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Do you find yourself constantly feeling fearful, nervous and trapped in your relationship? You tell yourself that it can’t be abuse as your partner isn’t physically hurting you, so why do you feel so afraid? What you are experiencing could be coercive control.

Coercive control is a strategic form of sustained psychological and emotional abuse based on control, manipulation and oppression.  A person may not recognise that they are being controlled until their sense of autonomy and self-esteem have already come undone. There may be no signs of physical or verbal abuse which can often leave the victim questioning whether what they are experiencing is mistreatment at all. Instead of hurling insults, the abuser showers their partner with paise and compliments or “love bombs” their partner for complying with the manipulation. This can make it very hard to spot the abuse that is happening.

The controller can take on one or more of the following personas to coerce a partner into doing what they want:

The ‘bully’ – who intimidates and hurts their partner.

The ‘charmer’ – who tries to convince you that they are the perfect and loving partner.

The ‘mindmixer’ – who plays mind games.

The ‘taker’ – whose main aim is to be sexual with their partner without a healthy relationship, using sexual contact as a bargaining chip.

The ‘keeper’ – who wants to isolate you from all family and friends so that they can get you completely under their control.


Examples of coercive control:

  • Isolating you from your family and friends
  • Controlling who you talk to
  • Controlling what you wear
  • Controlling what you eat
  • Controlling your finances
  • Humiliation
  • Twisting things you say or do
  • Degrading you
  • Depriving you of basic needs such as food
  • Bombarding you with calls / messages
  • Giving you the silent treatment
  • Making you feel that you are in the wrong and it is all your fault
  • Pressurising you into a sexual activity or using intimacy as a bargaining tool
  • Using technology to keep tabs on you


In 2015, coercive control became a recognised crime in the UK and is punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment, unlimited fine or both.


Under Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 it is legally coercive control and a crime in the UK if:

  • the person repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards you that is controlling or coercive
  • you are personally connected to the person at the time of the behaviour e.g. a partner, ex-partner or family member
  • the behaviour has a serious effect on you, and
  • the person knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on you.


Need help?

Nextlink – 0800 4700 280. Their domestic abuse helplines are open for Men, Women and children in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset 8.30-5.30pm Monday to Friday and Saturday 9.30-1pm

Respect – Men’s Advice Line for male victims of abuse 0808 8010 327

Galop – LGBQ+ anti-violence helpline 0800 999 5428

Refuge – a national charity for women and children experiencing domestic violence and abuse 0808 2000 247

SafeLives – national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse 0117 403 3220

Sign Health – provides a support service to help deaf women and children who experience domestic abuse [email protected]

Southall Black Sisters – provide a range of advice and support services to enable black and minority women who are experiencing domestic abuse 0208 571 9595

If you feel you are in immediate danger – call 999


Lyons Davidson solicitors have a dedicated team specialising in Family Law and would be able to advise you on the options that are available to you.  Please contact us on 0344 251 0070. You can also email us at [email protected].




Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Please be aware that the relevant law may have changed since the date of publication of this article.