Relationships: Coercive Control

Medical News Today has an interesting article on coercive control. It seems to be rather common; we’ve all probably seen relationships like it and worried about the victim of it. Sometimes, it the prelude to physical violence.

Coercive control is illegal in England and Wales. It’s considered to be domestic violence in Ireland, as noted in the quote below.

“Coercive control is formally defined as psychological abuse in intimate relationships that causes fear of violence or serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse impact on a person’s day-to-day life, manifesting as a pattern of intimidation or humiliation involving psychological or emotional abuse.” (Domestic Violence Act).

Coercive control is not illegal in the US unless it escalates into physical assault.

Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Google

Coercive control is simply the act of forcing another to do what one wants against their will. The subject of coercion could be sex, money, children, pets, just about anything. The methods can include:

  • Closely monitoring activity
  • Guilt
  • Threats of physical violence against the victim or against someone the victim loves
  • Verbal abuse, belittling, gaslighting
  • Financial manipulation
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Humiliation or the threat of humiliation (embarrassing someone at work or in front of family or friends)

The products of coercive behavior may include:

  • Depression and anxiety, living in constant fear of the next blowup
  • PTSD
  • Physical violence up to and including suicide and homicide

Most of the time, we think about coercive control as something that happens in the home, but it can occur on the job as well.(5, 6) My suspicion is that usually, by the time others notice, this problem has reached an extreme.

We also think of coercive control as something that males do to females, but that’s not always the case either.(7)

What can you do. As Lyn notes in her book, nothing happens until the victim commits to action. You can let the victim know that help is available, including a safe place if he or she has to leave. You can assure the victim that his/her feelings and situation aren’t unique and perhaps most importantly, aren’t his or her fault. You need to make yourself available to the victim when the problem person isn’t around.

Being a victim is hard.

Helping a victim can be just as hard and emotionally draining.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.