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.
If that is the case, the abuse doesn’t stop there. When a child observes that kind of behaviour, they will live with domestic abuse, particularly if they’re also 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 their behaviour. It may happen at a time when the perpetrator is 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, 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.