In recent years there’s been growing concern around issues of violence against women. In 2010, the Home Office published its action plan ‘Call to End Violence Against Women and Girls’. And in December 2012, with the support of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, it launched the second part of a campaign targeted at teenage relationships, which includes the current TV ad ‘If you could see yourself’.
There is also an emphasis on teen relationships in the new amendment to the Domestic Violence, Crimes and Victims Act 2004, to be introduced in March this year. This will adopt a new definition of domestic violence which includes any incidents of non-violent controlling and coercive behaviour between anyone who is or has been in any type of intimate relationship, including 16-18 years-olds.
This new definition brings it into line with other influential definitions of domestic violence, and has been welcomed by both the police and groups working with victims of domestic violence, who argue that it ‘has always been grossly under-reported’. The broadening definition, it is hoped, will provide greater protection to women and young girls from abusive partners and relationships, while raising awareness of an issue which it is estimated will affect 1 in 4 women in their lifetime.
However, others argue that in the law adopting such a broad definition of domestic violence – that extends beyond the home and ‘that does not even centre on, let alone restrict itself to, physical acts’ – it risks both exaggerating instances of domestic violence, while watering-down serious instances of physical abuse. In addition, they argue, the rhetoric of violence not only leads to distrust of informality and intimacy in human relations, but invites the state in to regulate relationships.
So, will greater legislation help those suffering from domestic violence and other forms of abuse? Or does this risk opening up informal and intimate relations to state scrutiny and regulation? And why have we seen a rise in campaigns and legislation around issues of violence against women? Does this reflect greater awareness of the real, often hidden, problems of domestic and sexual violence, or a change in the way we view men, women and intimate relationships?