It is fair to say that coercive control has existed in some form or guise from the beginning of civilisation whether the behaviour comes from an individual upon another individual, an individual upon a society or political systems upon individuals or upon entire communities/societies.
From Evan Stark’s ground-breaking work to the introduction of the legislation in the UK we as a society have the perfect opportunity to prevent such behaviours, hold perpetrators to account, support victims at various stages, identify the mental health consequences and remedies and even provide a new approach towards relationship development and counselling. However, the key to this is awareness. Police, Charity Workers, Therapists, Teachers, Carers, Lawyers, Judges, Welfare Services and family and friends all need to be aware of the legislation and how it works, the impact upon the victim and how to support the victim. Without the relevant awareness, education and training the number of victims will increase, victims will continue to suffer in silence with potentially fatal consequences, and the general mental health burden will have a knock on effect on relationships, employment and the NHS.
Whilst this website is put together using primarily my personal experiences I shall endeavour to update and amend the information accordingly as further research and actions are taken by connected sources. In the meantime, I hope in some small way this site provides an insight, advice and hope for all connected to this form of abuse.
My best wishes and love to all.
“I have always queried with a bitter disbelief and a degree of resentment when people would say ‘you’re on a journey’, ‘tomorrow is another day’, ‘don’t worry you’ll get through it’, ‘I’m there for you’. As well-meaning these thoughts and sentiments may have been they did not take away the pain. I found it difficult to explain the pain in a way that people would understand it. Eventually I stopped telling people. All the good intentions began to make me angry.
Throughout the relationship I made compromises but they were never enough. I stopped arguing and took the endless criticisms, humiliations and head-games. The more I was able to take would further provoke more degradation and isolation. Whenever she would kick me out she would make it difficult to see the children. I began to rely on copious amounts of coping mechanisms just to cope with the feelings of loss and not seeing my kids. Realising that I was floating into one debt after another and slowly killing myself I resorted to therapy. I began to realise that I could better deal with the continuous anxiety and depression if I continued with the therapy and become more self-aware. I learned more about how my mind worked. Where my feelings came from. I questioned their true origins. I questioned every thought and every emotion. I questioned whether the feelings were justified for that circumstance at that time. I discovered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy/Mindfulness. I would return to the family home stronger. But I was only stronger to take more abuse and with more intensity. My emotional strength and self-awareness only served to further infuriate her. It didn’t matter – I was with the kids. I conceded and embraced my role. I was going to be the father at any cost. I would do my utmost so that my children grew up with confidence and I was determined that the cycle of her behaviour would not continue through them. I would cook, clean, do the school-runs, homework, play games, give them an understanding of whatever emotion they would struggle with. This was my life and I had accepted it. Every now and then it became too much and she would kick me out again. I would resort to coping mechanisms and begin the healing process again and return making more compromises. For fifteen years this was my life. My desire to write, which was one of the first compromises, had to be kept a secret. The only time she would allow me to write would be when I could convince her that I could make money from it; that didn’t happen often and simply became another reason for further ridicule.
After the physical assault I remained away. She made it difficult to see the kids, again. That was the ultimate pain that to this day I still struggle with. Not being with them. Not putting them to bed. Not taking them to school. Not feeding them or cleaning after them. Not knowing where or how they are. Every day to this day I have a broken heart.
With hope and determination to fight for my kids I went into denial as I let the pain turn to anger and trusted the Police, the family courts, the welfare services. Failure to investigate the abuse properly, failure to understand and implement the law, failure to take into consideration the evidence and witness statements of the abuse that I had suffered, and failure to acknowledge that as a male that I could suffer such abuses, meant that I was in and out of depression fighting a lost cause. One solicitor on telling that I did not qualify for legal aid added, “sorry, but you are going to find it very difficult to convince everyone in this system that you are the victim.”
Whilst I continued the failing battle for justice I would go to the gym, drink, go to work, take sleeping medication, go to the same coffee shop every day for over two years. When none of the coping mechanisms would work I would become suicidal. The pain was too intense and hope was an illusion I had created to exercise the anger trapped inside me. I tried to use what I had learned just to stay alive. When it was too dark and I was drowning in a perpetual cycle of anxiety, depression and loss my work arranged for therapy.
Applying what little I knew and with the guidance of my therapist I became aware that I was lost in a battle. A battle looking for justice. A battle looking for understanding. Yes, I was in constant pain for the loss of my kids. Yes, I was feeling the loss of a life that I had mapped out for myself with the children. However, I could not begin to deal with that until I acknowledged and come to terms with that for fifteen years someone had slowly destroyed my confidence and self-esteem making any recovery from any anxiety or depression almost impossible. I had become a person who would suffer an anxiety attack every time I received a letter, an email or a text message. Every time the car needed servicing and I had no money I would think about how I would see the kids and have an anxiety attack. Every meeting with the police, a lawyer, a welfare officer, a court hearing with another judge would mean weeks of preparation just to avoid panic attacks and suicidal thoughts.
With the help of my therapist I realised what I needed to begin my recovery and to move me away from the suicidal thoughts.
If I had been listened to by the Police and received some victim support, if the family court and the judge had considered the evidence and witness statements and not put my children at permanent risk, I may have received some closure which might have set me up with a platform to rebuild my life. However, closure doesn’t only come from justice. It can also come from acceptance no matter how bitter a pill that might be to swallow. Whilst justice was always unlikely I could still be a positive, confidence-giving, loving and nurturing father. This is what I had to realise and believe. That had to be my goal and it would have to begin with acceptance. Realising that I had suffered serious abuse to my confidence and self-esteem which had severely impacted upon my daily existence needed the attention, rather than hiding behind the anger. Yes the pain is still there. But I am dealing with it daily. I have reduced the coping mechanisms. I have started to write again. I will start to focus on the things that will help me to redevelop my self-confidence and self-esteem and undo the damage she caused. I will look forward to seeing my kids rather than fearing the pain of having to return them.
Whenever I would get through the really dark times, where I would consider taking my own life, I would always come to the same thought; how do people who don’t have anyone cope, or do not have any degree of self-awareness or CBT knowledge, or don’t have access to therapy or at the very least someone who will understand what they are going through, what would they do, where would they go? That thought filled me with sadness. But if I can recover and find my own way out of the darkness and leave behind a trail of florescent breadcrumbs of hope then my nightmare, or journey, would have served a purpose.”