Coercive control is a key feature of domestic violence and abuse. It was made a crime in December 2015.

Coercive control is a continuing act or pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim (Government definition).

It is the use of (or the threat to use) physical or sexual violence to control someone, frighten them and force them into doing  something they don't want to do. In an intimate relationship, it could be coercing them about what they wear, who they see, where they go, who they phone, what they eat, what they say, how they parent, how they observe their religion - the issue doesn't matter, it is the control which does. 

The government define controlling behaviour as a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape, and regulating their everyday behaviour.

Coercive control is repetitive and severely damaging, both emotionally and psychologically. The scars can be permanent, unless the survivor (and any children) can access the help they need to be able to heal. 

Since becoming a prosecutable offence, there have been convictions for coercive control in the UK. However, it can be very difficult to prove, especially if it does not involve physical violence.

If you think this is happening to you, our Domestic Abuse Service will help you with ways of gathering evidence.

The term "coercive control" was created by Dr Evan Stark, in his landmark book "Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life", New York 2007. He wrote:

"Not only is coercive control the most common context in which [women] are abused, it is also the most dangerous."