What is Coercive Control?

Coercive control is rampant and widely misunderstood or even totally unknown. So many of the women we support tell us they had never even heard of coercive control before speaking with us, and yet they’d been experiencing it for years, sometimes decades.

Coercive control is a form of emotional abuse. It is a pattern of behaviour in which the perpetrator gradually insults, shames, judges, controls and humiliates his victim as the relationship evolves, in order to instil the feeling of fear and punishment and restrict her freedom.

This might come hand in hand with “love bombing” at the beginning of the relationship and expressions of remorse, which provide hope but no changes in the abusive behaviour from the perpetrator. Read more about the cycle of abuse here.

This usually results in the woman feeling uncomfortable, confused, anxious, doubtful, scared and disempowered because she internalises the emotional abuse as her own feelings and is made to believe that she is to blame for the perpetrator’s behaviour.

It can be as subtle as sarcasm, dismissing or judging the woman’s feelings and instead telling her what she feels. Emotional abuse can also lead to the woman having nightmares, increased heart rate, difficulty concentrating and social withdrawal.

Coercive control is a criminal offence in the UK.