The Home Office has today widened the definition of domestic abuse to include psychological intimidation and controlling behaviour. It has also lowered the age applying to the definition to include 16-18 year old children following a rise in the number of teenage girls caught up in relationships where abuse takes place.

The changes will be implemented in March 2013 following calls from local authorities, police and voluntary organisations which said that the current definition is too narrow and let some perpetrators off the hook.

The Home Office believes that more prosecutions could be brought as a result of the changes and hopes that more youngsters will now be able to come forward and access any support they may need.

Statistics published by Women’s Aid, NSPCC and Parity show that 12% of under 11s, 18% of 11-17s and 24% of 18-24s have been exposed at some time to some form of domestic abuse.

The NSPCC has a free, confidential service for anyone concerned about the welfare of a child and is accessible to children too. The service offers counselling, information and advice. The helpline number is 0808 800 5000 or their webside is www.nspcc/org.uk.