Coercive control

Domestic abuse is not just about bruises, it’s important you know the signs and can recognise when a relationship becomes abusive. Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour that seeks to restrict a person’s freedom by diminishing their sense of self. A significant danger with coercive control is that it can be invisible to outside and sometimes, even victims. Like all domestic abuse, coercive control can occur in any relationship between people who are closely associated with each other; it is not limited to sexual and romantic relationships. Below are some signs of coercive control, if you can identify any of the following in your relationship, it’s time to get help:


  • They create a fear, even if there’s no violence; you’re treading carefully around them, fearing their reaction.
  • Perhaps they’ve threatened a child.
  • They may even threaten to harm themselves
  • Perhaps they made threats to reveal private information about you, such as sexual orientation.
  • They may assault you and you live in fear of it happening again.
  • They may damage your property; maybe you fear what will be destroyed the next time they get angry.


  • In public, they may be ‘perfect’; those around you may have the impression that you have a great relationship.
  • They may be very charming and those around you, including the authorities are easily fooled by their act.

Diminishing your sense of self

  • A perpetrator of coercive control may repeatedly put you down and often make you feel worthless.
  • They will try to make you doubt yourself, second guessing little things which lead to you doubting the abuse as well.
  • There may be rules and activity, enforced by your abuser, which humiliate or degrade you.
  • You are isolated from your friends and family.
  • You doubt your abilities as a parent, or perhaps you think you don’t deserve better. You do, nobody deserves to be abused.


  • Your time is monitored; perhaps they monitor your online activity or phone use.
  • They may control aspects of everyday life such as what you wear or when you sleep. They may deny you access to transport.
  • They may deprive you of access to support, for example; therapy or medical services.
  • They may force you to take part in criminal behaviour; this encourages self blame and prevents you disclosing the abuse to the authorities.
  • There could be financial abuse, your finances may be controlled by your them or perhaps you’re only allowed a strictly controlled allowance.
  • Coercive control doesn’t have to happen only in the home; victims can be monitored by phone or social media from anywhere.
  • They could even use rape to force their power over you, they will be very good at minimising their unacceptable behaviour and making you doubt whether it really happened.


It is vital to be clear about coercive control; abuse is never acceptable. If you think you are in an abusive relationship or feel you need advice, speak out, talk to someone and get advice.

If you feel you are in immediate danger, call 999. If you need urgent help, please contact us on 0161 224 3311. Our solicitors are often able to obtain an order from court within 24 hours.

If you are safe but need assistance to obtain a dissolution, divorce, resolve property or children issues please do not hesitate to contact us for more information about how we can help.

For more advice and support please contact:

Victims and Survivors


Further support