Coercive Control

Coercive Control

Unhealthy Relationships: Focus on Coercive Control


The Law

 In December 2015, a UK law was finally passed that meant that controlling and coercive domestic abuse is now punishable with a prison sentence of up to five years


The Home Office Definition which came into effect from March 2013 states:

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse:

§  Psychological

§  Physical

§  Sexual

§  Financial

§  Emotional


Controlling behaviour is: a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.


Coercive behaviour 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 definition includes so called 'honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group

 Warning Signs

Some of the abuses someone experiencing coercive control could include:

§  Being put down and told they are worthless

§  Being stopped from working or going to school/college/university

§  Having their money taken away or controlled

§  Being isolated from friends and family

§  Having access to food, drinks and day-to-day products restricted

§  Having how they spend their time and who with being monitored

§  Having their social media accounts – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – monitored or controlled

§  Being tracked by their partner via mobile devices or spyware

§  Being told what they should wear

§  Being threatened with violence if they do not behave in a certain way

§  Having threats made to loved ones or pets

§  Being threatened with damage to personal property.

 Impact on Young People

Coercive control can have a huge impact on young people’s emotions, feelings and mental health. It can include feeling:

§  Anxious and nervous  

§  Not free to make their own decisions

§  Like they are “walking on eggshells”  

§  Scared that they do not have access to money

§  Worried that they lack close relationships other than with their partner

§  Sick, experience headaches or have other ongoing physical health symptoms

§  Isolated from friends and family and that they have no one they can talk to

 Help and Support

There is help and support for young people experiencing coercive control and domestic abuse:


If you, or someone you know, are in immediate danger then call the police on 999.


§  Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247 (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
§  Access support from other women experiencing abuse on the Survivors’ Forum on the Women’s Aid website:
§  Use the Women’s Aid website to find your local specialist domestic abuse service where you can access counselling, legal help, refuge and other support:
§  Find out more information about relationship abuse on the This Is Abuse website:
§  Talk to family and friends


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