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Coercive Control

Coercive control is a term used to describe a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away a victims sense of liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self.  It strips away integrity but also an individual’s human rights.  Coercive Control includes a wide range of controlling acts including manipulation, isolation, intimidation, sexual coercion, humiliation, gaslighting (a form of psychological abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception and sanity). Victims, their family or professionals do not always realises they are a victim. 

Coercive Control is a crime which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and a fine. It is a key factor in Child Safeguarding and Adult Safeguarding; Child Exploitation, Domestic Abuse, Harmful Practices, Modern Day Slavery, Mate Crime and Radicalisation.

Some examples of coercive behaviour:

  • Isolating you from friends and family, stalking, restricting movements, alienating friends and family
  • Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
  • Monitoring your time
  • Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware to track you e.g. phones, social media etc.
  • Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear and when you can sleep
  • Depriving you access to support services, such as medical services
  • Repeatedly putting you down, such as saying you’re worthless
  • Withholding/destruction- food, money, passport, clothes, contraceptives, sanitary products
  • Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you
  • Controlling your finances
  • Making threats or intimidating you, your family or friends
  • Forcing or manipulating you to do things you wouldn’t do usually e.g. hiding weapons, selling or carrying drugs or committing other criminal acts

Often coercive control starts through grooming. Predators will target vulnerable children, or adults, families, friends, professionals. They may initially provide support and assistance as part of the grooming process to win the trust of their victim.

Coercive control does not relate to a single incident, it’s a purposeful pattern of behaviour that takes place over time, in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another.

Effects of coercive control:

Coercive control may create deprivation of independence and liberty, which can cause co-dependency, making it difficult to break away from the abuser. You may be made to work for little or no money, may be used for sex work, taken from family and friends, abused physically and emotionally.

There are increased levels of suicide, self-harm, and substance misuse, deterioration of mental health, risk of death and criminal offences. Risks to children also include emotional, physical abuse.