The Survival Guide

The survival guide and the professionals a victim needs to rely on will vary depending on each varying circumstance; are they still in the relationship; are they male, female or a child; cultural influences; how long has the coercive control been going on for, etc. Hence, the order in which the list is presented is based on my personal experience and what I learned; it might be different for another victim.

IMPORTANT: CONSIDERING THAT A VICTIM WILL BE CONFUSED AND SEVERELY PSYCHOLOGICALLY IMPACTED BECAUSE OF THE ABUSE THEY HAVE ENDURED, TRUSTING A PROFESSIONAL TO DO THE JOB THAT IS EXPECTED OF THEM COULD PROVIDE THE VICTIM A MUCH NEEDED PLATFORM TO BEGIN TO REBUID THEIR LIFE. A PROFESSIONAL THAT THE VICTIM NEEDS TO RELY ON WILL ONLY BE AS GOOD AS THEIR TRAINING OR THEIR OWN ABILITIES – SADLY THERE IS NO GUARANTEE ON EITHER ASPECT; SO GET CLUED UP!

 

  1. THE VICTIMS MENTAL HEALTH. Whether living in a coercively controlling relationship or having escaped one the victims physical well-being and mental health should be the primary considerations. The impact on the victims mental health is the one that gets the least understanding and attention. Recognising and repairing the damage to the victims mental health requires longer term attention, especially if the abuse is continuing. The anxieties and frustrations that might arise from the failure of the professionals will only add to the damage and potentially set back any recovery; everything mentioned below has the potential to help either achieve closure or help repair and recover. “YOU CAN REPAIR AND YOU CAN RECOVER. DESPITE THE DARKEST TIMES, OF WHICH THERE COULD BE MANY, YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS AND YOU WILL GET BETTER!”  

  2. FAMILY AND FRIENDS. It is very difficult for anyone to fully understand what a victim of coercive control has, and is, going through emotionally if they have not encountered something similar.  There is likely to be psychological damage to the victims personality and debilitating emotional consequences might follow. The emotional and physical support of simply having someone to talk to or be with is vital. The unconditional and non-judgemental support from family and friends can be pivotal in aiding a victims recovery. 
    If the victim is still in the relationship there is a very high likelihood that they are unaware that they are a victim of coercive control/domestic abuse. Those that are aware and still in the relationship should try to talk about their relationship to family and friends. Any information they might impart could be used as evidence in any future police investigation. Any family and friend who suspects any form of domestic abuse can report it to the Police who have a duty to investigate it. Encourage the victim to confide in their doctor. Encourage them to record the conversations of their partners behaviour, but to keep themselves safe at all times. Do not encourage the victim to put themselves under any further risk. Monitor their behaviour for mood swings, isolation, depression. Are there bruises? All of these things can assist the Police in any future enquiries and may prevent potential violent abuses or self-destruction. 
    If the victim is out of the relationship family and friends can provide the vital platform for the victim to start to rebuild their self-confidence and self-esteem.Remember: the perpetrator is a master of manipulation and therefore any allegations might be hard to believe. Take time to listen.

  3. THE ESCAPE. If the victim is brave enough to escape it is important that they keep themselves as safe as possible and take with them anything that might be used as evidence: a diary, letters or notes written to or from the perpetrator, laptop, photographs, bank statement and account details, anything that could potentially relate to the controlling abuse. If the victim has children and has nowhere to go but has become aware that they are in a dangerous relationship it is important that they are able to confide in someone about what is going on: doctor, family, friends the Police. Ideally, the Police would be the better first option as they have a duty of care in all domestic abuse cases and have procedures in place which aim to advise the victim as to what is the best course of action; safely gathering evidence, pressing charges and how to get the perpetrator to leave, enforcing an injunction or restraining order. Once the perpetrator is out of the picture the victim should be regularly and consistently supported by a key charity worker, the Police and the Welfare services. The victim should feel safe and secure. If there are children involved the victim needs the confidence to continue with life with them, fulfilling their daily need.

  4. STATEMENT/DIARY. It is important for any victim to start documenting any and all incidents which they regard as unfair, cruel, harsh, controlling, aggressive, whether psychological or physical. Dates and times are helpful but not important, use approximations. Are there any witnesses? It is not important to do it in one go as your memory might be affected, add to it as you recall further incidents. If the harassment or control is ongoing write it down, keep it safe and do not put yourself at risk. This is important for evidence gathering and can be painfully cathartic.

