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Coercive control is now recognised as the behaviour that underpins domestic abuse. It is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim’s sense of self, minimising their freedom of action and violating their human rights. It is also used in other types of abuse such as modern day slavery.
The Serious Crime Act 2015 creates a new offence of controlling or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships (section 76). The new offence closes a gap in the law around patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour in an ongoing relationship between intimate partners or family members. This page signposts to resources to support social workers to put the law into practice, and draws from an open access resource developed by Research in Practice for Adults (RiPfA) and Women’s Aid.
Video introduction to coercive control of people with care and support needs
What do people at risk of domestic abuse want?
(Humphreys and Thiara (2003), Abrahams (2007)).
What can practitioners do?
The key thing to remember is that your role is to help the survivor get some ‘breathing space’ away from the perpetrator, to allow her to think, plan, and work out what she wants to do next. It is not for you to ‘revictimise’ by coercing or controlling her into taking action she may not feel ready for (including leaving the relationship). Remember survivors are experts in managing and negotiating the risks they face so be led by them, while supporting, encouraging and signposting to relevant services. The risk that survivors face can be high; if you feel you need additional knowledge or support, attend the relevant training and/or contact local domestic abuse services who can help (see below).