This will be added to the 2004 definition of domestic abuse: "any incident of threatening behaviour, or abuse between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality"
Speaking on BBC Breakfast today Jean Ross of the charity NSPCC said including the 16-17 year old age group was just the start. Ross claimed a higher amount of abuse is designed to intimidate and “to make them conform to a pattern of behaviour the partner would want from them and that's much harder to identify”. Coercive control, as it is being called, is harder for parents, teachers and friends to spot than physical abuse. It's possible it is even harder to admit to, fearing lack of physical evidence. but as Ross pointed out, giving a name to the behaviour should help: “very often young people don't realise they are in an abusive relationship.”
Considering the fact there is no age limit on relationships, it seems a shame the government hasn't taken this opportunity to state there is (sadly) no age limit on abuse. An NSPCC survey found that 33% of girls have experienced sexual abuse and 25% had suffered physical abuse in their relationships. A young woman anonymously discussed her experience in an abusive relationship on BBC Breakfast that began when she was 13, “I met him when I was 13 through some friends...it took 3 years for me to tell someone what was actually happening.”
Jo Sharpen of Against Violence and Abuse Charity (take a click on the link, it's a great site with an exit quickly button) said: “what we need is specific services for under 18s.” Unfortunately the same government that is expanding the definition of domestic violence in order to help a wider range of sufferers, has also cut domestic abuse charity services by 31%. Therefore teenagers who are able to recognise the abuse in their relationship might not be able to access the required services. The Home Officer does have a website designed for young people concerning domestic abuse, called ThisIsAbuse.gov.uk which provides advice.
There is also the matter of abuse not being gendered that needs to be addressed. Ross claimed 75% of girls and 50% of boys have admitted to being involved in an emotionally abusive relationship. According to Childline 1 in 10 of the 3000 calls they receive regarding abusive relationships are made by young men.
Discussing the changes to the definition Nick Clegg said the message was "even if you are young, even if what you experience isn't one single act of violence, you do not have to put up with abuse. There is help out there for you.”
Provided you're over 16. For now.