What is Coercive Control

Domestic abuse isn’t always physical. Coercive control is 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 controlling behavior is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behavior.

Coercive control creates invisible chains and a sense of fear that pervades all elements of a victim’s life. It works to limit their human rights by depriving them of their liberty and reducing their ability for action. Experts like Evan Stark liken coercive control to being taken hostage. As he says: “the victim becomes captive in an unreal world created by the abuser, entrapped in a world of confusion, contradiction and fear.”

How do you know if this is happening to you?

Some common examples of coercive behavior are:

  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
  • Monitoring your time
  • Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware
  • Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear and when you can sleep
  • Depriving you access to support services, such as medical services
  • Repeatedly putting you down, such as saying you’re worthless
  • Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you
  • Controlling your finances
  • Making threats or intimidating you

You can read more about coercive control in this article Women's Aid wrote for the Telegraph at  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/coercive-control-how-can-you-tell-whether-your-partner-is-emotio/

The Law on Coercive Control

As of the 29th December 2015 coercive control was officially recognised as a crime with the introduction of Coercive Control Offence within the Serious Crimes Act 2015.

The new law protects people who are in an abusive relationship by recognising that coercive control and threatening behavior can have serious effect on someone’s daily life and activities.

Some examples of coercive control are:

  • Isolating; not allowing someone to go out without their abuser, or controlling who they can see. Restricting access to communication with friends and family.
  • Restricting what someone can wear, how they style their hair or wear their makeup
  • Monitoring their movements via social media or following them
  • Extreme jealousy and possessiveness; accusations that they have been or are planning to be unfaithful.
  • Using threats of violence to control behavior
  • Ignoring someone’s needs and feelings, minimising the harm that they are causing to them.

If you think you are being abused or know someone who is being abused go to our get help now pages to find out more information about local and national support services

Getting help and advice

If you’re in a controlling relationship and need help, call us for free on the National Domestic Abuse Helpline. To find out more about domestic abuse, how to spot the signs of abuse and how to get help and support on our get help pages or at the Women's aid website https://www.womensaid.org.uk/

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