What is Coercive Control?

Coercive control is a series of acts or behaviours that are used to control, harm or punish a partner over a sustained period of time. The offence came into force as part of the Serious Crime Act 2015.  It causes a person to feel frightened, alone, isolated, confused and makes the victim dependent on the abuser and regulates the victims behaviour to the choice and decision making of the abuser.

Coercive Control is a criminal offence in England and Wales, it often includes partner rape, threats of violence and/or to kill self or others, violence to partner, or criminal damage to the home.  However, it is still a criminal offence even if you have not experienced physical violence or damage to your property.   If you are a victim of Coercive Control, you should report it to the police as you may also be able to apply to the Family Court for protection.

To be found guilty of coercive control, the abuser must be connected to you, meaning a spouse, partner or someone you are in, or have been in an intimate relationship with. Connected to; also includes family members or family members of your partner-if they live with you. The behaviour he/she employed must have had a serious effect on you, and the abuser knew or ought to have known that the behaviours would have a serious effect on you.  That means they knew or should have known that their behaviour was not acceptable to you.  IN the event of a charge of Coercive Control, Charges of other crimes may also be initiated such as criminal damage, harassment etc

Typical behaviours that cause serious effect and can be identified within a Coercive Controlled relationship include:

  • A culture of fear in the home, constantly fearing reactions
  • Bullying
  • Gaslighting
  • Monitoring who you see, where you go and what you do
  • Monitoring or controlling what you wear
  • Spying  including online or Stalking you
  • Depriving you of sleep
  • Isolating you from family and friends
  • Controlling all the money in your relationship and/or how you spend any money you have or been allocated
  • Threatening to kill you or injure you or your children, family pets or other individuals close to you,
  • Damaging your personal items, property or home
  • Forcing you to participate in criminal acts or abuse
  • Forcing you to participate in sexual acts that you are not comfortable with or demanding sex when you do not want it or demanding to take intimate photos or videos of you or refusing to wear a condom
  • Publishing or threatening to publish intimate photographs or images of you
  • Reporting or threatening to report you to the authorities about child neglect / abuse
  • Repeatedly calling you names, humiliating you, putting you down, degrading you.
  • Controlling what you eat or withholding food
  • Depriving you of medication or medical services

The Guardian reported Coercive Control calls to domestic abuse helplines increased by up to 700% during lockdown.

According to the Office of National Statistics –  Year ending march 2020 there was a total of 61,169 prosecutions for “domestic abuse-related crimes’ which secured 47,534 convictions.

What can you do?

Keep in touch with your family, friends and support network as much as you can.  Make sure you have someone to check on you regularly and ensure all contact details are up to date.

Call a domestic violence hotline regularly.  Remember domestic violence includes emotional abuse and they do not need to see bruises or physical violence.

Develop a Safety Plan, so when you decide to leave, you know what you need to do. if you need to get out quickly, know where the keys are kept, identify where you can go immediately, where the nearest phone box / police station / bus stop / taxi rank or train station is and most importantly:  who you can stay with. Keep as much money as you can without raising suspicion and ensure you don’t panic in the moment.

This is not a legal document and for accurate up to date information, speak to the police, or a solicitor.

Useful Contacts:

If you are in immediate danger call 999, if you cannot speak then press 55 on your mobile phone and your call will be transferred to the police.  If you are deaf or cannot use a phone you can register with emergencySMS.  Text register to 999 you will receive a text with further instructions.  Do this when you are safe to allow you to text when you are in danger.

National Domestic Abuse helpline 0808 200 0247


National LGBT Domestic Violence Helpline 0300 999 5428


The Law Society – find a solicitor


Rights of Women


Womens Aid