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Abuse only thrives in silence – so let’s talk about it

Over the next few weeks we’ll be shining a light on domestic abuse.  We’ll be sharing the stories of those who have been victims of domestic abuse and finding out to best support friends or family who may be affected.

We begin with a look at coercive control which as of December 2015 became recognised as a domestic violence offence. 

Coercive control is when a person repeatedly behaves in a way which makes someone feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared.  Controlling what their partner wears, sees, eats or spends are all behaviours that can form part of a pattern that builds up to coercive control and strips away victims' self -confidence.

Over the past 12 months occurrences of coercive control have doubled in the force area however this type of abuse can be difficult to spot, even by the victim.

It often happens over many years, with the victim slowly being stripped of their self-confidence.

They may even lose a sense of what is ‘normal’ in a relationship.  Part of the abuse can also mean that they have become isolated from friends and family which can make it even more difficult for them to reach out to someone for help.

Chlo, a victim of coercive control, said; ““…He just took up all my time…. I was on my phone every second waiting for a text from him cos if I didn’t reply straight away he might completely lose his temper at me again.

“He never wanted to hang around with my friends and when we met he wanted it to be just me and him so I think the nature of the relationship made me quite isolated from my friends as well…..”

Although the majority of are women there is no typical domestic abuse victim. It can happen regardless of age, career, class, disability, gender, sexuality, race or religion.

Stonewall's research shows that one in four lesbian and bisexual women have experienced domestic abuse in a relationship. Two thirds of those say the perpetrator was a woman, a third a man.

Almost half (49%) of all gay and bisexual men have experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse from a family member or partner since the age of 16.

Marie Wright “Awareness and understanding of this type of abuse is growing, illustrated by the steady increase in the number of people coming forward to report this crime but there is still a long way to go.  It can be difficult to spot, and can be even more difficult to encourage victims to come forward for support.  We hope that by highlighting the signs and letting people know what help is available we’ll reach people who are

What does coercive control look like:

  • Unreasonable demands: Often followed up by threats, pressure or physical restraint if you don't agree to them.
  • 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.
  • Restricting where you go or what you do: 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.

You may be concerned that a friend or family member is a victim of coercive control.  Here are some of things that you could look out for:

  • You witness, or hear about, the abuser saying or doing things that belittle the person. For example insulting them, criticising them, making fun of their opinions and beliefs, or undermining the way the person parents their children.
  • The person withdraws, seeing less of you and of other people they know, often cancelling plans and making excuses about not being able to meet up. When you do see that person, they are sometimes quieter than they used to be, and if the abuser is there too, the person may seem nervous or anxious.
  • When you see the person alone, they receive lots of text or calls from the abuser asking them what they are doing, where they are, who they are with and when they will be finished. Your friend, relative, neighbour or colleague may seem embarrassed by these interruptions, but may not feel able to stop answering the calls or the texts.
  • The abuser is making lots of rules that the person has to follow, which can include; who they can see, what they can wear, what they can spend money on and how their home needs to be kept.
  • The person you know seems to give up their own life plans, including their education, their job and their own friendships because the abuser has made it difficult for them to continue doing the things they’d like to.
  • The person asks you to keep things secret from the abuser, for example who they have seen, plans they have made or things they have bought, because they are scared about what will happen if the abuser finds out.

If you, or someone you know, needs help or advice about domestic abuse you can find out more here: