Lessons on violence at home for 10-year-olds

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The Independent Online

Children as young as 10 will be taught about domestic violence as part of the National Curriculum under proposals being considered by ministers.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is planning a series of measures in a domestic violence Bill. He has already revealed plans to appoint a domestic violence tsar and to give police an extra £14m to tackle abusers. According to the Home Office, there are 635,000 incidents of domestic violence a year. One in four women will be abused by their husbands or boyfriends during their lifetime and, on average, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.

The new recognition of domestic violence as a crime to be taken seriously by the state comes as the BBC devotes nine days of programming to the issue.

Domestic violence themes will be followed through in soap operas including Neighbours and Casualty. The Hitting Home series will also comprise documentaries including Dangerous Love: Tales of Domestic Violence, screened this Wednesday, in which celebrities and members of the public talk about their experiences. David Soul, star of Starsky and Hutch, will admit to hitting his third wife, while Anthea Turner, former breakfast TV presenter, and her sister Wendy Turner Webster will tell how both were abused by former boyfriends.

Now happily married, Anthea Turner said she suffered a dislocated elbow after the former Radio 1 DJ Bruno Brookes threw a television set at her. Wendy reveals how her first husband would kick her on to the bedroom floor and then throw ice-cold water over her during the night. Clarissa Dickson Wright, the television cook, and the actress Elaine C Smithalso recount their experiences.

Pupils in their final year at primary school would also have education in sex equality under the ministerial proposals. Backed by children's charities and MPs, the scheme is already running at a school in Thurrock, Essex, in a government-funded pilot study.

Campaigners have lobbied the Government to include mandatory training for professionals in the criminal justice system in dealing with violence against women. Figures revealed by the Home Office show that judges receive only six hours' training in how to deal with such cases.

Harriet Harman, the Solicitor General, has sent at least three cases of murder and manslaughter to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the sentences were too lenient. She has also urged the Government to introduce restraining orders to prevent abusers returning to harass partners after leaving jail.

Leading health bodies are also planning to introduce mandatory training to improve support for abuse victims. The Royal College of Psychiatrists is recommending that their members should automatically ask patients if they have experienced domestic violence.

The police also plan to introduce new guidelines to tackle officers who abuse their spouses or partners. This follows the case of PC Karl Bluestone who bludgeoned his wife to death, killed two of their children and then hanged himself. In a BBC Panorama special, DCI Colin Murray, who investigated the killings for Kent police, will admit that they should have followed up reports that Bluestone was abusing his wife.

Margaret Moran, chair of the Commons all-party group on domestic violence, saidtougher laws were needed as soon as possible. "Research shows that young men expect to beat up young women and young women expect to be beaten, so we are growing the next generation of abusers," she said.