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Coercive Control: Part 2

Fiona McMullen, Operations Manager for ASSIST, talks in detail about the tactics used in Coercive Control, comparing them to 'prisoner of war' tactics
So it’s really important that we understand how domestic abuse can start and develop. I think we still hear people saying why did she not leave? Why did she not get out? She must like some aspects of it and and very much the accountability for that is on the victim rather than the perpetrator of the abuse. So thinking about how it starts and develops, we know that when we first meet a new partner, there’s a honeymoon period and it’s natural to all of us. It’s lovely. Who want to spend all their time with that person?
We might drop our family and friends our hobbies for a short time, but if we think about domestic abuse and coercive control, the tactics that are beginning to develop there. One of the tactics as isolation. So key tactics of coercive control, isolation, exhaustion, degradation and threats, prisoner of war tactics that we’ve seen used to make people make false confessions to bring them into line. But I would say that in domestic abuse and coercive control, the tactics are much more nuanced. It’s about the perpetrator getting to know the victim in that lovely honeymoon period and using tactics against them. A reminder as well that this crosses every social economic group.
OK, so this is not the person living 17 floors up on universal credits. This is also the person living out in the suburbs in a big detached house and it crosses every age group. I’ve worked with 17 year olds. I’ve worked with an 88 year old who didn’t leave the abuse for over 60 years. So these tactics. If you think about isolation that will include. Moving in together quickly, ditching your hobbies, your family, your friends, perhaps giving up your work and there’s plausible reasons and given to encourage you to do that all. I never see you, so let’s move in together would be much easier than commuting. We can share finances instead of paying 2 rents.
You hate uni or college, why don’t you give that up? I can provide for us both. Why don’t you come and work for me? So there’s lots of plausible reasons given in that lovely honeymoon period when you’re being showered with love and attention. Lots of reasons why the person might want to come and pick you up. Whether that’s from uni or from work, you know it’s it’s a bad world out there. There’s been rapes reported. I’ll come and get you texting you where are you? When are you coming home? And it’s it’s wrapped up in living care at that stage.
The isolation can continue for a long long time and develop and and and and become more and and things might be OK for a while, but it’s when the victim wants to return to some kind of reality that the perpetrator might up the tactics. And that’s where exhaustion can can creep in. So the victim wants to go back to yoga wants to go in the hen weekend and I’m talking in general about females as we know it as gendered and coercive control. So that’s when. Then there might be tactics of exhaustion and and the reason to exhaust someone is to give them no chance to think about their relationship or think about getting out of their relationship.
So they’re so busy trying to keep things that in even keel and get back to that honeymoon period that they don’t question it. So exhaustion might be things around how you look after the children. One of the isolating tactics is to is to encourage pregnancy and children in a number of children in quick succession so that you stay with the perpetrator. But then there will be lots of rules around the child care of and and how the house should look.
Some of it, but you would think it was going back to the 1950s in terms of how it would be a Good Wife and manual and other ways of exhausting someone might be around how they look, what they eat, subtle comments, gaslighting, tactics around, you know when we first met or you’ve put on a few pounds. And that might also be about something that they know is you’re sensitive about. That you’ve shared in that honeymoon period, either about your friends or about your looks, or about your weight, and they use that against you and that exhaustion so your friends don’t really like you. Why you spending time with them?
Spend time with me, but lots and lots of rules and these are not agreements. We all have agreements and relationships about who does what. There aren’t consequences for not doing them. There’s not punishment for not doing them, and they can change in the mutually agreed in a coercive, controlling relationship. These are rules. This is what you should wear. This is what you should eat. So I loved you in that dress when I first met you, but now I want you in jogging bottoms and who do we know?
Make up ‘cause I don’t want you to be attractive to anyone else, and I don’t really want you to go out so sabotaging nights out, interfering and nights out and in that can be increased overtime depending on how much control the perpetrator feels they have. So the victim starts to question that and and question these rules, then the perpetrators get two options. I can go back to that grooming and honeymoon period and love bombing. Or I can get even more abusive. Now all these tactics can interlink, but we then have also degradation. So ways are degrading the victim, whether that’s putting them down, criticising in front of friends.
Exercise and the the money they bring into the home, how they look. It can be sexual demands. It can be making them do things they don’t want to do. And when we think about young people and access to ** young people don’t know what should be expected of them in a new relationship. It can be about sharing intimate images. So sending photos now we could do that years ago, but you had to take a photo, go to boots, wait three to five days to get it. See that it came out, put one in an envelope and put it through her dad’s door.
A picture of them having sex, and now you press 1 button is shown to community, a school and a Facebook group. Really, really silence. And for victims and degrading, there’s loads of hidden ways of degrading someone that might not be obvious to us. I worked with the victim once who wasn’t allowed to wear her headscarf when she went out. Which absolutely mortified her she was Asian women, and yet we wouldn’t notice that that the grades are, and it also isolated her ‘cause she didn’t want friends and family to see her so she would hide. She would go to school quickly. She would stay in the house because she wasn’t allowed to wear her headscarf.
So just remember that a lot of these tactics are really hidden, hidden in plain sight. We say so. Lots of ways that you can degrade, but again, get into the core of the victim. It might be about undermining them in front of their children, asking children to engage in this, and a reminder as well that all these tactics. Directly or indirectly, impact on children as well. I’ve heard ways of exhausting women by telling them what can be eaten using soaked in the fridge so that even when the perpetrator is not there, they can see what they’re eating.
I’ve heard hive used so that the the heating can be used by the perpetrator and put off when they are out of the house. Passwords on TV’s lots of ways that will impact on the victim but also on children that might not always be recognized and then thinking about. Threats and threats can be anything. It could be a threat to leave and you don’t believe you could survive on your own because you’ve been so ground down and your self esteem is on the floor. It could be a threat of suicide the perpetrator threatens to take their own life as a way of keeping you emotionally involved.
But then we also have to think about whether that could be family wipe out in a very real reality. It could be a threat to tell a family member something about you. I worked with the Polish woman. The threat was to tell her very Catholic mother she took determination and that kept her in the relationship. Threats to take the children. If if you leave, I’ll be keeping the children threats to animals we we see here. Africa abuse of animals and as a way of controlling and maintaining control of victims, it could be the threat of intimate image abuse as it already mentioned, it can be the threat of outing you if you’re gay and you’re not out within your community.
And family yet? All host of things can be used as a threat, but what’s important to remember is, unlike prisoner of war tactics, where the threat might be genetic and apply to everybody. These are very nuanced tactics. The perpetrators got to know the victim and knows what will absolutely get to the core of them.

In this short film we hear again from Fiona McMullen Operations Manager for ASSIST who talks in detail about the wide range of tactics used by perpetrators of Coercive Control.

She makes the point that some of these tactics are hidden in plain sight. It is important to understand these tactics so that we can look out for them if we have concerns that someone, female or male, may be experiencing IPVA.

We’ll see later in Section 3 that although many more women than men experience Coercive Control, and it is a gendered crime, it is also the most frequent form of abuse experienced by men who are abused whether by female or male partners.

Social Experiment

This link will take you to a social experiment conducted by the BBC where a group of young people were asked to explore the story of a young couple and to comment on any elements of coercive control that they could see and how those developed. This film shows that while any single element of the pattern of coercive control viewed as a stand alone event or incident may seem not to be abuse, when taken together they form a pattern that can become the criminal offence of coercive control. The film outlines how difficult it can be to prove because concrete evidence is often lacking for a crime that happens in private. It also shows how people looking at a relationship from the outside can hold different perceptions of what is happening inside someone else’s relationship.

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Gender-Based Violence: Responding to Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse

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