What is Coercive control?
Many women we speak with find coercive control very difficult to describe.
It is a persistent pattern of controlling, coercive and threatening behaviour including all or some forms of domestic abuse (emotional, physical, financial, sexual including threats) by a boyfriend, partner, husband or ex. It traps women in a relationship and makes it impossible or dangerous to leave.
Coercive control can damage a woman’s physical and emotional well-being, and is designed to make her world small.
|Purpose / effect
|Deprives victim of all social supports and of their ability to resist.
Makes victim dependent upon captor.
Develops an intense concern with self/survival.
Preventing contact with friends / family. Being followed everywhere they go, being stopped from working, studying
|Monopolisation of Perception
|Fixes attention upon immediate predicament, and fosters introspection
Eliminates stimuli / influences that compete with those controlled by captor
Frustrates all actions not consistent with compliance
Being told you’re a failure, that the abuse is deserved; that nobody cares, that nobody will believe you
|Induced debility and exhaustion
|Weakens mental and physical ability to resist
Being expected to manage with little food, money or support, made to account for all activities/spending, meal/sleep disruption
|Cultivates anxiety and despair
Threats to harm children / family / friends, to find her if she leaves, to kill them all
‘I saw him speed off in the car; I was really upset but I didn’t want him to get hurt...I tried calling and texting but his phone was switched off’.
|Provides positive motivation to comply with captor
Apologises for an assault, sends flowers/gifts, promises that things will change
‘sometimes he can be lovely’
|Suggestions / reinforces futility of resistance
Being shown displays of total power, being physically prevented from leaving, manipulating what others see/believe
|Makes cost of resistance appear more damaging to self- esteem than capitulation.
Reduces victim to “animal level” concerns.
Having appearance controlled, forced to participate in demeaning acts, being verbally abused/humiliated
of growing fat and ugly, he said I was selfish and lazy and too stupid to go to college.
Enforcing trivial demands
|Develops habit of compliance
‘I’d always cooked the evening meal, but he started to criticise what I was making and to complain
if it wasn’t on the table when he got in; which was hard to judge when he often got held up at work’.
He would say I hadn’t hoovered if he couldn’t see lines in the carpet. Or I hadn’t cleaned
the kitchen if he couldn’t see his reflection in the work surface.