Abuse in teenage relationships could be treated as domestic violence rather than child abuse under Government plans, the Home Secretary has said. Theresa May also unveiled proposals to reflect that ongoing “coercive control” in a relationship can play a key role in domestic violence, rather than it being down to individual incidents.
The plans were welcomed by campaigners who said they would help support youngsters and “shine a light on the many victims who are constantly being controlled by their partners, and who may not realise that they are living with domestic abuse”.
Mrs May said: “Domestic violence is a particularly dreadful form of abuse. We need to ensure we are providing protection and support to all victims.
“Effective prevention and help can only happen when all the agencies involved work together to common goals and a common understanding.
“It is also vital victims themselves are clear what constitutes abuse so they seek help early and unnecessary suffering can be avoided by adults and children alike.”
Under the plans, the offence of domestic violence could be extended to cover people under 18 for the first time, to reflect that teenage relationships are more similar to relationships between adults than that between an adult and a child.
Mrs May also announced a £225,000 fund to support services helping male victims of sexual and domestic violence.
Diana Barran, chief executive of the charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (Caada), said: “The current Home Office definition of domestic violence refers to ‘any incident’ of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse, whether this is psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional.
“But this definition does not reflect the reality of the experience for the victim.
“Domestic violence is not a one-off incident, it is a pattern of behaviour exerted by one person to control another. The degree of control is linked to the likelihood of murder or serious harm.”