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What is Coercive Control?

Updated: Aug 11, 2019

Coercive control describes the emotional and psychological abuse within a relationship, where the abuser controls with the use of threats or intimidation. It is a kind of emotional abuse that is seen in narcissistic abusive relationships. Domestic abuse of this kind does not usually include physical violence, so no bruises or marks are visible, however it is deeply controlling and damaging abuse. It is also against the law in England and Wales.

Threats from a partner may or may not be upheld but regardless, coercive control is a criminal offence that can be reported to the police and family protection measures be sought and granted. Psychological and emotional abuse, such as narcissistic abuse and coercive control is more and more recognised and there is a legal system in place to help protect you from this.

Coercive control is when a person you know and are personally connected to repeatedly acts in any way that leaves you feeling intimidated, frightened, anxious, dependent or isolated. Some common examples of this include:

*Holding financial control over you. Managing all funds and giving you limited amounts, controlling or monitoring what you have or what you spend it on.

*Trying to isolate you aware from friends or family. This may include encouraging you to give up work so that you are isolated away from colleagues. It also increases dependence.

*Monitoring or controlling what you do, where you go and who with.

*Undermining you, putting you down, criticising or judging you.

*Saying things like "you'll never meet anybody else", "nobody else will want you", "nobody else will love you like I do".

*Trying, in whichever way, to restrict the things you do or say.

*Guilt-tripping or fear-mongering

*Threatening to harm you or your children or family.

*Making threats to share personal, private information about you to others.

*Threatening to report you to social services, to make claims you are a bad parent or report information about you to authorities.

*Not respecting your personal space or personal belongings.

*Putting you under pressure to do things you don't want to do (Perhaps sexual or criminal behaviour).

*Gas-lighting you. This can include denying things they have said or done, to the point you then start to question your own judgement or sanity.

If you recognise this in your personal situation and need help in ending or getting away from an abusive partner please know that there is help available, there is a legal system in place to tackle this and that it is important to reach out.

In cases of emergency contact the police. More information and advice on the law around this issue is available here:

Otherwise a list of organisations that may be able to provide help, guidance and support in the UK include:

There are also counsellors and therapists with a specialism and experience in abuse you may find from local searches who can offer you support and guidance. The main thing is that you find a way to reach out and know that nobody should live in fear or feel repeatedly intimidated or threatened in a relationship. Further information about emotional abuse and recovery can be found in the book Never Again - moving on from narcissistic abuse and other toxic relationships by Dr. Sarah Davies

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