This month, women in the UK have been celebrating 100 years since they gained the right to vote. For many young women living in the UK today, it’s almost incomprehensible to think they didn’t have the same rights as men back then. Even though legislation now treats both men and women equally, respecting everyone’s rights, this is a standard that sometimes slips in relationships when they have come to an end.
‘You don’t own me’ is a sentiment we often hear – in the office, once the proverbial straw has broken the camel’s back of the relationship and it has come to an end.
Carmelita Ardren, Head of Family Law at Raworths
Relationships are individual and generally change over time depending on circumstances and this factor alone means it can be very difficult to see when the line has been crossed from ‘caring’ to ‘controlling’.
Coercive control often starts when one partner begins to take control of another’s decisions and actions gradually diminishing the victim’s confidence and self-esteem. This is often further compounded by the isolation of the victim from family and friends – and so begins the gradual erosion of that person’s character.
The government, understanding that there was limited protection for victims of this kind of behaviour, introduced a new domestic abuse law under the Serious Crime Act 2015 for the crime of “controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate family relationship”.
The challenge is recognising when the behaviour between a couple changes and moves to being that of coercive control. It’s a tricky area to navigate but in today’s age of equal rights no-one should ever feel their basic rights are being impinged upon, -least of all by their trusted partner.
Below a list provides some examples of behaviour which, under the new Act, could be associated with coercion:
- constant criticism
- jealous, obsessive behaviour e.g. constant checking up on a person
- controlling family finances and withholding money from the victim
- isolating the victim by not allowing them or making it very difficult for them to visit family and friends
- restricting the victim’s movements i.e. confining them to a room or telling them when they can go to the toilet or eat
- dictating what the victim wears or how they do their hair
- dictating the victim’s routine or schedule e.g. timing school runs or shopping trips
- preventing the victim from working outside the home or monitoring them whilst at work
- restricting access to communications e.g. phone or computer
- manipulating the police or others who can whistle blow – reinforcing the victim’s fear that they will not be believed
The real challenge is that this kind of coercive control often creeps into a relationship, normalising it in the victim’s eyes. Equally, such behaviour is often dressed up by the perpetrator as being caring or loving, making it hard to identify by family and friends, after all both parties appear to be happy in the relationship.
The victims themselves however, and those closest to them, will have a growing and nagging discomfort that something is not quite right and once a problem is established, it’s important it’s addressed by seeking help or by finally making the break.
It’s not always possible to see the signs when a friend or family member is suffering, but in today’s day and age no one in should be made to live feeling that they -can’t make their own decisions. Sometimes all it takes is a listening ear or a carefully framed question to help the victim take their first step towards a better -life.
If you would like to discuss any family law issues that might be affecting you please contact Carmelita, on 01423 566666 or firstname.lastname@example.org