The Home Office is extending the definition of domestic violence to include a wider range of victims and increase awareness of 16 and 17-year-olds as victims, but will this be hindered by the funding cuts throughout charities in the domestic violence field?
The current definition of domestic violence is:
“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 or sexuality”.
The new definition as of March 2013 will be:
“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”
The intention of the change to include 16 and 17 year olds is to increase awareness of younger victims and recognise different problems so the victims are more likely to look for support if in that situation.
The Home Office believe that this definition including a wider range of coercive or threatening behaviour will mean that there will be more prosecutions as a result of the better definition.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
Even if you're 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.
And to the perpetrators the message is equally simple: what you're doing is wrong and won't be tolerated.
Campaigners, councils, the police – the people on the frontline – have called for this new definition so that they can do their job and provide victims with the right support.
However, despite raising awareness for this age group, campaigners say changing the definition will have little effect with so many funding cuts.
In our recent post, Impact of Cuts on Violence Against Women Services, a report commissioned by the Trust for London and Northern Rock Foundation, found a 31% funding cut to the domestic violence and sexual abuse sector.
In particular for smaller domestic abuse charities; for those with local authority funding of less than £20,000 the average cut was 70%.
The report also found that:
Around 9% of women seeking refuge at Women's Aid were turned away due to lack of space.
Among 8 major Independent Domestic Violence Advisers (IDVA) service providers, 2 faced funding cuts of 100%, 3 cuts of 50%, 3 of 40% and 2 of 25%.
78% of RESPECT services working to reform male perpetrators of domestic violence reduced the number of clients they were able to assist due to budget cuts.
So with funding already stretched to capacity, how will it cover the training and specialist support staff to help the new younger victims of domestic abuse and the additional troubles that they may have?