UK & World News
Domestic Abuse: Controlling Partners Targeted
Ministers are to change the definition of domestic abuse to recognise under-18s for the first time - and protect victims from "coercive" non-violent threatening behaviour.
It means men or women who abuse their partners by stopping them going out or abuse them emotionally could be found guilty of domestic violence offences.
The law is being extended to protect 16 and 17-year-olds for the first time amid fears many teenage girls who suffer in abusive relationships have been unable to get the help they need.
There is no clear criminal definition of domestic violence.
However, a Government-backed definition agreed eight years ago includes any incident of "threatening behaviour, violence or abuse" between partners or family members, regardless of gender.
The "coercive" element is to be added amid concerns over methods used by offenders to break down their partners by denying them freedom and dignity - such as barring them from seeing friends and locking them inside the home.
Campaigners welcomed the changes but warned that more funding is urgently required to help highly vulnerable victims.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the changes, which will be in place by March next year, "help expose the true face of domestic violence, which is much more complex and much more widespread than people often realise.
"Suffering at the hands of people who are meant to care for you is horrific at any age, but it can be especially damaging for young people - the scars can last a lifetime."
The Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (Caada) charity found 183 cases involving those aged under 18 over a two-year period, with many teenagers experiencing at least the same level of violence as adults.
Diana Barran, Caada's chief executive, said: "The young women in our research were at high risk of serious harm or murder. Over a quarter had self-harmed and one in five were pregnant."
Chief Constable Carmel Napier, from the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the amendments would help raise awareness about victims and help police work with support groups to tackle the "dreadful crime".