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Further Information

Coercive control & safeguarding

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.

Key resources:

What do people at risk of domestic abuse want?

  • Contact with others, friendship and mutual support
  • Proactive asking about abuse
  • Quality time and the opportunity to talk
  • Acceptance and understanding/no blame
  • Encouragement
  • Recognition of risks/prioritising safety
  • Practical support and assistance

(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 them to think, plan, and work out what they want to do next. It is not for you to ‘revictimise’ by coercing or controlling the survivor into taking action that they 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 that can help (see below).