GUIDELINES that have widened the definition of domestic abuse have been welcomed by a women’s charity.
The new guidelines issued by the Government now cover forms of non-violent coercive behaviours and under-18s for the first time.
It is hoped the broadened definition will increase awareness of what domestic abuse is and who suffers it.
Clare Phillipson, director of Wearside Women in Need, welcomed the move, adding that the new guidelines are a positive step forward.
Clare said: “We are very happy about this. It is a problem that is not recognised.
“Often young people are in their first relationships, they are vulnerable and they don’t recognise psychological behaviour or coercion into sex or sexual activities as abuse.”
The changes will be implemented in March and follows demands from local authorities, police and voluntary organisations.
There is no specific criminal offence of domestic violence just a definition that refers to “incidents of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse” which was adopted in 2004.
Ministers say this has led police and prosecutors to make too narrow an interpretation of the term and let some perpetrators off.
The guidelines mean behaviour such as preventing a partner from leaving the house or having access to a phone could lead to a prosecution.
Clare said: “These changes will help many people and could save lives.”
For more information about Wearside Women in Need visit www.wearsidewomeninneed.org.uk.