You don’t own me… learn to spot the signs of Coercive and Controlling Behaviour

Now that we are beginning to talk about finding a way back to normal after isolation, many of us will be looking forward to getting out and about, being able to see family and friends etc. and returning to school or work.

Stop and think for a moment though…there may be some people who have welcomed the time apart from a significant other or are dreading the thought of seeing them again.

Spare a thought for victims of Coercive and Controlling behaviour…

Photo by Vera Arsic on

In 2012, the UK Government added guidelines to their Domestic Violence definitions to include…

“Victims of “honour” violence or killings, e.g. Female Genital Mutilation, forced marriage etc. although this is not confined to a particular gender or ethnic group

Coercive Behaviour – an act or pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation, intimidation or other abuse used to harm, punish or frighten the Victim.

Controlling Behaviour – a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them for capital gain, depriving them of means needed for independence, resistance or escape and regulating their every day behaviour”

Unfortunately and perhaps shockingly in current times where we see young adults able to express themselves safely like never before, I see cases of Coercive and Controlling Behaviour within relationships all the time.

Also unfortunate and shocking is the fact that few young people, females in particular; even know what it is.

I see young people who’s partners are

  • circulating indecent images of them
  • shaming them on Social Media
  • controlling access to their friends and family
  • controlling their dress and image

To help young People understand what Coercive and Controlling Behaviour (a form of domestic violence) is, I’ve put together a case study below which is sadly a common story…

Emily is going out with Karl. They have been together 3 weeks. Emily’s best friend, Jaz doesn’t much like Karl. she thinks he is too controlling and has seen a change in Emily since she has been with him.

Emily tells Jaz that Karl loves her and only wants the best for her. Karl actually thinks that Jaz is controlling also. Emily and Jaz fall out.

Two weeks later, Karl shares indecent images of Emily on Social Media. When she confronts him, he says it’s because he is so proud of how beautiful she is and wants his friends to be jealous. He adds that she should never question him.

Karl has told Emily that she is not to wear makeup except when she is with him and he also controls what she can wear if she goes out without him. She rarely spends time away from him except for family functions.

People have started to notice that Emily spends a lot of time with Karl.

Emily tells herself that Karl treats her badly sometimes but overall he loves her. She has distanced herself from her friends and has no one to really talk to.

She doesn’t see anything wrong in Karl’s behaviour as he doesn’t hit her or hurt her.


My frustration is that many young adults, particularly girls, fall victim to this type of behaviour partly because they don’t understand that it is wrong.

The feelings we have, when we experience our first love are intense and we can find ourselves trapped in a bad relationship, hoping to feel those feelings again. Unfortunately, this rarely happens and those lovely feelings are often replaced by negative feelings and fear.

If you or someone you know may be affected, please seek help from someone you trust or contact a specialist organisation for more help…don’t suffer in silence, we all have a choice and a right to be happy!

Sarah Terry is a School Counsellor and Author who works in Central England. Her interests include Counselling and Psychology, Personality Types, Jogging and Yoga and Meditation. Find out more here

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If you liked this article, here are some more you might be interested in…

How to Manage Conflict at home

How to Beat the Bully for Good!

Which Wolf do you Feed?

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