Coercive and Controlling Behaviour

What is coercive control?

Coercive control describes a range or pattern of behaviours that enable a perpetrator to maintain or regain control of a partner, ex-partner or family member.

Controlling behaviour is defined as:

"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 defined as:

"An 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."

Examples of coercive control might include:

• Controlling or observing victim's daily activities, including: being made to account for their time; restricting access to money; restricting their movements (including being locked in the property).

• Isolating the victim from family/friends; intercepting messages or phone calls.

• Constant criticism of victim's role as a partner/spouse/parent.

• Threats of suicide/homicide/familicide.

• Preventing the victim from taking medication/accessing care (especially relevant for victims with disabilities).

• Using children to control their partner, e.g. threats to take the children.

• Extreme dominance; a sense of 'entitlement' to partner/partner's services, obedience etc - no matter what.

• Extreme jealousy ("If I can't have you, no one can"), giving the victim cause to believe they will act on this.

• Damage to property, including to pets.

• Threats to expose sensitive information (e.g. sexual activity) or make false allegations to family members, religious or local community including via photos or the internet.

• Involvement of wider family members/community; crimes in the name of 'honour'.

• Manipulation of information given to professionals.


  • Home Office Statutory Guidance on Coercive and Controlling Behaviour: See link
  • Safelives – Introduction to Coercive Control. See link.
  • Coercive and Controlling Behaviour - Power and Control Wheel and Resource. See link.
  • Research In Practice Coercive Control Resource Hub (includes tools, briefings and practical resources) see link
  • Learning on the impact of coercive and controlling behaviour on children. See link
  • TED talk – Why Victims Stay. See link
  • Women's Aid – Coercive Control toolkit . See link
  • What to do if you suspect coercive and controlling behaviour (Research in Practice and Women's Aid). See link.