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Domestic Abuse: Coercive Or Controlling Behaviour

The government recently increased funding to councils to help support victims of domestic abuse. This is due to an increase in demand for assistance by those suffering domestic abuse during the Covid-19 government lockdowns. There is still a common misconception that domestic abuse constitutes physical abuse however, a form of domestic abuse often overlooked is coercive or controlling behaviour which is actually a criminal offence since 2015.

Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse that can affect anyone at all levels of society regardless of race, religion, sex etc. It is a particularly damaging form of domestic abuse which we are seeing increasingly in our cases.

What is coercive or controlling behaviour?

The offence of coercive or controlling behaviour is set out under the Serious Crime Act 2015:

  • If a person (A) repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person (B) that is controlling or coercive,
  • at the time of the behaviour, A and B are personally connected,
  • the behaviour has a serious effect on B, and
  • A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on B.

This means that in order to prove such an offence, the behaviour must have been repeated or continuous (at least two instances) and had a negative effect on B’s daily activities which A knew or should have known about. An example of this is if A was continuously preventing B from speaking to their family or monitoring their calls. If this was affecting B negatively by removing their autonomy and family support and A knew or ought to have known this behaviour is affecting B it could be an offense.

Examples of coercive and controlling behaviour

There are various examples of such behaviour which may seem very subtle as isolated instances however over time could have a serious impact on the victim. A non-exhaustive list of examples include:

  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Control over finances
  • Taking/monitoring of mobile phone
  • Subtle verbal abuse such as belittling and putting down
  • Threatening to harm the victim or a child
  • Threats of family ‘dishonour’
  • Restricting autonomy – controlling what a person does, where they can go or who they speak to
  • Gaslighting – making accusations which make the victim question their own actions such as telling them one thing and then arguing with them

No one should be suffering from abuse or coercive controlling behaviour.

Always take independent legal advice regarding your rights if you feel you are vulnerable. Our specialist family law experts have years of experience in helping domestic abuse victims. Contact us on 0808 252 5231 or request a call back online.