  5. POLICE AND THE STATUTORY GUIDANCE FRAMEWORK. Once a victim reports any form of domestic abuse of any kind the Police have a duty to investigate it. Beginning with an initial risk assessment they should be able not only to identify the risk category the victim falls under but they should be able to establish the nature of the domestic abuse. Photographs of any injuries need to be taken and retained as a part of the investigation. The victim must be provided with the Victims Code; a pamphlet outlining what they can expect from the Police as a victim. In the case of coercive control the police have a wider remit than in previous domestic abuse enquiries. For the complete guideline please download and read  the document published by the Home Office titled “Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship:  Statutory Guidance Framework”. This can be found on the CPS website or simply Google it. It is easy to read and will give you a clear understanding of what coercive control is in the eyes of the law, the role of the Police in understanding the victim, identifying the perpetrator, how to gather evidence, how to support the victim with ongoing control issues and signposting to important support organisations/charities. THE GUIDANCE IS APPLICABLE TO BOTH FEMALE AND MALE VICTIMS. Whether the victim is still in the relationship or has left but continues to suffer the abuses it is important to inform the investigating officer who can update your file and advise a suitable course of action;  restraining orders etc. If there are children involved there is every chance that the control will continue by using the children and attempts at alienation. Any contact with the perpetrator should be recorded, and all emails, letters and texts saved. It is important for the investigating officer to update the victim regularly. If the control is ongoing the Police not only need to advise and act accordingly but also act with haste in gathering the evidence. Once the evidence has been gathered it will be handed over to the Sergeant and the CPS for a charging decision. The CPS decision to pursue the case is based on one of two acceptable reasons; is there a good “likelihood of a conviction” or is it “in the public interest”. Hopefully the investigating officer would have gathered the evidence and any witness statements and presented a strong case. But remember this is a new legislation and the perimeters of what can and cannot be done have still to be determined by establishing more cases, hence ideally the “public interest” pursuit should take the case to court. If the investigating officer has not done their job properly, do not be afraid to raise your concerns with their Sergeant. A victim is likely to be in a very vulnerable state it is vital that they are able to trust the professionals who have very clear guidelines on behaviour and procedure.   A good charity worker can be very helpful in ensuring that the police do follow the correct path. REMEMBER IF THE CPS DECIDE NOT TO PROSECUTE IT IS NOT BECAUSE THEY DO NOT BELIEVE YOU. LACK OF EVEIDENCE, POLICE NEGLIGENCE, POLITICAL AGENDAS, POOR LEGAL AWARENESS, CAN ALL PLAY A PART IN THE PROFESSIONALS DECISION. DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF!

  6. DOCTOR. The more that can be confided with the GP/Doctor the better. Victims who are still in the relationship and begin to suffer new conditions or experience an exacerbation of existing conditions should tell the doctor and get the required advice or assistance. Although some conditions or ailments may not seem directly linked to domestic abuse it can potentially be linked to Coercive Control. Any physical abuse, whether it requires any treatment or not needs to be reported to the doctor. Any issues of stress, anxiety or depression need to be reported to the doctor. The doctor can help you receive either vital medication or services which can help you more immediately when times get really dark. All the information is retained with the strictest of confidence. If you recognise that your partner is the cause of your conditions then do not be afraid to say so. Should the victim go to the Police their medical record not only becomes part of the evidence but also can assist in applying for Legal Aid (see Solicitors).

  7. CHARITY WORKER. If a relevant Domestic Abuse charity referral has not been made by the Police then do it yourself! A good charity case-worker will be worth their weight in gold. They can provide a supporting ear. They can fill in forms. Help you get rehoused or find accommodation. They can advise on matters of finance. They can act as the perfect buffer between the professionals who are not pulling their weight and your subsequent emotional distress. GET A CHARITY CASE-WORKER ON YOUR SIDE!

