Press Release

23 September 2022

Refuge supports grassroots, volunteer- led campaign: ‘Make It Mandatory’

Text reads 'He said he'll never leave me' with two images, one showing hands holding, and one where a wrist is held by the hand.

Less than half of 16–19 year-olds have received or are due to receive education on domestic abuse and controlling or coercive behaviour, according to new data.

Refuge, the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuser services, is joining with survivor and campaigner Faustine Petron to urge the government to make education on domestic abuse and controlling or coercive behaviour mandatory in post-16 education.

Polling conducted by Opinium for Refuge found that only half (50%) of young people had received education on domestic abuse and controlling or coercive behaviour during years 7 – 11 of secondary school, despite this being mandatory since 2020. The number of 16–19-year-olds who said they had received or were due to receive this education at their sixth form or further education college fell to less than half (47%).

Currently there are gaps in legislation – while relationship and sex education must be taught in sixth forms attached to schools, all other sixth forms and further education colleges are not required to teach this, with students missing out on this vital education.

Faustine’s petition, which urges the government to close these gaps, has so far amassed over 62,000 signatures.

Along with Faustine, Refuge believes that too many young people are not receiving education about domestic abuse and coercive control, despite a significant risk of girls and young women experiencing coercion and control in their intimate partner relationships.

A third (30%) of young women surveyed said they had experienced controlling or coercive behaviour in a relationship. When presented with a list of potentially controlling or coercive behaviour, the proportion of young women who have experienced controlling or coercive behaviour rises to just over half (51%). These gaps in understanding must be addressed to keep young women safe in their relationships.

Faustine and Refuge’s CEO Ruth Davison have today written to the new Secretary of State for Education, Kit Malthouse MP, asking him to consider how more consistent education on domestic abuse can be achieved.

Faustine Petron, founder of Make it Mandatory, said:

“I’m delighted to be partnering with Refuge on this important campaign. As a survivor who would have benefitted from better education on the warning signs of coercive or controlling behaviour, it’s an issue close to my heart and one I intend to keep fighting for.

“It’s vital that young people are empowered to spot the signs of domestic abuse and know how to get support if they need it.

“I look forward to engaging with the government to ensure that all young people get the education they need and deserve.”

Ruth Davison, CEO of Refuge, said:

“Despite being made a crime in 2015, we know that coercive and controlling behaviour is still not widely understood. We only need to look at the low rate of conviction and the difficulty in proving an abuser has acted in this way to know that more needs to be done to help educate the public on what coercive control is and the damaging impact it has on survivors.

“Young people at school are at a pivotal age in terms of learning about relationships. This the exact time that they should be receiving comprehensive education about domestic abuse – but this is not the case for so many.

“With over 51% of young women experiencing behaviours that could be coercive or controlling, now is the time for the government to intervene and protect young people. Without action, young people are at risk.”

Notes to editors 

  1. Faustine’s petition can be found here 
  2. Assets created by Futerra with image gifted from photographer Rankin here

About Refuge 

Refuge supports thousands of women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner. 

Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For support with tech abuse visit 

About Make it Mandatory 

Make it Mandatory is a campaign founded by Faustine Petron, a university student and survivor of domestic abuse. She set up a petition on after reflecting on her experiences of abuse and the justice system and noticing what she saw as significant gaps in the education system.  

The campaign comprises nine friends, some of whom are also survivors. The group aims to change government policy and emphasise the importance of education on all forms of domestic abuse among 16-19-year-olds, as a preventative measure. Statistics show this is an at-risk age group, which the group feels the government have not focused on enough.  

The campaign amassed 62,000 signatures and gained the support of MPs, barristers, charities and celebrities alike.