Director of Public Health Annual Report 2021: Domestic Violence and Abuse

Last updated: 24 August 2021 Download the report (pdf, 857.0 KB)


Domestic abuse full definition

Full government definition of domestic violence and abuse:

  • behaviour of a person towards another person is domestic abuse if (a) the people are each aged 16 or over and are personally connected to each other, and (b) the behaviour is abusive
  • behaviour is abusive if it consists of any of the following:
    • physical or sexual abuse
    • violent or threatening behaviour
    • controlling or coercive behaviour
    • economic abuse
    • psychological, emotional or other abuse

The definition covers different types of relationships including family members, ex-partners and those who are not cohabiting. Although the definition refers to people aged 16 or over, children can still be victims. If the abuser directs his/her behaviour at a child to be abusive to another adult, this is domestic abuse.

Controlling behaviour is defined as “a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour”.

Coercive behaviour is defined as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim”. This can also include stalking, which is a pattern of persistent and unwanted attention.

Economic abuse is wider than financial abuse, as described by the charity Surviving Economic Abuse: “Economic abuse is designed to reinforce or create economic instability. In this way it limits women’s choices and ability to access safety. Lack of access to economic resources can result in women staying with abusive men for longer and experiencing more harm as a result.”

Psychological, emotional or other abuse can include controlling another person using emotional or manipulative methods such as shaming, criticizing and embarrassing. A consistent pattern of emotional abuse will have a negative effect on a victim’s self-esteem and mental health.

Domestic Abuse Bill

The Domestic Abuse Bill 2021 was passed in April 2021 and will:

  • widen the definition of domestic abuse to include other abusive behaviour as well as violent or sexual offences
  • improve the justice system to provide protection for victims, for example limiting or prohibiting cross-examination of victims
  • strengthen the support for victims of abuse by statutory agencies
  • appoint Domestic Abuse Commissioner (Nicole Jacobs was appointed in September 2019)

The Domestic Abuse Bill 2021 includes a number of statutory and non-statutory intentions that affect local authorities, some of which are summarised below.

  • Local authorities in England are to provide support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in refuges and other safe accommodation. Support includes advocacy support, domestic abuse prevention advice, specialist support for victims with protected characteristics and/or complex needs. Children’s support, housing-related support, and counselling and therapy for adults and children.
  • Local authorities in England are to establish a multi-agency Domestic Abuse Local Partnership Board that will:
    • assess the need for accommodation-based domestic abuse for all victims
    • develop and publish a strategy for this provision, and use for commissioning decisions. Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy, and report back to central government
    • include wide representation (local authority, voices of victims and their children, domestic abuse charities, health care providers and police and other criminal justice agencies)
  • All eligible homeless victims of domestic abuse automatically have ‘priority need’ for homelessness assistance. Currently, domestic abuse victims without a priority need (such as being pregnant) must show that they are vulnerable as a result of fleeing domestic abuse in order to access homelessness assistance. The Bill removes the need to prove this vulnerability.
  • When rehousing an existing lifetime secure tenant, local authorities must honour this by granting a new lifetime secure tenancy in the case that the tenant or household member has been a victim of domestic abuse and is being rehoused as a result.
  • Introduce regulations and statutory guidance on Relationship Education, Relationship and Sex Education, and Health Education.
  • Invest in domestic abuse training for responding agencies and professionals.