In breaking news this week it has been announced that the lawful definition of domestic violence is in the process of being broadened to include teenagers aged 16-18 as opposed to only people in “adult relationships.” It also now includes the term ‘coercive control,’ meaning the use of complex methods of manipulation and abuse. Susie McDonald, the Director over here at Tender elaborates and says “Coercive control is often the beginning of abuse that can escalate into serious physical and sexual violence.” Both of these amendments send the message that legislators are putting their foot down on the tolerance of abusive behaviour of any kind and in any age group.
Before, the legal definition of domestic violence was simply “any incident of threatening behaviour, or abuse between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality” (The Guardian). While it may appear to be fairly inclusive, the definition is actually quite limiting as it does not include young people and fails to provide a detailed discussion of how to define “threatening behaviour.” The expansion of the term will bring new hope and aid to teenage girls and boys who have been emotionally or physically abused by someone close to them. It is great news in the sense that it sheds light on issues that are often left in the dark. Studies are now showing that teenagers make up the age group that is most likely to be subject to partner abuse, yet many are afraid to speak out against it. The public should realize that it is a large problem that needs to be dealt with and discussed.
One of our goals here at Tender is to make people more aware of these pressing and extremely relevant issues that relate to the prevention of abuse and promotion of healthy relationships, so we are proud to declare that we are in full support of this newly formed definition of domestic violence. Susie McDonald says,
“We welcome this news as it acknowledges the seriousness of abuse and violence that is happening in the relationships of young people. The term domestic violence can often create a limiting image of an older, married couple. The reality is that many teenagers are experiencing awful levels of abuse and violence, often normalised or not taken seriously. Tender supports young people to identify the early warning signs of controlling behaviour such as isolating, constant checking and making unacceptable demands. Creating healthy relationships in the lives of young people is Tender’s priority.”