How do we define it?

Coercive control is a form of abuse that uses manipulation and controlling behaviour to gain power and control over another person. It is often a pattern of behaviour were the abused partner finds it difficult to leave.

Coercive control forms an unfair and unequal power dynamic within the relationship were the abuser uses harmful, punishing or frightening behaviour to gain or maintain power in the relationship.

What does coercive control look like?

Coercive control can take on many forms. It is most often identifiable by the perpetrator in the relationship taking or maintaining a role of power and authority over others within the relationship or home.

Examples of coercive control are…

  • Isolating you from family and friends through negative talk and attitudes towards them, causing issues and problems and asking you to choose between them and other important relationships in your life.
  • Expecting you to live by their rules, fearing consequences or repercussions if rules are not followed or expectations are not met.
  • Jealousy and accusations where you may be accused of flirting, giving others more attention or loving others, children, family members or friends more than them.
  • Parental alienation can occur when children are encouraged to disrespect you or not listen to reasonable requests from you. Your relationship with children may feel sabotaged or damaged. Your children may treat you in a similar manner to the perpetrator.
  • Control your sexual relationship through nagging or demanding sex, refusing sex and affection as a means of punishment. Ask or expect you to meet their sexual needs and do things that you do not want to. Decide when, were and how you will be intimate.
  • Threatening to harm you, children, family members or pets. Threats can also be to damage property or personal belongings.
  • Threatening to report you to children’s social care or the police.
  • Blackmailing you and threatening to send personal information, images and recordings via social media to family members or work colleagues.
  • Damaging personal belongings such as clothing, make up and work clothes so you are unable to continue with your normal daily routines.
  • Expecting access to your phone and social media accounts. Monitoring where you are, who you spend time with and asking for pictures or video calls to prove were you are and who you are with.
  • Financially controlling you by taking control of finances, expecting you to explain purchases, provide receipts or you feel concerned about spending money or need to ask permission to spend money. You may not have any spare money or be left paying all bills, childcare and household essentials.
  • Denying you the right to medical support, contraception or birth control.
  • Shouting, swearing, criticising, nagging and putting you down.
  • Controlling how much sleep you have, what you eat, how you dress or how you act.
  • They may gaslight you which may cause you to feel confused and question your own thoughts, perceptions and judgements. They may use the silent treatment as punishment when you do not behave how they want you to.

How you may respond to coercive control

  • Feeling ashamed, hurt, confused and terrified.
  • Loss of confidence and doubting yourself.
  • Stopping doing what makes you happy.
  • Not following usual routines or attending hobbies.
  • Not seeing friends and family.
  • You may feel powerless or worthless.
  • Constantly second guess yourself.
  • More dependent on the perpetrator.
  • Unable to leave, or resist changes

Need to report an emergency?

Dial 999 or call the
24h National Domestic Violence Helpline
0808 2000 247

Get in touch