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Coercive Control

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What is Coercive Control?

Coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. This controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour. (Women’s Aid)

It is designed to exploit, control, create dependency and dominate. It can begin with lovebombing and charm to get the victim into the relationship. Gaslighting, isolation, economic control and financial abuse and rules and regulations are gradually introduced over time once the victim is emotionally invested as well as consequences for if they are broken. The rules only apply to the victim. Over time the coercive controlling behaviour erodes the victim’s sense of self, confidence, self-esteem, agency and autonomy.

Lovebombing is an intense and constant stream of love communications, texts, emails, notes and gifts to sweep a person off their feet and intoxicate them. It is designed to make you fall in love. It is unlikely to feel like bombardment. It is flattering, and is meant to feel like the kind of romance in movies.

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assaults, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten their victim.” The Home Office

  • Serious Crime Act 2015 Controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship is defined in Section 76 of the Act (for those over 16).
  • The Home Office produced a statutory framework in 2015.
  • The Children and Young People Act 1933 provides protection for those aged under 16 who are subjected to coercive control.
  • The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 amends the controlling or coercive behaviour offence to remove the ‘living together’ requirement, which means it may now apply to partners and ex-partners, or family members regardless of whether the victim and perpetrator live together. This will commence from Spring 2022.

The Offence of controlling or coercive control is devolved in Wales.

Welsh Women’s Aid Training: Understanding the impact of Coercive and Controlling Behaviour in Violence Against Women. A CPD Certified course.

Hafan Cymru: Coercive and Controlling Behaviour training. The course is aimed at providing knowledge of coercive control with an overview of the offence as part of the Serious Crime Act December 2015.

Welsh Government, This is not Love. This is Control – extended version, there is also a shorter campaign film. The campaign focused on the signs of an unhealthy controlling relationship to encourage victims, bystanders and perpertrators to recognise these behaviours as abusive.

Victims First: Don’t Disappear – a story of relationship abuse. The story of Jamie and Emma’s relationship, from the seemingly loving early stages to the development of coercive and controlling behaviours (with subtitles).

Useful Links

Welsh Government

Visit the site

Victim Support 

Visit the site

Help and Support

For victims, families and concerned people

Coercive control is a criminal offence. The Live Fear Free helpline is available for 24hour free advice and support on 0808 8010 800.

Support around coercive control is normally provided through the same mechanisms as domestic abuse.


There are many signs of coercive control these are just some of them:

  • Isolating the victim from their support system: cutting them off from family and friends or allowing limited contact.
  • Monitoring the victims activity throughout the day: Using mobile phone and security technology.
  • Denying the victim freedom and autonomy: stalking every move when out, restricting access to transportation.
  • Gaslighting: Making the victim question their own memory, apologise and try to make amends.
  • Name-calling and putting the victim down: malicious put-downs and frequent criticisms are all forms of bullying behaviour, designed to make the victim feel unimportant and deficient.
  • Limiting the victims access to money: controlling finances to restrict the victims freedom, and monitoring what is spent.
  • Reinforcing traditional gender roles: to coerce a woman to take care of all the cleaning, cooking and childcare.
  • Turning the victims children against them: weaponize the children by stating what a bad parent the victim is or belittling them in front of the children.
  • Controlling aspects of the victims health and body: how much they eat, sleep, exercise, medications etc. Insist on attending all medical appointments.
  • Policing the victims lifestyle: telling them what to wear and where to go
  • Making jealous accusations: as a way to phase out and minimise contact with other people.
  • Depriving access to help: such as limits access to medical assistance
  • Regulating the sexual relationship
  • Threatening a victims children or pets: in an attempt to control them.
  • Blackmailing a victim: to stay and do as they say or they will tell a secret or share private facts and information.