In 2013, the Home Office announced changes to the definition of domestic abuse.
Domestic Abuse is:
“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. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse:
Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.
Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.” (Home Office March 2013)
The Government definition, which is not a legal definition, includes so called 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.
It has been widely understood for some time that coercive control is a core part of domestic violence. As a result, the inclusion of this in the latest definition highlights the importance of recognising coercive control as a complex pattern of overlapping and repeated abuse perpetrated within a context of power and control.
Without the inclusion of coercive control in the definition of domestic violence and abuse, there may be occasions where domestic violence and abuse could be regarded as an isolated incident. As a result, it may be unclear to victims what counts as domestic violence and abuse – for example, it may be thought to include physical violence only. We know that the first incident reported to the police or other agencies is rarely the first incident to occur; often people have been subject to violence and abuse on multiple occasions before they seek help.
See also: Domestic Violence and Safeguarding Adults, including Forced Marriage Procedure, Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC).
“Honour based violence is a crime or incident, which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community.” (Crown Prosecution Service/Association of Chief Police Officers). It is a collection of practices, which are used to control behaviour within families or other social groups to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs and/or honour. Such violence can occur when perpetrators perceive that a relative has shamed the family and/or community by breaking their honour code.
The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014 makes it a criminal offence to force someone to marry. A forced marriage is where one or both people do not (or in cases of people with learning disabilities, cannot) consent to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used. It is recognised in the UK as a form of violence against women and men, domestic/child abuse and a serious abuse of human rights. A forced marriage differs from an arranged marriage, in which both parties consent to the assistance of their parents or a third party in identifying a spouse. Forced marriage can be a particular risk for people with learning difficulties and people lacking capacity.
See also: Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board, Female Genital Mutilation Procedure.
The Right to Choose: Multi-agency statutory guidance for dealing with forced marriage.