Nearly three years ago, the government introduced a new domestic abuse offence of ‘coercive and controlling behaviour’, carrying a penalty of up to five years in prison as well as a fine.
While previous legislative framework had failed to recognise coercive control as a form of domestic violence (only individual incidents of physical injury, like a black eye for example, could result in arrest) the coercive or controlling behaviour offence introduced a whole new set of behaviours that could be classed as domestic abuse.
Coercive control is defined as ongoing psychological behaviour, rather than isolated or unconnected incidents, with the purpose of removing a victim’s freedom.
Here, we list the most common examples of coercive control in abusive relationships – if any of these sound familiar, then visit Women’s Aid for help and more information.
- Unreasonable demands. Often followed up by threats, pressure or physical restraint if you don’t agree to them.
- Degradation AKA malicious name–calling, or bullying behaviour. This could include buying clothes that are purposefully too small for you to ‘diet’ into, or constant belittling behaviour in front of your friends, designed to make you feel worthless.
- Restricting daily activities. Whether it’s your daily jog, or meeting your family. If you feel increasingly unable to carry out your normal routine, it’s usually a strong signal for concern.
- Threats or intimidation. If your behaviour isn’t to their liking, you are threatened or intimidated into changing it. This can include sex too.
- Financial control. Can include constant monitoring of your spending, or giving you an ‘allowance’ to live off (usually when it’s your own money they’re controlling).
- Monitoring of time. Stalking your movements, unwanted contacted, or being controlling about how you spend your time is a form of coercive control.
- Taking your phone away. Or changing passwords to your iPad or laptop so you can’t use them. This could include any form of restricting access to communication, information or services.
- The same goes for restricted mobility. If you’re unable to leave the house, or use your car because they won’t allow it. If your partner’s behaviour isolates you from friends, family or colleagues, then it’s important to seek help.
- Deprivation of food. Constantly – and purposefully – taking your food away, or limiting your allowance is controlling, abusive behaviour. Seek help.
- Destruction of possessions. Whether it’s something valuable, or emails or text messages.