Viewers of Channel 4’s Hollyoaks will have seen their current portrayal of coercive control with characters John Paul and PC George Kiss. Very much representative of how coercive control works, we have seen confident and well-loved character John Paul slowly become isolated from his family and manipulated by George, blaming himself for problems within their relationship. Upsetting scenes on Monday 11 January showed matters shockingly escalate into a physical assault.
What is Coercive Control?
Coercive control is now defined in law as an ‘act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, push or frighten the victim’.
Coercive control is an offence when it occurs between two connected parties, for the purposes of this blog we will focus on those in intimate relationships such as cohabiting couples and married couples.
There are many wide ranging examples of what would be classified as coercive control but some common examples are as follows:
- Monitoring your time
- Isolating you from friends and family by controlling where you can go and whom you can see.
- Controlling your finances such as withholding bank cards
- Depriving you of basic needs such as food and sleep
- Making threats
- Humiliating and degrading you
As family solicitors, we are currently seeing coercive control referenced more within unreasonable behaviour divorce petitions. This may well be due to the impact of television programmes, such as Hollyoaks, Coronation Street and Loose Women, opening up the conversation of this topic to a wide audience.
Should I Speak to the Police or a Solicitor?
The CPS make a clear distinction between coercive control and stalking and harassment. The main difference being that coercive control is an offence which specifically relates to abuse in an ongoing relationship where parties are personally connected. Coercive control is a criminal offence that can be reported to the police. If the police have enough evidence of coercive control they will refer the matter to the CPS who can pursue criminal proceedings. If you live with your abuser it is also recommended that you speak with a solicitor regarding an occupation order to exclude your partner from the home whilst criminal proceedings are ongoing.
By comparison, we often see cases of harassment and stalking between ex-partners stemming from a bitter separation or a dispute concerning children. In those cases we always recommend that a victim report this behaviour to the police especially if you feel threatened. We will also be able to discuss with you a non-molestation order to protect you from harassing, pestering and threatening behaviour which can be made on an emergency basis where needed.