  8. WELFARE SERVICES. If there are children involved welfare services might have to get involved. If the victim feels that the children are at risk from the perpetrator then they should contact the Police who can make the referral. If the Police let you down call the welfare services yourself. Restraining Orders can be issued where necessary. In terms of child contact arrangements this may require the services of a good solicitor who in turn can advise the best course of action as to whether or not to engage the welfare services. When it comes to sorting out child arrangements through the Family (Civil) Courts and deciding who will be the primary carer of the children, if one of the parents is a victim of coercive control within that family environment then welfare services will be involved to establish if there is a risk to the children. When they do their assessment for the court they complete a domestic abuse template questionnaire to help establish the facts and the risks. Make sure to ask the investigating case-worker if the template is catered for Coercive Control, if they are trained in Coercive Control, are they aware of the Statutory Guidance Framework? All agencies are expected to consider the Statutory Guidance Framework when compiling the evidence for their report to ensure that the children are not placed at risk both in the short-term or long-term.  

  9. SOLICITORS. Should the Police decide to charge the perpetrator and the CPS decide to press charges this will be a criminal matter. For matters concerning child and financial arrangements this will be a matter for the Civil Law and the Family Courts; here it is advised that the victim seek independent legal advice. Solicitors are not cheap. For victims of domestic abuse who cannot afford a solicitor Legal Aid is available but they still have to meet the financial qualification threshold. Look into this carefully and before you get the solicitor to make the application. They will require some formal evidence of domestic abuse: a police charge, a doctors report or a letter from a charity case-worker.  The solicitor should provide you with the template letters to forward to the relevant professional. Getting Legal aid is not as straightforward as it should be; if your supporting letter is not provided according to the template or you are even a penny over the threshold the legal aid application will be rejected (see WORK paragraph). Even if you do not qualify for Legal Aid but cannot afford a legal representative ask the solicitor if they could set up a payment plan. Having a solicitor is very important for a number of reasons. All legal entities are bound by legal procedures and process which can be very confusing. In some cases there can be potential institutional prejudices; the female is almost always expected to be the primary carer and the male the likely perpetrator; challenge these prejudices! If the perpetrator controlled the finances they will probably be in a better position to employee the services of a solicitor. If money is an issue find a way. The perpetrator will manipulate all the services and institutions to support and deny their actions accordingly. Solicitors have many approaches which can appear to be intimidating to get the result they want for their client. The victim will need their own knowledgeable representative who can bite back. 

  10. FAMILY COURTS. The Family Courts operate under civil law but still have a duty to consider domestic abuse and the Statutory Guidance Framework for coercive control when considering any order concerning child arrangements and finances. Considering that Coercive Control is still relatively new as a legislated crime there is very little in terms of case law for Judges, Magistrates and Solicitors to rely on when making any final decisions about child arrangements and finance divisions. Considering certain institutional prejudices, as referred to above, could result in a miscarriage of justice, hence legal aid, police involvement and a good solicitor are important.

  11. WORK. Continuing to work can provide a much needed distraction. A good employer can help the victim by being flexible when considering hours, absences and in some cases providing therapy via their own Occupational Health. When applying for legal aid it is required to provide three months wage slips and bank statements; if the employer is compliant and able a temporary reduction in hours might assist the application. Any information the victim imparts to the employer should be kept in the strictest of confidence protected by Data Protection legislation. If the victim requires it as evidence to assist the police then it can be accessed by making a Subject Access Request in writing and paying a small fee.

  12. THERAPIST. Depending on the extent of the abuse a victim might be able to overcome the impact of the abuse they have endured by discussing it with family and friends, their doctor/GP, temporarily relying on coping mechanisms, using prescribed medication, boosting or repairing their own self-confidence and low-esteem by pursuing other activities. However, there will be times when the fear and doubt which has manifest as a direct result of the abuse controls every aspect of the victims life that understanding and processing their emotions and any decision-making becomes impossible. This is where the victim feels lost. Imagine playing blind-mans-bluff in a room which is pitch-black whilst wearing a blindfold. In that room are potholes and sharp objects. They take off the blindfold only to become aware that they are still in the dark. It is the stuff of nightmares. Excuse the metaphor. Battling with no self-confidence, low self-esteem, fear, doubt, lack of trust, no one believing you, professionals not doing their jobs properly, dealing with institutional prejudices would drive anyone to the brink of complete and utter despair. Normal day-to-day activities become difficult or impossible as fear and anxiety get triggered. Anything from receiving letters, emails, text messages, a knock on the door, going out, staying in, pretty much anything might trigger anxieties. This is where a good therapist can help. A good therapist should help you understand what you are experiencing. They can help you gain a better perspective so that you are in a better place to deal with each emotion you are suffering. They can help you become more self-aware so you can get through each day. Just knowing that you can escape the hell that you are in can help provide that little bit of light in that darkened room that a victim needs to avoid the potholes and sharp objects and find their own way out and begin the recovery process.
    If you can afford it find one who is local and ask questions about their qualifications and experience. Ask them if they are aware of Coercive control. If you cannot afford one speak to your GP and get them to make a referral. If the waiting list is too long ask your workplace; some of the bigger organisations can make referrals through their company provisions via their Occupational Health.

