Developed by Evan Stark ‘Coercive Control’ is a form of domestic abuse which became part of the law in December 2015. It is described as an act, or pattern of acts, meant to cause humiliation, intimidation, threats, assults or other abuse to harm, punish or frighten their victim. It is pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victims liberty or freedom, to strip away the victims sense of self.
Domestic abuse is often only thought of as acts of physical violence, but finally the psychological aspect of abuse has been recognised and is now punishable if you know what to look out for and how to go about collating evidence. In the news over the past few years there have been numberous cases of ex-parteners being harassed, stalked and even murdered and upon researching these I noticed many of these relationships began with subtle signs of Coercive Control (CC).
Now it is not my intention to cause fear in this blog, death because of domestic violence is thankfully relatively low......but CC is an element of domestic violence which often goes undetected in todays society.
I will break the signs down into 3 levels so its a little easier to idenify with and this kind of abuse usually occurs in romantic relationships, however it can be detected in other kinds of relationships too.
Subtle effects of CC: Usually there will be a monitoring of your time, how long you have been somewhere, how long it has taken you to get home, some questioning of why it took you so long to do x, y, and z and this maybe backed up with comments of ”I’m asking because I miss you and was looking forward to spending time with you”...sweet right!
There may also be an element of distain around the amount of time you spend with your friends and family, even if this time isn’t a lot. Again there maybe statements of ”I wanted to talk to you about something” or ”I think you love them more than me?”.
These behaviours are to make you think twice about what it is you would like to do in your spare time and to put the person saying the triggering statements to you above eveyone and everything else.
They may begin to comment or complain about your work hours, put down your colleagues, friends, family etc, suggesting you spend all your spare time with them.....but it’s all because they “love you so much and cant stand to be without you” right?!
There is an expectation to answer every call, text or you may even notice the person arriving at your work, gym, social gathering because they missed you. All a little too controlling and unusual for me personally.
Clearer signs of CC: When you begin to feel like your walking on eggshells and your second guessing all your decisions through fear of disapproval in a relationship is usually a big warning sign that something is wrong.
The feeling you need to seek permission to do something, or there is an argument as a result of you spending time with friends/family, are late home or wearing the wrong clothes are all signs of CC. If your relationship is flip flopping from good to bad on a regular basis you should begin taking mental notes of the behaviour.
You may notice that as long as your partner is happy and you are following all of their instructions, following their advice and asking their permission on a majority of aspects of your life the relationship is ok. This is the onset of programmed behaviour on your part by the mood swings and demands of control by your partner.
You may no longer have control over what you spend, what you eat, how you dress! You may have witnessed your partner punch a wall or door out of anger in an argument, you may feel very isolated from speaking to friends and family about how you feel about the relationship and what exactly is happening through fear of humiliation and ridicule. You may have also been threatened with any personal information being exposed to your close friends and family if you do expose the abuse. Often you feel pressure of everything you do, even down to what time you go to bed.
But, again, all this behaviour is explained away because you are loved so much, they worry about you so much and they are very sorry they lost their temper when they smashed your favourite vase!?
Actual CC functioning: So when the CC is funtioning at it’s highest, usually the victim of abuse has been in the relationship for a number of years, but not always. They potentually have no contact with family or friends anymore, and if they do it is minimal and often watched over by their abuser.
Other controlling behaviours include, very little access to finances, control of what you wear and how you look, you may have to eat certain foods or follow a strict diet. There is a high probability you are being verbally abused, being told how worthless you are, how ugly you are, how nothing you do is good enough. If you need to go to any appointments with a doctor or dentist your abuser will usually enter all those appointments with you and you will never find yourself alone in public. Or if you are you’ll be closely monitored and have strict time boundaries to keep to.
The relationship sways between adoration to disgust, on a regular basis, thus confusing the victim and controlling the way they behave overall.
I understand the last level may seem extream, however, sadly there are people out there experiencing the last two levels of abuse. It’s more common for people to feel experience the first two with the abuser being excused as ”he’s/she’s a bit insecure”, but without a doubt these behaviours are wrong and very damaging to the victims mental well-being and sense of self.
If you feel you are experiencing CC its important you keep a note of the behavioues and events. Not only will this provide evidence of the behaviour but it will also help with your sanity if you are very confused and being ‘gaslighted’ by your partner. Any physical violence should be photographed if possible, messages, emails, letters etc kept in a safe place. Friends and family members may have expressed concerns over your relationship to you, and yes you may be feeling very scared, ashamed and embarresed about the whole relationship, but I would really encourage you to accept their support/help if you can.
For futher information and help you can visit www.womensaid.org.uk or www.mankind.org.uk or you contact me personally for recovery support.