Domestic violence

Domestic violence is unacceptable and tackling the issue is a priority for this government.

Our response to domestic violence is included within the violence against women and girls action plan. The government definition of domestic violence is:

  • Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

This includes issues of concern to black and minority ethnic (BME) communities such as 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.

Definition of domestic violence and abuse

In September 2012, we announced that the definition of domestic violence would be widened to include those aged 16-17 and wording to reflect coercive control. The decision follows a Government consultation which saw respondents call overwhelmingly for this change. We will also be changing the title of the definition to ‘domestic violence and abuse’. A summary of responses to the consultation is available here.

Extending the definition will increase awareness that young people in this age-group experience domestic violence and abuse, encouraging more of them to come forward and access the support they need – for example, speaking to someone about the abuse or contacting a helpline or a specialist service.
A Young People’s Panel will also be set up by the NSPCC which will work to inform the government’s ongoing work to tackle domestic violence. The panel will comprise up to five members aged between 16 and 22, who will work with Government on domestic violence policy and the wider work to tackle violence against women and girls.

The new definition will be implemented from 31 March 2013.

The definition  of domestic violence and abuse now states:

“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, 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.

A document providing information for local areas on the change to the definition can be found in the publications section. A guide for Wales is currently being developed and will be published in due course. 

Domestic violence disclosure scheme

A pilot to test a domestic violence disclosure scheme began on Monday 16 July 2012 in the Gwent and Wiltshire police force areas, with the Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire police force areas joining the pilot by no later than 10 September 2012. The pilot will conclude in September 2013.

Under the scheme an individual can ask the police to check whether a new or existing partner has a violent past ('right to ask'). If police checks show that a person may be at risk of domestic violence from their partner, the police will consider disclosing the information. The pilot will also look at how the police can proactively release information ('right to know') to protect a person from domestic violence where it is lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so. Both processes can be implemented within existing legal powers. Interim guidance to accompany the pilot is available here.  

The pilot follows the consultation published in October 2011 where the government sought views on whether the protection available to victims of domestic violence could be enhanced by establishing a national disclosure scheme with recognised and consistent processes for the police to disclose information to potential victims.

Whilst a clear majority of respondents favoured the introduction of a national disclosure scheme, the consultation raised important issues on the scope and proportionality of the information that should be disclosed to potential victims and the safeguards that will be needed against malicious applications. 

The government has taken the view that it is right that these issues are addressed and tested in a pilot to ensure that the disclosure scheme is compatible with all relevant law. The government will consider the outcomes from the pilot very carefully before deciding on next steps. The government wants to ensure that the public has confidence that a clear framework exists with recognised and consistent processes for disclosing information that supports their needs.

'Three steps to escaping violence against women and girls'

In February 2012, in association with Southall Black Sisters, we released this leaflet offering help and guidance to women, girls and children suffering violence and abuse.

The leaflets are aimed at black and minority ethnic communities and are available in Arabic, Bengali, Pashto, Farsi, French, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Somali, Turkish and Urdu.

Forced marriage

The forced marriage unit has published its review of the implementation of the statutory guidance on forced marriage across public agencies in England and Wales.

The report focuses on how statutory agencies have applied the strategic principles for dealing with forced marriage and provides a number of recommendations for improving their response.

Male victims of domestic and/or sexual violence fund 2011-13

In December 2011 the Home Office launched a fund to support male victims of domestic and/or sexual violence. The following organisations were successful in this fund and will receive up to £10,000 over the next 2 years to support services for male victims.

  • Survivors UK
  • Women’s Support Network
  • Arch North Staffs
  • Southampton Rape Crisis
  • Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC)
  • Blackpool Advocacy
  • Safer Wales
  • Preston Domestic Violence Service
  • North Derby Women’s Aid
  • The Lesbian and Gay Foundation
  • ROSA and Safeline
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