Sussex Police will implement a new national definition of domestic abuse from the beginning of April. The previous definition applied to 18 year-olds and above whereas the new one starts at 16 year-olds.
The new definition clarifies some of the more complex forms of abuse, such as controlling and coercive behaviour, and will help officers to identify domestic abuse accurately and take the appropriate action.
Detective Inspector Jez Prior said: “In December 2012, Sussex Police launched a campaign to encourage earlier reporting of domestic abuse. We know from our own research and from anecdotal evidence that some people do not recognise or class certain behaviours as domestic abuse. Because of this, it may not be until the abuse escalates that it is reported to us. The new definition will help our call handlers and officers to recognise some of these early behaviours before it is too late.
“The most recent phase of our campaign was aimed at young people in relationships. At present most calls for help over domestic abuse do not come from teenagers, but police and our partners believe that they can still face problems in their relationships and are seeking to bring this issue more into the open. It may be that today’s teenagers don’t realise that domestic abuse can include intimidating and controlling behaviour, over which they are less likely to approach adults for help.
“It is difficult for people, perhaps more so for young people who are not used to being in a relationship, to recognise that the way their partner is behaving towards them is actual abuse and is not acceptable. What we would like people to do is talk to us or if they can’t talk to us, then talk to someone, a trusted person who can help them. Abuse is something you do not have to put up with.
“We, along with our partners, welcome this new development.”
The previous definition adopted in Sussex Police policy, was:- ‘Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults (aged 18 or over) who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender and sexuality’.
The new definition 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: psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional.
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.”
This definition includes so called ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, as it is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.