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Coercive Control and Domestic Abuse

Coercive control is a form of psychological abuse where the perpetrator carries out a pattern of controlling and manipulative behaviours and exerts power over the other person, this can be through intimidation and/or humiliation, and can be subtle and therefore harder to identify.

Coercive control is essentially a way of controlling a person, taking away their freedom, whilst also taking away their sense of self and self-worth. The victim becomes more dependent on the perpetrator which creates an ongoing cycle of abuse. The perpetrator of coercive control doesn't always have to be an intimate partner, it can be family members or even friends.

Coercive control can be the beginning of an abusive relationship.

Domestic abuse can be an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, mainly perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner, but also a family member or carer. There are many kinds of abuse, including but not limited to;

  • coercive control

  • psychological or emotional abuse

  • financial abuse

  • physical and/or sexual abuse

  • online or digital abuse

  • harassment or stalking

Domestic abuse can start early on in a relationship and can be difficult to identify, in the early stages people are generally "on their best behaviour" to make a good impression. Early signs and symptoms are also easy to dismiss, from my own personal history I know I dismissed early signs with 'he was drunk', 'he doesn't want to lose me', 'he's being protective'. By letting them get away with the early things, and forgiving them, they know they can keep doing them, and begin to escalate their behaviours.

On average the police in England and Wales receive over 100 calls relating to domestic abuse every hour. (HMIC, 2015)

Domestic abuse is a huge issue and should be talked about more without the societal stigma. This stigma adds to the victims fear about leaving an abusive relationship, fear of not being listened to, of not being believed and not receiving the support they need.

One of the most common questions asked is "why don't they just leave?". Most people who ask this do not mean any harm however it comes across as blaming the person who stays and yet again adds to why they do stay. We all need to become more understanding of abuse and the survivors of abuse and stop blaming them for staying.

A few of the reasons why people may not leave;

  1. Danger and fear

  2. Isolation

  3. Shame, embarrassment or denial

  4. Low confidence

  5. Practical reasons - financial

  6. Support or lack of

Before I had first hand experience of an abusive relationship you would have found me asking the same question, why don't people just leave. Now, as someone who survived and eventually left, I have a personal understanding of why people don't leave, why I didn't leave and this allows me to understand, be non-judgmental and help other people who find themselves in the same situation/s or who have experienced it previously.

If you feel like you may be in a toxic relationship, are constantly second guessing yourself, and are not sure if your fears are real, don't be afraid to reach and ask for help. Here are a list of signs that could mean your partner, friend or family member is trying to control you;

  • Isolating you from friends and family

  • Monitoring your activity - this can be digitally and/or physically

  • Taking away your freedom

  • Gaslighting - coercive control

  • Criticising you and everything you do

  • Financial control

  • Living by their rules

  • Parental alienation (if you have children)

  • Policing your life - controlling what you wear, where you go, who you're friends are

  • Jealous accusations

  • Depriving you of access to help, where it's mental health help, medical help

  • Controlling your sexual relationship

  • Violent threats

  • Blackmail

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