Domestic abuse has now been extended since 29 December 2015 to include coercive or controlling behaviour.
What does that mean?
It means if your actions are adversely affected because someone else causes you emotional harm or – on at least 2 occasions – fear of violence.
Many people claim they are controlled by their partner – for example, they cannot go out with their friends, they cannot be late home and they need permission before they can do virtually anything. There is a big difference between compromise in a relationship – discussing what is right for both of you – and being bullied into doing what your partner wants.
Other examples – checking up on your phone, controlling your Facebook account, telling you what to wear, stopping you from drinking, stopping you from working, limiting when you can see your family or friends, controlling your access to money, criticising you endlessly or putting you down in front of others.
Most people know when someone is abused by their partner – the old joke of being hen pecked or worse that a man’s extreme jealously shows that he loves you.
The difficulty is that when people are in an abusive relationship they often normalise the behaviour – they justify it to others and claim it is not that bad. Usually things escalate before victims realise that they have been emotionally abused for a long time. They have just accepted being bullied in order to have an easier life and through fear of the anger if they disagree.
The key is the effect the behaviour has on the victim. Often this effect is cumulative.
Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation Karen Bradley said:
“Our new coercive or controlling behaviour offence will protect victims who would otherwise be subjected to sustained patterns of abuse that can lead to total control of their lives by the perpetrator. We are sending a clear message that it is wrong to violate the trust of those closest to you and that emotional and controlling abuse will not be tolerated.”
This legislation comes at a time when domestic violence referrals are already increasing. The maximum sentence is 5 years. It will be interesting to see if the police are sufficiently trained and resourced to pursue this offence.
How to tell if you are in an abusive relationship? Imagine your partner’s reaction if you rang and said one of the following:
- you would be going out with friends and so would be late home
- you planned to go on holiday with a friend
- you had invited your parents for the weekend
- you had changed your passwords on your social media.
If you feel fear or anxiety at the thought of any of the above then perhaps you should carefully consider whether your relationship needs changing.