  13. SUPPORT GROUPS. If you cannot afford a therapist, or find a good one, and are waiting for the referral through the NHS, support groups in your local area could be the first positive port of call. Just being around people with similar experiences and sharing those experiences can potentially help. JOIN THE WEBSITES SOCIAL MEDIA SITES. IN TIME I WILL ENDEAVOUR TO SET UP SUPPORT GROUPS AROUND THE COUNTRY SPECIFICALLY FOR VICTIMS, AND FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF VICTIMS. THIS MAY TAKE SOME TIME SO PLEASE BE PATIENT, FOLLOW ME AND LOOK OUT FOR UPDATES. 

  14. TO MALE VICTIMS. Everything on this website applies to you as well. When I refer to a “victim” I am reaching out to female and male victims alike. This is your survival guide as well. However, based on experience, men can potentially discover greater hardships for many reasons. According to the Statutory Guidance Framework, “In 2014/15, 92.4% of defendants in domestic abuse flagged cases were male. Where recorded, the proportion of female victims has remained steady at 84%, since 2010-11 (CPS Violence Against Women and Girls Crime Report 2014/15)”. That being said these figures are continuously on the increase every year as more incidents are reported. However, as a society we are more likely to assume that females are more likely to be the victims and males the perpetrator. This is not about gender equality. This is about recognising that females are just as likely to be perpetrators of domestic abuse, and crimes in general. Specifically, males are less likely to report domestic abuse not only because victims are rarely aware that they are victims of domestic abuse but also who is going to believe “a man”? As a society we cannot escape that we make generalisations and stereotypes. The law and other welfare and legal institutions should apply a fair and unbiased approach to all crimes. Whilst these institutions might be governed by rules and obligations which herald equality and fairness they are nonetheless managed by the same people who live in the same society as us all and potentially affected by the same prejudices. Unfortunately, these prejudices do exist and subsequently male victims will find it harder to convince the relevant authorities that they are the victims and that they are the ones who should occupy the residence with the children. So remember this site and the guidance it offers applies to male and female victims. If all the professionals were to do their jobs without prejudice in support of the victim then progress will be made. BE PREPARED TO FIGHT TO BE HEARD, DO NOT GIVE UP AND DO NOT BE AFRAID TO COMPLAIN!

  15. CHILDREN. It is my firm view that we create the monsters and the victims of the future and it begins with our children. Because they are still at the developmental stages of their lives they are vulnerable and the impact upon them of these kind of abuses and manipulations by one parent, both parents, other family members or carers, can potentially impact their lives so severely that they could carry the damage into their adulthood. Every life choice or decision they make, how they interact with other individuals or society in general, how they work, behave, feel and think can all be negatively impacted. It is quite possible that the child victim can later become the perpetrator. Hence, early intervention by family, friends, teachers, social services, charity workers and the Police is essential. If the children are in the relationship where the victim is the other partner the perpetrator is likely to use the children to further their abuses upon the victim  by involving them in the abuses as allies or by alienating them from the partner with regular and expensive treats. When the victim becomes aware that they are a victim it is important for them to fight to be with the children if they are being kept away. REMEMBER THE CHILDREN WILL BE GOING THROUGH THEIR OWN PERSONAL HELL BECAUSE OF EITHER THE BREAK-UP OR THE CONTROLLING BEHAVIOUR. Ensure that they see a happy and positive parent, despite your inner turmoil, resist the temptation to involve the children in your personal journey with your partner. As you get through it so will the children, but only with your help. The important aspect is to ensure that they do not also become victims and that the cycle of behaviour is not repeated, otherwise their emotional future might potentially be harmed. Where the victim is the partner they themselves might have to prompt the professionals; if you feel that the children are at risk being with the perpetrator inform the Police and the Welfare Services. Hopefully, they will do the job that is required of them and act in the best interest of the children.

