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ACPO comment on the new definition for domestic abuse

02 Apr 2013

The new definition for domestic abuse now includes coercive behaviour and lowers the age recognition for domestic abuse incidents to include those aged 16 and 17

ACPO comment on the new definition for domestic abuse

ACPO lead on domestic abuse Chief Constable Carmel Napier said:

“The new definition for domestic abuse will assist police in identifying those most vulnerable to violence in domestic situations, particularly young victims.

“The latest crime survey for England and Wales shows that 31 per cent of women and 18 per cent of men have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16 – equating to a staggering 5 million female victims and 2.9 million male victims.

“We also know that domestic abuse may often include coercive control, a complex pattern of abuse using power and psychological control over another, such as financial control, verbal abuse and/or forced social isolation. These incidents may vary in seriousness and are often repeated over time.

“The amendments to the definition which come into force at the end of the month (March 31) are key to helping raise awareness and enable effective prevention working in partnership with all agencies.”




On 19 September 2012, following a public consultation, the Deputy Prime Minister announced that the Government would be extending the definition of domestic violence so that young people aged 16 and 17 would be included. The change is being introduced to increase awareness that young people from this age group do experience domestic violence and abuse. We also announced that wording to capture coercive control would be introduced.

The new definition will be implemented from 31 March 2013.

Whilst this is not a legislative change, the definition will send a clear message to victims about what does constitute domestic violence and abuse.

New Definition

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, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

For more information please contact:

ACPO Press Office
Association of Chief Police Officers