Coercive control is a form of emotional abuse. It is a pattern of behaviour in which the perpetrator gradually and often subtly insults, shames, judges, controls and humiliates you as the relationship evolves. This instils the feeling of fear and punishment and restricts your freedom. Coercive control is like being in a prison with no walls.
It can be as subtle as a certain look, or teeth grinding to warn you to “stay in line”, sarcasm, dismissing or judging your feelings and instead telling you what you feel.
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.
Coercive control / emotional abuse usually results in you feeling uncomfortable, confused, anxious, doubtful, scared and disempowered because you internalise the emotional abuse as your own feelings and are made to believe that you’re to blame for your abusive partner’s behaviour. It can also lead to you having nightmares, increased heart rate, difficulty concentrating and social withdrawal.
Coercive control is domestic abuse.
Emotional abuse is domestic abuse.
- Under the Serious Crime Act 2015, coercive and controlling behaviour is a criminal offence in England.
Sexual abuse is if you are engaging in sexual activity that physically or emotionally hurts you or that you are not comfortable with, simply for the pleasure of your partner. You might feel “dirty” or “used” after engaging in sexual acts because your partner manipulated or threatened you into the act.
If you don’t feel comfortable saying “no”, it is sexual abuse. If you feel like you are punished for not engaging in sexual acts, it is sexual abuse. If you feel like the only way you receive affection from your partner is through sex, or if you feel you are punished by being forced to have sex, then it is sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse is domestic abuse.
- Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, marital rape and sexual assault are criminal offence in England.
- Under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, economic abuse is a criminal offence in England.
Digital abuse can take many forms and has become increasingly common in the age of smartphones and smart homes, whereby technology is used by an abusive partner to harass, stalk, bully and intimidate their victim.
If your partner tells you who you can and can’t be friends with online or what pictures you can and can’t upload to your social media, it’s digital abuse. If your partner insists that you share your passwords despite you not feeling comfortable doing so, it is digital abuse. If your partner puts you down, threatens you or blackmails you on social media, or constantly messages you and makes you feel bad for not responding straight away then it’s digital abuse.
If your partner uses spyware on your phone and laptop or puts a GPS tracker on your car to follow your movements, it is digital abuse. If your partner shares intimate photos or videos of you without your consent to cause you distress (revenge porn), it’s digital abuse. If your partner looks through your phone frequently to check your calls, messages, internet search history and pictures, it is digital abuse.
Digital abuse is domestic abuse.
Find out more about how to cover your tracks online here.
Look through Refuge’s useful resource on how to break up digitally.
- Under the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, revenge porn is a criminal offence in England.
- Under the 1998 Malicious Communications Act, social media bullying is a criminal offence in England.
There are 4 (F.O.U.R) signs to stalking and harassing behaviour: it is fixated, obsessive, unwanted and repeated, and the most common perpetrators of stalking are ex-partners.
If your ex-partner sends you unwanted gifts or bombards you with unwanted, threatening messages and phone calls, it’s stalking and harassment. If your (ex-)partner follows you home or shows up at your place of work, it’s stalking and harassment. If your ex partner sends you unwanted social media friend requests from lots of new different accounts, it’s stalking & harassment.
Stalking is distressing to experience and often has a huge emotional impact on you. Depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, paranoia. Agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder are all common side effects of stalking.
Stalking & harassment is domestic abuse.
- Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, stalking and harassment are criminal offences in England
Verbal abuse is a type of emotional abuse which also forms part of coercive control. It’s when an abusive partner uses language to intimidate, gaslight, manipulate, assault, scare, ridicule, dominate and degrade you, which makes you lose confidence and self-esteem, among other negative impacts on your wellbeing.
If your partner threatens or harrasses you in private or in public, it is verbal abuse. If your partner insults you, name-calls you or shouts at you, then makes you feel bad for being “too sensitive” or “unable to take a joke”, it is verbal abuse. If you’re scared of being out in public with your partner because you worry about what they might say in front of others, it is verbal abuse. If your partner puts you down by dismissing or insulting what you think, want, do, wear or say, then it is verbal abuse. If your partner gaslights you with words by trying to make you feel like he is the victim and you are the abuser, it is verbal abuse. If your partner constantly interrupts or corrects you when you’re speaking, it’s verbal abuse. If your partner gives you prolonged silent treatment — also known as stonewalling — it is verbal abuse.
Verbal abuse is domestic abuse.
- Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, and Malicious Communications Act 1998, several types of verbal abuse are criminal offences in England.