Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
New domestic abuse work is welcomed
Widening the definition of domestic violence will bring recognition for teenage victims, and expose the extent of the abuse that goes on behind closed doors.
According to Home Office figures, two women a week are killed as a result of domestic abuse.
And, as a current Coronation Street storyline is portraying the abusive relationship between characters Tyrone Dobbs and Kirsty Soames, men can also be victims.
The statistics indicate that domestic abuse is a terrible reality for many families. And the once-taboo subject is no longer kept behind closed doors.
Plans by the Home Office to widen the definition of domestic abuse could also mean that more support is given to 16 to 17-year-olds, an age group for which a lack of provision has been identified.
The definition will not be written into law, but from March next year it will be broadened to include “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”.
I welcome that the new definition of domestic violence now encompasses the high levels of young people aged 16 to 18 experiencing violence– Yasmin Khan, of the Staying Put charity
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says the changes will “help expose the true face of domestic violence, which is much more complex and much more widespread than people often realise”.
However, campaigners have warned that more funding is urgently required to help support vulnerable victims.
Yasmin Khan, director of the Staying Put charity in Bradford which enables women and children suffering domestic abuse to remain in their own homes, welcomes the move but is concerned that resources are already stretched because of funding cuts.
“I welcome that the new definition of domestic violence now encompasses the high levels of young people aged 16 to 18 who are experiencing violence in their intimate-partner relationships, and that the definition recognises the enormous impact of coercive control. It will also help to identify domestic violence early and avoid escalation,” she says.
“The challenge is now to ensure that police officers are able to identify coercive control and take appropriate action for both adult survivors and 16 to 18-year-olds and this will be a challenge, due to austerity measures.”
Yasmin explains that the charity used to have a safeguarding team in Bradford dealing with victims of domestic abuse. This was reduced to two divisions, North and South, and in April 2011 the two merged and became a district-wide safeguarding unit.
In January 2012 the Bingley and Bradford magistrate courts merged, serving the district which Yasmin says could lead to a reduction in court availability.
“This, compounded with the millions of pounds of saving the local authority has had to make over the last two years, has meant that in order to make efficiencies the local authority remodelled the violence against the women’s sector in 2011/12,” she says.
Yasmin says two refuges in the city were decommissioned along with a community-based project. “One refuge catered for single black and minority ethnic women and worked proactively to support victims of forced marriages,” she says.
Last year there was an increase of 8.8 per cent in domestic abuse and Yasmin believes the new definition will increase reporting. “Domestic violence has always been grossly under-reported so if this investment in training officers to identify coercive control early is implemented properly it could help build public confidence in the police and result in more victims reporting domestic violence and more perpetrators being held to account,” says Yasmin.
The charity Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse found 183 cases involved those aged under 18 across a two-year period, with many teenagers experiencing at least the same level of violence as adults.
Chief executive Diana Barran says: “The young women in our research were at high risk of serious harm or murder. Over a quarter had self-harmed and one in five were pregnant.
“There is a clear need for support in this area and it is essential that independent domestic violence advisers are funded to work with victims of all ages.”
Chief Constable Carmel Napier, the Association for Chief Police Officers lead on domestic abuse, says: “The amendments to the definition are key in helping to raise awareness and enabling effective prevention working in partnership with all agencies. Domestic abuse ruins lives. In some cases it ends in homicide. This amended definition will help us work together to defeat this dreadful crime.”