Is Your Partner Exerting Coercive Behaviour?

By Victoria Richardson - 15th February 2021

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Controlling or coercive behaviour is a type of non-physical abuse. It is often at the heart of domestic abuse cases, and may involve things such as threats, monitoring your actions, isolating you from family and friends, and intimidating you.

If coercive behaviour is a factor in your case, we can use the law to protect you and your children from harm.

Coercive behaviour and the law

Coercive behaviour describes someone’s need for total emotional control over their partner, using subtle or sneaky tactics. The law defines it as “an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse which is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim”.

If your partner is exerting coercive control over you and you still live together, then he or she could face criminal charges and even a prison sentence. Even if you no longer live together or ‘co-habit’, your partner’s history of coercive behaviour will be taken into account during your separation or divorce. It may influence child care decisions made by the court. You may also be able to secure domestic abuse injunctions.

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Examples of coercive behaviour

According to the law, it is illegal in England and Wales for your partner to do things such as:

  • Restrict your access to money – a partner should not restrict your access to funds or request receipts for money spent.
  • Threaten to reveal private things about you – your partner should not threaten to reveal personal and/or private information about you.
  • Put tracking devices on your phone – by way of spyware or tracking your devices or logging in your social media accounts.
  • Share sexually explicit images of you – whether online or showing a third party.
  • Repeatedly put you down – name calling, mocking and insulting behaviour should not be tolerated.
  • Stop you seeing friends or family – you should not be isolated from seeing people
  • Scare you – from using their size to intimidate you, punching walls, destroying your possessions or threatening your pets.
  • Be extremely jealous – you should not be accused of cheating or tolerate a possessive partner.
  • Make you obey their rules – a relationship is not a dictatorship and your partner should not force you to behave in a particular manner.
  • Control over what you wear – your partner should not dictate what you wear.
  • Force you to do things you don’t want to – from forcing you to have sex, commit a crime or look at pornography.

All of these actions could be construed as controlling or coercive behaviour.

Understanding coercive control

The difference between a healthy relationship and an abusive one isn’t always noticeable.

If you or someone you care about needs help or support relating to such abuse, there are support networks and charities available to men and women, including RefugeVictim Support and IDAS. If you would prefer to speak with someone familiar, you could make an appointment with your GP.

Be careful when accessing internet resources on these topics on a shared computer or linked devices, if you and your partner remain together. Many websites have an “exit page” button to enable you to close the webpage quickly. You should also check your browser history to make sure that there is no trail left of the pages you have visited.

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Coercive behaviour in family law

In our experience, both physical and emotional separation are essential to escaping this kind of abuse, whether that is through divorce, separation, obtaining non-molestation orders or complete relocation.

As specialist family law solicitors, we can help you achieve this freedom, ensuring the safety of both you and your children.

Speak to our domestic abuse solicitors

If you are ready to leave an abusive partner and need legal advice, please contact us for a free, confidential discussion.

Alternatively, if you are on the receiving end of false allegations, we are specialised in defending unfounded accusations of domestic abuse.

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