Domestic Abuse

Controlling and coercive behaviour is a form of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is when someone close to you such as a spouse, partner or family member causes you physical, social, mental, financial or emotional harm. Domestic abuse occurs across society regardless of age, sex, gender, race, wealth or sexuality.

Domestic abuse can include but is not limited to some of the following types of abuse: -

  • Physical – hitting, pushing, strangling
  • Sexual – forcing sex, controlling or withholding contraception
  • Financial – controlling money, not being allowed to work, being forced to justify expenditure
  • Emotional – threats to harm, constant criticism or put downs, humiliation, jealous behaviour

What is controlling and coercive behaviour?

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person feel 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 assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish or frighten the victim.

Controlling or coercive behaviour does not relate to a single incident of abuse. It is a pattern of behaviour which takes place over time for one person to exert power or control or coercion over another

This type of behaviour amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse. It is recognised that the harm caused by coercion or control can be more harmful than a single incident of physical violence.

The family team at Myerson often assist clients who report this form of abuse to be far worse and more harmful than any physical abuse they may have been subject to.

Types of coercion or controlling behaviour can include the following: -

  • Isolating you from your friends and family
  • Monitoring your time
  • Telling you what to wear and where you can go
  • Telling you who you can socialise with
  • Monitoring you via online communication tools or using spyware
  • Repeatedly putting you down and telling you that you are worthless
  • Controlling how much money you have and how you should spend it
  • Preventing you from working or having access to transport
  • Threatening to harm or kill you or your child
  • Forcing you to have sex or controlling contraception
  • Forcing you to have sex with others or using pornography without consent
  • Damaging your property or household contents
  • Limiting your access to family, friends and finances
  • Providing you with a very limited about of money to live on or making you justify all expenditure or hand over your wages

It is a criminal offence for someone to subject you to coercive and controlling behaviour. It is a serious offence and carries a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine.

For the offence of coercive of controlling behaviour to apply the behaviour must take place repeatedly or continuously and have a serious effect on the victim. The victim must have been caused to either fear that violence would be used against them on at least two occasions or that they have been caused serious alarm or distress which has had a substantial adverse effect on the victim’s usual day to day activities.

The behaviour must be such that the perpetrator of the abuse knows or ought to know that it will have a serious effect on the victim.

Only someone who is personally connected to you can commit an offence of coercive control. You are personally connected to your abuser if you are in an intimate personal relationship with them, if you are no longer in a relationship but still live together or if you are family members.

If you are experiencing this form of abuse, then you can report it to the police. If the matter is urgent you should contact the police by calling 999. If it is not an emergency, then you can contact the police by attending at your local police station or by calling 101.

If you are or have been a victim of controlling or coercive behaviour you may not recognise it yourself. It is important that you seek assistance if you ever feel unsafe or afraid.

How can coercive and controlling behaviour be evidenced?

The police can investigate reports of controlling or coercive behaviour and gather evidence. You may be able to assist the police by providing some or all of the following: -

  • Emails
  • Phone records
  • Bank records to show financial control
  • Diary kept by victim
  • Evidence of isolation
  • GPS tracking devices installed on mobile phones, tablets and cars
  • Text messages

Help from the Family Courts

Our specialist family solicitors can help you to get legal protection from the Family Court if you feel that you or your children are at risk of harm from domestic abuse.

There are injunctions that can be applied for including non-molestation orders and occupation orders to protect you from abuse.  

A non-molestation order forbids someone associated with you from threatening or using violence towards you, harassing, pestering or communicating with you. The court must take into consideration all the circumstances including the need to secure your health, safety and wellbeing and that of any children you may have. A breach of a non-molestation order is a criminal offence and the police have the power to arrest in the event of a breach of the order.

An occupation order is an order that regulates the occupation of the family home. These types of orders can be obtained where significant harm to you or any relevant children is likely. An occupation order may include an order that someone leave the home or exclude someone from a defined area within or around the home.

There are several national and local organisations who can provide support and we have included some links below. If you are unsure if you are experiencing abuse, we can put you in touch with a domestic violence support service who will listen to you and offer you information, advice and support.

Next steps?

At Myerson we understand that cases involving domestic abuse are both complex and sensitive. We work with local domestic abuse services and counsellors to make sure that the right help is provided by the right team of professionals.

Our family law team are experienced in obtaining protective orders and can act quickly if required.

Legal aid may be available depending on your income and capital position. Find out if you are eligible for legal aid.

Myerson are unable to offer legal aid, but we can put you in touch with solicitors who provide legal aid and specialise in family law matters involving domestic abuse.

You can find more information here: