Coercive control

It’s usual to have a disagreement, or not to agree with your partner. It’s usual to have an opinion to the point of not being swayed. Those are usual traits of a normal healthy relationship, but when are the boundaries crossed so that the relationship goes from one that is healthy to one that isn’t?

Abuse comes in many guises. It could be a word, or a sentence. It could be a high-pitched voice to the point where we lose control. Abuse in the form of control is known as coercive control.

Coercive control comprises a pattern of behaviour that seeks to take away a person’s sense of self, where unconnected or non-isolated incidents take place, with the sole purpose of taking away that person’s freedom.

And the abuse doesn’t stop there. A child growing up in that kind of environment are living with domestic abuse, particularly because they will be in direct contact with the perpetrator. Coercive behaviour is something that happens over a period of time where the perpetrator will repeatedly antagonise and control their victim.

Unfortunately, there isn’t always a set pattern to the perpetrator’s behaviour. It may happen at a time when they are stressed, or emotionally struggling, but coercive behaviour is almost expected to happen and is controlling when it does. The abuse creates an ongoing sense of fear, where the victim permanently ends up walking on eggshells.

Although a long time in coming, the UK Government has now introduced and sees ‘coercive control’ as a domestic abuse offence. If convicted, the offence carries up to 5 years in jail and a fine. Whilst legislative framework in the past has failed to recognise coercive control as a form of domestic violence or abuse, thankfully it is now being recognized.

The facts are startling. 20% of all children in the UK have been exposed to domestic abuse (NSPCC 2011) and in 90% of all cases children were in the same or next room.

27 Sep, 2016

12 thoughts on “Coercive control

  1. Well, this sounds very familiar, as my parents were great at this! They were both very passive-aggressive most of the time so it was definitely like walking on eggshells.

    My Mother worked on training me from a very early age to do her bidding and was quite sadistic in making me suffer if I didn’t. This sounds like a very good term for what I went through.

    It’s no wonder that I have fallen into that pattern on being in relationships, where this would still be happening. When I look back on them, they were all very dysfunctional to put it mildly.

    This is exactly why I may need to stay single for a while to work on myself, so that I won’t keep following the same patterns.

    1. Thanks Randy. Yes, what you think you’ve been through is more common than you think or would believe. It’s easy to come from one dysfunctional relationship and go into another.

      We tend to continue to repeat the same patterns until we change them, but I believe we can. It’s all about taking back control and being aware of our experiences to want to change them.

      Some parents, but not all are very good at showing us ‘how not to do things.’ If we work on that assumption, we’ll learn after a while what to copy and what to walk away from, but it’s all to do with our conscious thinking.

  2. This sort of abuse comes in many guises, but there is no doubt it is abuse.

    There is no room for this behaviour in any relationship, more so if children are a witness to this abuse. It takes a strong person to see and accept this is happening and that is the first step to taking control back and saying, ‘no’ it’s not acceptable.

    Whether it is appropriate to try and help change the pattern of behaviour or walk away depends on individual circumstances, but I would add there is an old saying that it is better to come from a broken home, than to live in one.

    1. I have to agree with you, better to come from a broken home than to live in one. But I would say whether children are involved or not, there is no room for abuse in any relationship.

      Unfortunately, I feel abuse is too common place. Words are banded about with no disregard of what’s being said, but those words are still classed as abuse. We need to go back to basics on how people talk to one another.

  3. What gets me is that abusers like this always claim their innocence and the victims usually cover up for them, by then the abused have little self-worth.

    It has happened to me and it wouldn’t have been so harsh if I hadn’t allowed it. But if you’ve never been knocked down, you’ll never really know how to fight.

    1. Thanks Tim. Yes, I feel your pain, but society is beginning to move forward slightly.

      Victims are afraid to speak out because they fear for their lives; afraid to leave; afraid of what will happen if they inform the authorities. They never do it out of loyalty. It’s more about fear.

  4. I feel I needed to see this. I’ve had an actual problem with my sister. She’s very negative over the years, from our teens to adult hood. I won’t go into it here, but her behaviour toward me and my children has closed a locked door between her and I that I feel can never be opened.

    Not to mention very hostile toward my husband. My heart hurts yes, because she’s my sister, but I can no longer continue.Running in circles trying to find a foundation that her and I share and getting nowhere.

    Tonight was a breaking point for me and the hardest part is saying goodbye to her because of her actions and hurtful words.

    1. I believe things happen for a reason and this blog was meant to be here for you today. I’m pleased it has helped Bonnie.

      What you are going through isn’t about you Bonnie. It never has been and until your sister comes to terms with her own behaviour and personality, there’s probably nothing you can do to change that.

      My mum used to throw a saying at me which goes, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but calling names won’t harm me.’ And it’s true. If there was some truth in your sister’s words and you had things that you needed to change to make your relationship better, you would come to recognise your own mistakes and how you could change those.

      You can’t because there’s nothing you’ve done that has brought you to this place. There may be a time in the future where things between you and your sister may change, but no one should have to tolerate this kind of behaviour.

      From my own experiences, when something is made about us, but isn’t about us, it’s easier to move on. It’s hard saying goodbye to the life we could have had of course, but our emotional health and staying well is the biggest price to pay if we don’t let go of the stress, associated with that particular issue.

  5. Thank you Ilana! You know the exact words to say to help heal a broken heart.

    I’ve cried all night because I mentally said goodbye to my sister, whom I’ll always love. But I felt I had to exile her to keep that negativity and constant drama from my husband and girls.

  6. I most certainly will. Thank you for all your support. She just had brain surgery and I’d love to talk to her for support and care but she’s too mean.

    I love her, I want the absolute best for her. So here goes the white light!

    1. You’re welcome. Hopefully your sister will one day realise and come to understand her issues and want to change.

      Once we begin to think about and recognise the things that are harming us, we do begin to see the light and slowly begin to change things; but we usually have to hit rock bottom before we do.

      Keep putting out your positive thoughts and wish her the best and never give up hope for her. Hopefully one day it will come.

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Ilana x