In a nutshell, Coercive Control is when a person with whom you are personally connected, repeatedly behaves in a way which makes you feel controlled, dependent, isolated and scared. This behaviour affects your self-confidence and self-esteem. Your day-to-day thinking, feeling and behaving is controlled by the perpetrator. Your identity is lost and survival becomes your daily goal. Escape feels impossible as fear becomes the first feeling when you wake and the last feeling before you sleep.
“During the relationship if someone had told me that I was being subjected to domestic abuse I would never have believed them. As far as I was concerned my partner had serious behavioural problems originating from her awful upbringing and childhood. I had a lot of sympathy for her. I could take the endless criticisms and humiliations. I could see less of my family and friends. I could make another sacrifice and make more changes. I could cook more of what she likes. Tidy the house how she likes. I could dress less in what I feel comfortable in. I could be less chatty with other people when she is with me. I could do a better job of hiding my headaches, migraines, panic attacks. I could do better. I could make her happy. I could help her understand what her behaviour was doing to me. I have to protect the children so that the cycle of behaviour does not repeat itself or negatively impact their confidence and future. No marriage is perfect. I will stick at it until the kids are old enough. I will stay quiet. I will do what she wants and how she wants. She’s right I don’t need much money and any ambitions I may have had are not that important. I will try to be more appreciative of the fact that she is the main breadwinner. Anything that helps to keep me sane I will do in secret. So what if it takes a few drinks for me to get to sleep and that I wake every morning wondering what I have done wrong now to annoy her or what her mood will be like. I can cope with the feelings of every day filled with dread. I had survived fifteen years of this I am sure I could survive another ten. The laughter, smiles and achievements of my children will give me the strength I need. Until she physically attacked me.
My manager at work advised me to call the Police. The Police told me about Coercive Control and advised me not to return to the family home. That was the point that my life fell apart. The Police failed to investigate the abuse in accordance to their own procedures and instead pursued a “common assault” charge which was rejected by the Crown Prosecution Services for lack of evidence. I was living with my parents. She had changed the locks and was only allowing me to see my kids two hours a week. Every day I would wake after two or three hours of sleep which were either alcohol induced, or through other medications. The thoughts and feelings emanating from not knowing where or how my children were, were killing me on a daily basis. Every night I would fend off suicidal thoughts with alcohol and medication. Every morning I would fend off the same suicidal feelings by forcing myself out of bed, going to work, going to the gym, writing, reading, watching films, anything. During those distracting activities I would be overwhelmed by inexplicable feelings and find myself running into the office, toilet cubicle, the car, and shout, scream and cry. I was in pain and it was not going away. The kind of pain that made me wish I was dead. The kind of pain that no one else could see or understand. I could not tell anyone about the suicidal thoughts fearing that I may be regarded as an unfit parent. On top of that I was constantly scared, lonely, confused, anxious, paranoid and I could not figure out why.
The more I read about coercive control I began to understand what I had been through. Now I was aware that the abuse was continuing with my partner making false counter-allegations against me and using the children by further alienating them from me. Not getting legal aid I was further let down by the welfare services and the family courts who did not consider the abuse when making custody and child arrangement decisions. I went back to the Police and reported the abuse as Coercive Control and told them to pursue the investigation. Whilst I provided the Police with the witness statements and any other relevant evidence according to their own policies I found myself having to chase them for updates. Two years on from the physical attack and having to single-handedly fight for two days a week with my children every night and morning is still the same. The pain is still as intense as ever and the destructive thoughts still linger. The thought of my children keeps me alive to fight another day.
The one thing that I am certain of is that it was easier to stay in the matrimonial home and suffer my partner’s abuses. At least I would have been with the children. Instead I am left with no home, let down by all the institutions and services, with little ambition, little money, no self-confidence, no self-esteem, full of doubt, fear, guilt, lonely, depressed and yo-yoing in and out of feelings of pain and anger, and fighting to find hope as I try to rebuild and repair my life.”
This is why I have put this website together.
To the vast majority of family and friends it comes across like another dysfunctional marriage where two people simply did not get on, fought regularly, and were destined to be apart. Yes, all marriages have their ups and downs with clashes of personalities and emotions. But this is not one of those relationships. This is one where a partner, behind closed doors, sets out with the conscious decision to obliterate their partners confidence and self-esteem with the intention of controlling their entire being using criticisms, humiliations, fear and intimidation. No this is not one of those ordinary relationships. This is abuse. Only those who have been through something similar to it could begin to understand.
Whilst the law (see “What Is Coercive Control”) applies specifically to victims who are/were personally connected – in an “intimate personal relationship” or “lived together and were family members”– victims of this kind of behaviour can come from all walks of life and at any stage of their life. Other vulnerable people include those with disabilities, children and the elderly being cared for by carers. In these circumstances where this law does not apply but the victim can be identified it is important to report any suspicions to the relevant authorities; police, social services, employers etc.
Using my own personal experience together with the resource of the “Coercive And Controlling Behaviour Within An Intimate Relationship: Statutory Guidance Framework”, a government resource, I thought I would put together something that would help the victim better understand what they are going through and how to survive it. For the vast majority of victims of coercive control they are generally unaware that they are victims of this kind of domestic abuse, hence this website is also for all the family and friends of potential victims to better understand the impact on the victim so they too can help identify that this is going on in someone’s life, to alert them to it and help them through it.
The impact on the victim of course will vary depending on each individuals personal circumstances and the extent of the abuse they have endured, hence some of the information might be relevant and some might not. Whilst my experience is that of an Asian male victim of Coercive Control I believe that the emotional trauma is universal and I will try to reach as many people as I can.