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What is Coercive and Controlling Behaviour?

High profile cases, such as the conviction of Sally Challen, who was convicted of killing her husband, Richard, in 2010 after a lifetime of being controlled and humiliated by him, have highlighted the devastating impact of coercive control behaviour in relationships. At the time, coercive control was not recognised as a sign of domestic abuse – this did not change until 2015. 

Today, the depths of control that Sally Challen endured during the course of her marriage is well documented, and her life conviction was finally overturned through appeal and reduced to manslaughter. Her case was a turning point in understanding the different forms of domestic abuse. Coercive control is now enshrined in law as a recognised form of domestic abuse. 

The Definition of Coercive Control 

Coercive control in a relationship is a pattern of behaviour over a prolonged period of time that humiliates, manipulates, gaslights and degrades the woman. While the abuse tends to be more psychological, the threat of violence may also be present, adding to the overall sense of control. 

The aim of the control is to encourage emotional and physical dependency, isolating them from friends and family and any other external support, and regulating every move they make during the course of the day. The victim ends up living in an unreal vacuum, confused, and frightened. 

How is the Coercive Control Law Defined? 

Within coercive control law, certain behaviour and actions are highlighted as indicative of abuse being committed. These include (but are in no means exhaustive): 

  • Physical violence and threats of violence 
  • Sexual assault, coercion or abuse, threats of sexual abuse 
  • Emotional and psychological abuse 
  • Verbal abuse 
  • Economic abuse 
  • Monitoring a victim’s daily activities and forcing them to account for every minute of their time 
  • Monitoring, controlling, and restricting a victim’s use of social media and communication devices. 
  • Isolating the victim from friends, family, and other social situations 
  • Using alcohol or other substances as a form of control 
  • Weaponising children as a form of control 
  • Weaponising pets as a form of control 

Controlling and Coercive Behaviour Sentencing Guidelines 

Since the domestic abuse law was updated in 2023, there are now very clear guidelines on what constitutes controlling and coercive behaviour and how to prove coercive control. It is incumbent on the victim to demonstrate that the behaviour has occurred on two or more occasions, or continuously, having a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities.  

Affordable Justice has many years of experience in helping support women victims of coercive control who are seeking to extract themselves from such relationships. The firm recognises how the control does not stop even once the relationship has ended. Many men continue to attempt to exploit and manipulate the family law court processes, delaying decisions, forcing additional expenses onto the victim’s shoulders, and retraumatising women in court by forcing them to relive certain circumstances. 

Because we ONLY support women, we are well versed in the coercive control tactics that these men deploy, and work to minimise the impact on our women clients.  

Contact Affordable Justice if you are seeking a legal service that works for you.