What is coercive control, what does the law say about it and what are the signs to look out for?


COERCIVE control is a form of abuse.

It was dramatised in Radio 4’s 2016 long-running series The Archers. Here we fully explain what it is.

Coercive control may also involve an element of 'gaslighting'
Coercive control may also involve an element of ‘gaslighting’
Getty – Contributor

What is coercive control?

Coercive control describes a pattern of behaviour by an abuser that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim.

It can include threats, humiliation, manipulation, degradation and intimidation and generally monitoring or controlling the victim’s day-to-day life.

Coercive control may also involve an element of “gaslighting”.

Gaslighting is using mind games to make the victim doubt their sanity.

It can also lead to the abused person becoming isolated and dependent on their abuser.

The term was developed by forensic social worker Professor Evan Stark, now retired, who gave evidence in Sally Challen’s appeal.

What does the law say about it?

The law classes coercive control as a form of domestic abuse.

It became a criminal offence in December 2015 under section 76 of the Serious Crime Act.

And it can be punishable with up to five years in jail.

What are the signs to look out for?

The signs of coercive control include, but are not restricted to:

  • Constantly checking up on you
  • Questioning behaviour
  • Setting time limits when you are out with friends
  • Monitoring your activities
  • Putting you down in public
  • Allowing you no privacy
  • You are living in fear of upsetting them
  • Damaging your property
  • Controlling how you spend your money
  • Controlling how  you dress or style your hair


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