New laws on domestic abuse!

You may have read in the news or heard on your local police twitter feed that a law has been passed to create a new offence of “coercive control”. It sounds great that there will be  more protection for victims of domestic abuse but what actually is this new offence all about?

Coercive control is the emotional / psychological abuse of a person. In essence it 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.

The term coined by Evan Stark is likened to being taken hostage; he goes on to to say: “the victim becomes captive in an unreal world created by the abuser, entrapped in a world of confusion, contradiction and fear.”

You may have heard of  “gaslighting”, well this is an element of coercive control, where the abuser will undermine the victims confidence and self esteem and make them feel that they are overreacting, crazy, psychotic and the abuse never happened.

Women’s Aid have given a list of examples which is not exhaustive but gives an idea as to what kinds of behaviours this term covers:

Some common examples of coercive behaviour are:

* Isolating you from friends and family

* Depriving you of basic needs, such as food

* Monitoring your time

* Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware

* 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

* Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you

* Controlling your finances

* Making threats or intimidating you

The control may be gradual and become normal to the victim so an example of a partner who likes their tea made in a particular way and if it’s not made in that way they will verbally abuse the victim, may then up the anti and not allow the victim access to the kitchen and repeatedly bring up how useless they are at making a cup of tea in front of people. These small things may or may not lead on to acts of physical violence but the victims self esteem and confidence would almost definitely be left in tatters.

For more information on coercive control please visit Womens Aid

If you have been affected by domestic abuse, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247