPCC survey in 2009 suggested there were particularly worrying rates of violence experienced by teenage girls in relationships with a partner at least two years older.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg said: “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 for a lifetime.

“Even if you are young, even if what you experience isn't one single act of violence, you do not have to put up with abuse. There is help out there for you. And to the perpetrators the message is equally simple: what you're doing is wrong and won't be tolerated.”

Most domestic violence charities and campaigners have welcomed the move, but said more needs to be done. Others say that changing the definition is pointless without a more concerted effort to stamp it out and bring abusers to justice.

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