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What is coercive and controlling behaviour?

Coercive and controlling behaviour became an offence in December 2015.

It’s a term we may hear a lot, but what does coercive and controlling behaviour actually mean?

The  definition of the offence is;

“An act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten a victim.

“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.”

Victims of coercive control have told us that, at first, everything can seem normal in their relationship. The relationship starts as a loving one; their partner is kind, considerate and thoughtful towards them.

But over a period of time, the relationship starts to deteriorate and the abusive and controlling behaviour begins to creep in.

Many victims have said that the controlling behaviour starts in a way where you don’t really realise that you are being abused. You might think your partner is insecure or jealous and you explain the behaviour away or think that it’s romantic that they care so much; that they want to know your every move.

It may start as questioning you about where you have been or who you have been with. Your partner may check your phone or social media accounts, send you a barrage of text messages wanting to know where you are or who you are with, or phone incessantly when you are out socially or at work.

The abuse may escalate to making negative comments about your appearance, or what you are wearing. Your partner may start to be overly critical of you or something you have done, or put you down or humiliate you.

It may start quiet low key at first, but the abuse can escalate and can get to the point where your partner is controlling when you eat, sleep, go to work or see friends or family.

When someone abuses through controlling and domineering behaviour, the underlying plan and motivation of the abuser is to sap your self-esteem, isolate you and make you wholly dependent upon them.

They may also use other ways to control you. For example threatening to harm you, if you go against their decision or judgement. They may also threaten to harm themselves, or others in the family such as children or even family pets.

In this video Chief Inspector Al Wescott, Deputy Lead for Safeguarding for North Yorkshire Police speaks to Carmel Offord from IDAS ,who are the largest specialist charity in Yorkshire supporting anyone experiencing or affected by domestic abuse or sexual violence, and Detective Constable Amy Beveridge from North Yorkshire Police’s Criminal Investigation Department.

They discuss how to spot the signs of a coercive and controlling relationship, the support and advice services available to anyone who is experiencing abuse and violence and what action the police can take to safeguard and protect those who are experiencing this type of abuse.

You can listen to an audio version of the video here


If you or someone you know is living in fear of abuse or violence, you can report it to North Yorkshire Police on 101. If you at risk of immediate harm always dial 999.

If you do not want to contact the police, help and support is still available. You can contact IDAS on 03000 110 110 (24hr national number 0808 2000 247) or visit their website www.idas.org.uk for more information.

You can also contact Supporting Victims in North Yorkshire on 01609 643100 (Mon to Fri 9am-5pm)

More information about other support services is available on our webpage here

Please do not suffer in silence – there are people who are available to listen, help and support you #youarenotalone