Coercive Control and Domestic Abuse

Do you have any questions about Coercive Control or Domestic Abuse? Goughs Solicitors have an experienced family law team and if you or any one you know have been directly affected by any of the contents of this article then please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Topics to be answered in this article

What is coercive control?

Coercive control is a recognised form of domestic abuse which can be defined as a “continuing act, or pattern of acts, of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.”

Coercive control does not relate to a single incident, but a pattern of incidents that occur over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another. Recent case law has concluded that it can also be established by identifying a perpetrator who abuses multiple partners in different relationships in the same manner.

What are the signs of coercive control?

Coercive control can build up gradually and the behaviour may seem perfectly acceptable at first. Examples include gradually isolating a person from their friends or family; monitoring their time; monitoring a person online; limiting their spending; gaslighting and attempting to take over aspects of their everyday life – such as what they wear, where they go and who they see. Partners exerting coercive control can often portray their actions as just “looking out for” or protecting their partner and therefore their behaviour can often be difficult for the victim to acknowledge.


Whilst the impact of coercive control may be less obvious than a bruise or a broken bone, the ramifications can be equally as damaging and potentially longer-lasting. The victims can feel low self-esteem, low self-confidence and anxiety as a result of the controlling behaviour they are being subjected to. They can also be influenced to feel that their concerns are not valid and that they might not be subject to what they understand to be domestic abuse, and therefore they should not complain.

Is coercive control a crime?

Yes, in 2015 the introduction of the Serious Crime Act made coercive control a criminal offence which is punishable by imprisonment of up to five years. The awareness around coercive control is growing and therefore incidents of abuse are being recognised more frequently by victims or their loved ones.

How can we help?

Our dedicated lawyers are here to give you the advice and support you need and to discuss the protective options available to you in the family courts. If you have been a victim of domestic abuse, you can apply for injunctive orders to personally protect you/your children from the perpetrator known as a “non-molestation order”. You can also apply to the Court to have an abusive individual removed from the family home known as an “occupation order”.

We can also signpost you to local charities who offer support and practical assistance to recover or escape from abusive partners and guard against abuse in future relationships.

Author Bio

Hannah Francis

I joined Goughs in January 2023 as a trainee solicitor after studying Law at Southampton University and then working for RWK Goodman, I have a very personal service skill set so decided to pursue a career in family law and therefore completed my LPC in June 2021. I’m very approachable and work with people helping them through difficult times.

I always like to remain professional and believe you should be very transparent and cohesive in your approach. I remain clear in the expectations of what is possible and always work with the client’s best interests in mind

Within family law I enjoy advocacy and court based work, I have the long term goal of becoming a family court judge. I like to actively see the difference my work can make to a client.

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