Coercive and Controlling Behaviour
You may experience Controlling or Coercive behaviour before a single incident of physical or sexual
act occurs. Sometimes the behaviour might seem innocent, especially if seen in isolation of other
incidents, and you may not be aware of it, or be ready to acknowledge it as abusive behaviour. The
consideration of the cumulative impact of controlling or coercive behaviour and the pattern of
behaviour within the context of your relationship is crucial. It can look like the following;
Isolating you from your friends and family
Depriving you of basic needs such as food, water, warmth, medication or the ability to work
Monitoring your time
Monitoring you via online communication tools, such as Facebook, Instagram or other social
media or using spyware
Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see,
what to wear and when you can sleep
Repeatedly putting you down such as telling you, you are worthless
Controlling finances, such as only allowing you an inadequate allowance
s to hurt or kill you or someone close to you, including threats to hurt a pet or
Preventing you from having access to transport.
Making you carry out demeaning tasks or criminal activity
Making you carry out household chores for hours on end
This is not an exhaustive list. The behaviour will often be personalised to you, using information you
have shared. This may be linked to your past, your sexual orientation, or other vulnerability. It may
feel like your freedom is limited and your ability to escape the relationship or situation is severely
How will I know it’s happening to me?
It is very difficult to know in the early stages of a coercive controlling relationship if the behaviour is
abusive or just part of a committed, intense relationship. Those abusers who practice coercive
controlling behaviour are clever and manipulative and groom their victims and everyone around
them. They may be plausible, charming and appear besotted with the relationship.
If you suspect you are being coercively controlled, but are not sure ask yourself the following
Am I frightened of not doing things correctly?
Am I isolated from my family and friends?
Am I adapting my behaviour to meet the needs of my partner/relative even to my own
Am I managing his/her moods and walking on eggshells?
Do the goalposts keep moving?
Am I agreeing to things, just to keep the peace?
Do I feel to blame for his/her poor behaviour towards me?
What can I do if I think I am being coercively controlled?
If you have answered yes to any of the questions above you may be in a coercive controlling
relationship. Seek help. The Police and other domestic abuse services can help you. Talk to a friend
or supportive relative or your GP.
What the law says and why is it now an offence.
In December 2015 the Government introduced new legislation to cover coercive and controlling
behaviour. This was in response to survivors stating repeatedly that domestic abuse was often not
just in terms of a physical or sexual act but was a pattern of behaviour which took away their
autonomy and sense of self, often degraded them and eroded confidence and took away their ability
to make decision and had a substantia effect on their day to day life.
The Act of Parliament described it as;
Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or
other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim
Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent
by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal
gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating
their everyday behaviour