Escaping coercive behaviour in a relationship

As an increasing number of people in the public eye (almost exclusively women) speak out about various issues such as coercive behaviour, gaslighting, emotional and psychological abuse in relationships, it throws a spotlight onto our own relationships and those of the people around us. How do you spot this type of behaviour and what can you to do prevent it continuing?

Coercive control was criminalised here in the UK in December 2015, and it is often at the centre of domestic abuse. According to a recent report by Women’s Aid nearly 90% of women residents in refuge services in England had suffered psychological abuse. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were 584 defendants prosecuted and 293 offenders convicted of and sentenced for controlling or coercive behaviour in England and Wales in 2019.

Often in relationships of this nature the perpetrator will gain control and exert power over the other person by reducing their independence, self-esteem and often micro-managing their behaviour using violence, threats, and humiliation. Behaviour typically includes isolating the victim from their sources of support, finances, and free movement.

There are a number of options available to a victim and in an emergency situation you should call the police (999) to ask them to attend and protect you. Keeping evidence and a diary of events can help the Police with the prosecution of the individual.

You can also apply to the Family Court for a domestic violence injunction which is one of the main reasons women apply for an injunction, to exclude the abuser from your home and to protect you and or your children. To do this you need to be associated to the abuser, so this includes someone:

  • You are or were ever married, engaged or in a civil partnership with.
  • Someone you are living with (including flatmates, partners, and other relations).
  • Any relatives such as parents, children grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and extended family such as uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews or first cousins (including blood relations and those by marriage, civil partnership or cohabitation.
  • Someone you have a child with or have or had parental responsibility for the same child.
  • Someone you are or were in an intimate relationship with of significant length.

We understand how difficult it can be for someone to escape from this type of relationship and we are here to help you.

Sunita Chauhan can be contacted at