Skip main navigation

Defining coercive control

Mark takes you through a brief overview of terms and meanings relating to coercive control.

In this activity, we explore the definitions of Domestic Violence and Coercive Control

Term Meaning
Domestic Violence Perpetrator. DVP This is a legal term used within the Domestic and Family Violence sector to describe the person responsible for the primary aggression within the intimate partner or family violence context.
Coercive Control. CC Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by: isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is: a continuing act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. (Home Office, 2015)
Intimate Partner Violence. IPV The World Health Organisation defines intimate partner violence as: Any behaviour within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological or sexual harm to those in the relationship. (World Health Organization 2010)
A key challenge for practice is the lack of consensus on the definition of this form of violence.
(Brennan et al., 2019).

To date there is agreement, though, on three aspects of coercive control:

  1. The actions from the perpetrator are intentional and motivated to gain control
  2. The victim’s perception of the control is negative
  3. The perpetrator can deliver on their credible threat.

Coercion differs from persuasion, or influence that may be intrusive, in that it leaves the victim no choice but to ‘give in’ to the demands – or risk the adverse consequences.

Unfortunately for the victim, the act of compliance negatively reinforces the perpetrator’s behaviour (i.e. compliance avoids the adverse outcome) and increases the likelihood of compliance in the future. Once the pattern is established the perpetrator’s actions can be subtle, public, and difficult to tie to control and domination (Brennan, Burton, Gormally, & O’Leary, 2019).

This article is from the free online

Understanding Coercive Control

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education