What is Coercive Control?

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Last year, we saw the law surrounding domestic abuse change, when further clauses were introduced which make coercive control illegal, in an effort to provide further protection for domestic abuse victims.

This move has not only enabled domestic abuse sufferers to seek justice for non-violent abusive behaviour, but it has also increased awareness of a range of domestic abuse issues, shining a light on abusive behaviours that some may not have been previously aware of by recognising that abuse can take a number of different forms.

So, what is coercive control? How can coercive control be identified, and what is the best thing to do if you find yourself in a situation where you feel frightened, threatened or intimidated by your partner?


What is coercive control?

A common misconception about domestic abuse is that the term refers only to the harm that is physically suffered. Domestic abuse causes harm whether physical or verbal, and ‘coercive control’ refers to all of the non-physical methods an abuser may use to intimidate, harm, punish, frighten, humiliate or threaten a partner.

Coercive control is a pattern of assault or abuse whereby the abuser seeks to deprive a partner of their independence, exploiting them and isolating them from friends, family and external support networks.


Signs of coercive control

The new laws now enforced in England and Wales extend the definition of domestic abuse to non-physical control over a partner, and the amendments have now made the following actions illegal:


Sharing sexually explicit images of a partner

The new laws recognise ‘revenge porn’, and make it illegal for someone to share intimate photographs of you, whether that be online or in any other form.


Restricting a partner’s access to finances

Preventing you from accessing any forms of finance is illegal, even if you earn a lower salary than your partner does.


Deliberately harming a partner’s self-esteem

If your partner persistently mocks you, puts you down, calls you names and intentionally damages your self-esteem, you are entitled to seek legal action against them under the new laws.


Cutting a partner off from friends, family, and external support

It is unallowed by law for your partner to seek to isolate you from friends, family, or external support networks. This behaviour is common in many domestic abuse cases, and usually involves the abuser controlling where their partner can travel and who they can see or speak to (in person, online, via text or over the phone). Restricting access to friends and family can leave a domestic abuse victim vulnerable and isolated, making them dependent solely on their abuser.


Intimidating behaviour towards a partner

Assault doesn’t have to be physical for it to be intimidating – often even the threat of assault is enough to cause anxiety. Intimidating behaviour is seen when a partner uses their size to exude a sense of power, makes verbal threats of physical violence, or breaks things around the house.


Making threats to reveal private information about a partner

Your partner could be breaking the law if they persistently and repeatedly make threats to reveal personal or private information about you. This could be information about your health, sexual orientation, or any other matter which you would prefer to be kept private.


Monitoring or tracking a partner’s location

In the digital age, there are a number of online communication tools, apps and spyware which can be used to track your location. However, it is now illegal under the new legislation for your partner to track your location in an effort to control your movements and behaviour.


Jealous behaviour

If your partner persistently makes accusations that you have been unfaithful, presents extreme signs of jealousy or acts possessively towards you, all of these behaviours are covered under the new legislation.


Controlling behaviour

Enforcing a strict set of rules, regulating your everyday behaviour, restricting the people you see, and controlling where you go and what you wear are all forms of abusive behaviour which are now covered in the laws surrounding domestic abuse.


What should I do if I feel I am in an abusive relationship?

Contact the 24-hour freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 2000 247.

If you feel you are in immediate danger, you should dial 999 and make a report to the police. If you are in a situation where is may be unsafe for you to speak on the phone, dial 999 and press 55 on your keypad when prompted, and do not hang up.


At DRN, our solicitors prioritise clients’ emotional wellbeing, handling every case with utmost discretion, professionalism and sensitivity. When working with a DRN solicitor, you can expect to receive continual support throughout your case.

If you’d like to speak with a member of our team, contact us on 01282 433241 and we will be more than happy to provide further information on the options that are available to you.