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Coercive control

Coercive control

“The most important anomalous evidence indicates that violence in abusive relationships is ongoing rather than episodic, that it effects are cumulative rather than incident specific, and that the harms it causes are more readily explained by these factors than by its severity.” Evan Stark

Violence itself doesn’t entrap women into abusive relationships coercive control does. It does not require a physical presence in order to work effectively, if someone has used intimidation and control over aspects of your life it will mentally stick so therefore has effect even when that person is not directly in the same room or place. The patterns that are used over time insidiously creep into the victim’s psyche and can remain long after. Which is why it is important that police, family court, Cafcass and others take this seriously. Coercive control slowly taps into your being and will creep in long before any violence happens (usually) Evan Stark explains Coercive control brilliantly. Physical violence is easy to understand in terms of that it is black and white and much clearer to the majority how wrong it is. But society and the law have struggled more with understanding other types of abuse even though we seem to know more now than ever psychologically regarding coercive control and the effects it has. I have heard many victims say and I also go by my own experiences that mental, emotional and verbal abuse can be worse than the actual physical violence. In a situation where there is for example a threat of violence of verbal attacks i.e. name calling, put downs, control over money, unexpected moods is living in a state of stress and unknown and permanent walking on egg shells. All this can cause anxiety PTS and other mental issues in the long run. If some says “I’m going to hit you, smash you face in” that has a mental effect that lasts forever your space is violated and your sense of safety is taken. The control over money, if someone asks for receipts for shopping, its real control over that person and again has effects for it is a breach of your freedom. To be controlled is to literally lose your basic human rights. Not all partners who end up killing will be physically violent, but they all will have used coercive control in the relationship which makes it a very dangerous form of abuse and one that is still not taken seriously enough.


Common tactics of Coercive control:

*Isolating from friends or family

*Depriving of your basic needs such as food

*Monitoring your time or communication with others

*Taking control over aspects of everyday life

*Depriving you of medical or support access

*Humiliating, degrading, dehumanising you

*Controlling finances

*Making threats or intimidation

Coercive control effects children and will be used often by the abuser to continue control even after the relationship ends. It is now recognised that children don’t just witness domestic abuse they experience it and therefore has a long-term effect on them.

Coercive control is the most common form of abuse with children by the abuser. The same tactics are used which is frequent by abusers which is difficult to detect. Isolation, intimidation is used to control the child as an extension of abuse. They can be used as spies, or co abusers or pawns especially within court cases. It is designed to harm the mother. The aim is to continue to control the mother. (Evan Stark)



*Undermining ability to parent

* Turning the child against the safe parent (calling them names etc)

* Not respecting boundaries



*With holding financial support


I remember one Christmas with my ex-husband, he was in a terrible mood for days through out the holiday time. It was boxing day and I invited a few family members over. The children were all playing in one room and the adults were chatting in the other room. My ex sat upstairs in the bedroom due to his bad mood not feeling up to seeing anyone. This made it quite uncomfortable, and I found myself making excuses, embarrassed that he would not join everyone. He then made it clear that he didn’t really want anyone there so he would occasionally come down slamming a few doors on the way. I had ordered some food for everyone which he complained about. Desperately trying to sooth, the tension, I said to him “Why dint you go upstairs and ill bring you some food” I was becoming increasingly humiliated but also worried because of his temper. I turned to me in front of my nephews and his son (aged 3 up to aged 9) I was holding our baby daughter who was 2 months at the time, “Why don’t you go fuck yourself” leaning close towards me as he said it. The children all looked in horror and stopped playing. I then begged him to not start this while others especially children were in our home. He replied with he didn’t care it was his house and he would stab anyone who said anything. At the time I was grateful no one else heard but now I sometimes wish they had so I had witnesses, so I could better explain the environment that we lived in.

This is an example of coercive control using, intimidation, control over the property and an attempt of isolation all panned out in front of children. It left me humiliated, fearful, uncomfortable and worried for what those children had just seen. These feelings don’t simply fade away when the episode has finished it leaves an invisible chain around you which is hard to break free from. If you have children with the abuser this chain remains unbroken and can be tugged upon from afar. The child will then be become enchained also and used to inflict further control. That is crippling for the victim and child. The family courts become a part of this especially where child arrangements are being set up. It is vital more education is out there in society but also the judiciary system in order to spot these signs. While coercive control is a crime in the UK the conviction rate is very low. And yet it is an incredibly insidious and destructive form of abuse that effects the victim and their child both short and long term.




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