The United Kingdom’s New Domestic Abuse Law
In December, the United Kingdom announced a new domestic abuse offense targeting “patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour,” commonly referred to as coercive control. Coercive control is broadly defined as an act or pattern of acts of assault, sexual coercion, threats, humiliation, and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten a victim. Domestic violence offenders who engage in coercive control do things like limiting the victim’s contact with friends and family, controlling her access to money, and determining aspects of the victim’s everyday life, such as when and what she eats.
The United Kingdom previously expanded its cross-governmental definition of domestic violence to include coercive control. The cross-governmental definition was used by government departments to target support services but was not a legal definition or part of the criminal law’s definition of domestic abuse. The criminal coercive control law is expected to come into force this year. It will serve as a model of domestic abuse legislation to other countries.