This means that any form of psychological intimidation or controlling behaviour such as preventing a partner from leaving the house or from using the phone could eventually lead to prosecution.
So, what is the aim of this new change?
Officials are hoping that the broadened definition will increase awareness of what domestic violence is and who suffers from it.
Speaking to BBC News about the changes, one victim who wished to remain anonymous said that should the changes have been enforced some time ago she perhaps would have sought help earlier.
“There were several incidents of violence over the six years that I suffered. However, there were many more incidents of psychological and emotional abuse that went on even if there was no violence.
“These were about control and power and diminishing my self-esteem to the point of not being able to see what was going on or trust my own instincts.” She said.
Whilst many victims will suffer from this form of maltreatment, because there are few incidents of physical violence many do not consider themselves to be victims of domestic abuse. However, if individuals are aware from the start that psychological abuse also comes under the definition then they may be able to see what is going on and get help much sooner.
Whilst there is currently no specific criminal offence of domestic violence and instead the definition refers to “incidents of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse”, the Home Office has said this change could lead to more prosecutions.
Deborah McIlveen of Women’s Aid – a national charity supporting victims of domestic violence – has said that the organisation welcomes this new definition and also the change to recognise younger victims under the age of 18. She said: “We particularly welcome that the definition of domestic violence now encompasses the high levels of young people aged 16 to 18 who are experiencing abuse in their intimate partner relationships and that the definition recognises the enormous impact of coercive control.”
If you are the victim of domestic violence then we urge you to come forward and access the support you need. Speak to someone about the abuse or contact a helpline or a counsellor. Visit our fact-sheet on abuse to find out more.
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