Archive for December 24th, 2011

December 24, 2011

Domestic Violence- Widening the Definition to include control

The Home Office recently announced a(nother) consultation – this one on the definition of domestic violence. They are proposing two changes:
1. That it be extended to include young people aged 16 and 17
2. That it include control in addition to other forms of abuse.

Well, just to show what a bad judge I am of what will make news, I thought the media focus would be on the reduction in the age range. WRONG. The whole focus was on the ‘control’ point which was quickly translated into ’emotional’ abuse. I had four chances to clarify this on the radio and TV but for those of you who missed it…here is another attempt.

Control matters in my opinion because it is linked to risk – risk of homicide and serious harm. Some of the most tragic deaths have occurred where there has been no physical violence, no calls to the police, but extreme levels of control. And in these cases the control will frequently involve threats – of loss of children, of murder or some other extreme event. To reiterate what I was told by a colleague in the early days of CAADA, “we are not talking about bad relationships- but about people living in fear.”. In a recent article in the Mail Online Erin Pizzey said that domestic abuse could be defined as people living in fear of their lives. She obviously knows about 100 times more about this than I do, but I would suggest that living in fear is the distinguishing feature of an abusive relationship.

Control is also crucial to recognise in the Family Courts. Research shows the impact of an abusive relationship on a child’s brain (see earlier post) and it plays a particularly important element in contact, residency and divorce arrangements.

Of course control is just one risk factor-but one which is frequently missed. I hope that if this change is adopted it will lead to wider recognition not just by professionals but also by friends, family, colleagues of one of the most pernicious forms of domestic abuse – those people who might see early the danger that someone is in and give them the encouragement to get help.