Teenage girls suffering domestic violence should receive adult victim support rather than child protection services, according to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
At the moment, a person has to be 18 or older for victimisation by a partner or ex-partner to be considered as domestic violence – anyone younger is considered a victim of child abuse.
However, ACPO is going to start talks with the Home Office to determine whether the official age of domestic violence victims should be lowered to 16. With the current pressure on child protection teams it is argued the move would ensure victims received more appropriate support.
“People can marry and live together from 16 in this country, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense that they would be considered victims of child abuse,” an ACPO spokesman said.
Andrea Thorley-Baines, partnership manager of Blackpool’s domestic abuse team, said the change would help free up children’s services.
“If you’re 16 and your husband is 18 and hurting you, surely that shouldn’t be dealt with as a child-abuse referral,” she said. “Sending that referral to a domestic violence unit not only gives these young people the support that they need, but also frees up some of the budget within children’s services.”
Jenny Field, deputy chief grants officer of the City of London Corporation’s City Bridge Trust, a charity that supports families who have experienced domestic violence, agreed the change would help younger victims.
“This decrease [from 18 to 16] would mean a lot more young women who are in adult relationships could access domestic violence services, which are a lot more relevant to their situation than child protection ones,” she told Community Care.
The ACPO and Home Office discussions were initiated after data from the British Crime Survey showed that teenage girls were the most at risk of domestic abuse of any age group.
Almost 13% of young women between the ages of 16 and 19 are likely to be victims. All domestic abuse deaths will now be subject to a multi-agency review and the Crown Prosecution Service will be working with ACPO to produce guidance for police officers and prosecutors across England and Wales on the evidence to be gathered and provided in every domestic violence case.
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