  16. RELIGION/CULTURE.  IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT RELIGION AND CULTURE DO NOT CAUSE DOMESTIC ABUSE. DYSFUNCTIONAL PEOPLE DO. AND AT TIMES THESE DYSFUNCTIONAL PEOPLE WILL USE AND ABUSE THEIR CULTURE AND RELIGION TO EXCUSE THEIR BEHAVIOURS. All domestic abuse transcends race and religion. It is about relationships. About insecurities and power and control. So the question which needs to be asked is, “is domestic abuse/coercive control more likely to occur in an arranged marriage?” In my opinion, based on my experience it is more likely. There is a greater pressure on those agreeing to an arranged marriage to make it work. This pressure can be used by a perpetrator of coercive control to legitimise their actions and behaviours and the victim can feel as if they have no escape and therefore unlikely to be reported. As to why it is more likely to occur in an arranged marriage there is no simple answer and requires further research. Based on my experience, place two people together who know very little about each is the ideal setting for a perpetrator to manipulate their way through the introduction process, showing themselves off as a nice and decent person and then exercise their control behind closed doors. It is important for the Police, solicitors, Judges, Welfare workers, charity workers, CPS, all to be aware of cultural influences within these toxic relationships. PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THAT I AM NOT SAYING THAT CULTURE, RELIGION AND ARRANGED MARRIAGES ARE BAD!

  17. GYM/INTERESTS AND HOBBIES. The power of exercise cannot be underestimated. No matter what your ability or disability if you can join a gym do it. If you cannot afford it speak to your doctor. Go out for speed walks or a run. Do whatever you can at home, at work, anywhere. Get those positive brain chemicals moving because it helps. Start writing or pursue a hobby of any kind. Learn something new. Be brave. Anything the victim pursues will help in any small way to begin to repair that damaged low-confidence and self-esteem.

  18. CLOSURE. To move on in your life as a victim closure is crucial. To achieve closure might not be in your hands so it is important that the relevant professionals do their job to the best of their abilities in your interest. You will get closure eventually so get clued up, stay fit mentally and physically and you could come out of this horrible experience more self-aware as recovery continues on a daily basis. The closure the victim is looking for can come from the escape, regaining the life of confidence and self-esteem, justice through a conviction, fair division of assets, their own home, part or full custody of the kids; it will depend on the individual. Closure does not necessarily mean an end to vulnerability, anxieties, depression and fear; although these will reduce slowly in time the scars of the abuse might always stay with the victim.

  19. CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAU. They are able to advise on many matters and have always proved to be very useful. However, they have been subject to many cuts. Nevertheless, find a local office or helpline and ask about debt management, housing, benefits, any legal matter. Debt and housing are the topics more likely to affect a victim. The debts accrued within the marriage can be regarded as matrimonial debts and can be included when considering the financial arrangements within the Family Courts. More immediately CAB can contact the lenders on your behalf and arrange a more manageable arrangement considering your circumstances.

  20. RELATED LINKS AND FURTHER READING. The following are based on my own research and experience, you might find others more useful.

  1. http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/a_to_c/controlling_or_coercive_behaviour/ In the “Introduction” on the CPS website click on “Statutory Guidance” hyperlink and download this very important document and read it!!!

  2. http://www.refuge.org.uk/ From the initial phone call and through the entire process I was greeted with an empathic human voice and treated without prejudice.

  3. http://www.rubywax.net/frazzled.html CBT/Mindfulness help me get through the constant anxieties. A good, witty read with insightful references and very useful exercises.

  4. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ Citizens Advice Bureau.

  5. https://www.gov.uk/ A government website incorporating information of all types.

 

DISCLAIMER: THE PUBLISHER OF THIS WEBSITE IS NOT A TRAINED PROFESSIONAL OF ANY KIND. THE INFORMATION AND OPINIONS ARE BASED ENTIRELY ON THE PUBLISHER'S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. THE INFORMATION WITHIN THIS WEBSITE IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE ADVICE AND OPINIONS OF A  MEDICAL OR LEGAL PROFESSIONAL.

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