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With coverage of Sally Challen’s ground-breaking case, to BBC Three’s documentary Is This Coercive Control?, it seems the often hidden side of domestic abuse has gained recognition in the media.

Although it became a criminal offence in 2015, how many of us know what coercive control is?

What are the signs?

Perpetrators of coercive control will use confusion, contradiction and fear to reduce a person’s ability for action.

Women’s Aid state that some common examples of coercive behaviour include:

  • Isolating someone from friends and family
  • Depriving someone of basic needs, such as food
  • Monitoring a person’s time
  • Monitoring someone via online communication tools or spyware
  • Taking control over aspects of a person’s everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what they can wear and when they can sleep
  • Depriving a person access to support services, such as medical services
  • Repeatedly putting someone down, such as saying they’re worthless
  • Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising someone
  • Controlling a person’s finances
  • Making threats or intimidating someone

Perpetrators may also exhibit behaviours such as prolonged interrogation. By making constant demands for answers and information, a perpetrator is able to exhaust and weaken someone’s mental ability to resist abuse.

Occasional favours, or performative ‘kindness’, may be used to reinforce compliance with a perpetrator’s demands.

These types of controlling behaviours are designed to make a person dependent on a perpetrator by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour. Physical violence often comes later.

Support services

Anawim’s free, confidential helpline is open on 0800 019 8818 for anyone who identifies as a woman to speak with a specialist female caseworker about mental health, violence and/or abuse, finances, accommodation, families and relationships, or anything else.

Alternatively, women may feel more comfortable using our live chat, which can be accessed via the orange button in the corner of this page. We can also provide legal aid and advocacy work if necessary.

While our own services are specialised for women, anyone can experience coercive control. Men can contact Respect’s helpline on 0808 8010327 to speak with someone about domestic abuse.

LGBT+ and anti-violence charity Galop provide a national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans+ domestic abuse helpline on 0800 999 5428. They can also provide support for those who have experienced hate crime and sexual violence.