What is coercive control?
Coercive control is when a person with whom you are personally connected, repeatedly behaves in a way which makes you feel controlled, dependent, isolated or scared.
The following types of behaviour are common examples of coercive control:
- isolating you from your friends and family
- controlling how much money you have and how you spend it
- monitoring your activities and your movements
- repeatedly putting you down, calling you names or telling you that you are worthless
- threatening to harm or kill you or your child
- threatening to publish information about you or to report you to the police or the authorities
- damaging your property or household goods
- forcing you to take part in criminal activity or child abuse
Some of the behaviours in this list can be other offences as well as coercive control, so your abuser can be arrested for more than one offence for the same behaviour. For example, if your abuser broke your phone as part of his coercive control then he could be arrested and charged for coercive control and also the offence of criminal damage.
Your abuser will be guilty of the offence of coercive control if
- he is personally connected to you, and
- his behaviour has had a serious effect on you, and
- your abuser knew or ought to have known that his behaviour would have a serious effect on you.
What does serious effect mean?
Your abuser’s behaviour is considered to have a serious effect on you if:
- on at least two occasions you have feared that violence will be used against you, or
- you have felt serious alarm or distress and it has had a substantial effect on your usual day to day activities. The behaviour has had a substantial effect on you if it has caused you to change the way you live. For example, you may have changed the way you socialise, your physical or mental health may have deteriorated, you may have changed the way you do household chores or how you care for your children. If you have changed the way you live in order to keep you or your children safe from harm, it is possible that the behaviour you are experiencing is coercive control.
How will the court decide whether my abuser knew or ought to have known that his behaviour would have a serious effect on me?
The court will decide based on whether a reasonable person who had all the information your abuser had would have known that the behaviour would have a serious effect on you.
Are we personally connected?
Only someone who is personally connected to you can commit an offence of coercive control. You are personally connected to your abuser if you:
- are or have been married to each other;
- are or have been civil partners of each other;
- are or have been engaged to marry one another;
- have entered into a civil partnership agreement;
- are or have been in an intimate relationship with one another;
- have each had a parental relationship in relation to the same child.
A new law came into force on 5 April 2023. This new law removed the previous requirement that the victim and suspect be cohabiting (living together) when the behaviour occurred. Behaviour that occurs before 5 April 2023 which involves partners, ex-partners, and family members who are not living together cannot be coercive and controlling behaviour, but it may amount to another offence.
You are also personally connected to your abuser if he or she is a family member who you live with. A family member could be anyone you are related to or have a child with, or any person who you have ever entered into or agreed to enter into a marriage or civil partnership with. A family member can also be a person who your spouse is related to and that you live with, for example, your husband’s parents who you live with.