This consultation is perhaps one of the most important to date. Domestic violence is a highly complex set of behavioural patterns, sometimes misunderstood and worryingly overlooked, often with disastrous consequences and for those of us who work in the family justice system it is a form of abuse we see too often, and in the many forms it can take.

The current definition of domestic violence is: any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members”.

The consultation is thinking about widening this definition to include ‘coercive control’, as domestic violence is often characterised by one person exerting control over another and it is that control which experts believe lead to domestic violence-related deaths; far more so, they say, than any other type of physical behaviour within domestic violence cases, prior to the physical act of homicide. (The BBC website has a very good article on this topic).

Now, the Home Office have released this questionnaire, which essentially seeks to examine the current definition of domestic violence and whether or not it should be changed. There are four options offered, which are:

Option 1 – The definition of domestic violence remains the same
Option 2 – The definition of domestic violence is amended to include coercive control
Option 3 – The government’s definition of domestic violence is extended to all 16-17 year olds
Option 4 – The government’s definition of domestic violence is extended to all those under 18
The consultation is open to anyone who has an interest in the field, from members of the public to key partners, as the consultation calls them. (More information on the consultation itself can be found here).
The deadline for the consultation is 30th March, 2012.
If you would rather send the Home Office an email and not fill out the questionnaire, you can contact them at:
DVdefinition@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
Or send them a letter at:

Violent and youth crime prevention unit,

4th floor, Fry Building, Home Office,

2 Marsham Street,
London,
SW1P 4DF
Please take the time to fill out the questionnaire if you can. Domestic violence needs to be fully addressed. A sound definition will save lives.