How Coercive Control Affects Victims: What You Need to Know and What You Can Do

Coercive control is a type of domestic violence that is based on the abuser exerting total dominance over the victim. It involves tactics such as isolation, intimidation, and humiliation. The abuser creates an atmosphere of FOG (fear, obligation and guilt) in order to keep the victim under their thumb.

Victims of coercive control often feel like they are walking on eggshells, never quite sure what will set their abuser off. They may be afraid to leave the house, go to work, or even go outside. The abuser may monitor their every move, including who they talk to and what they wear.

What is coercive control?

Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour that is used to control, intimidate, and manipulate another person. It can be very subtle and often goes unnoticed by friends and family.

Abusers use coercive control as a way to assert power and authority over their partner. They may try to isolate their partner from friends and family, control their finances, or dictate what they can and cannot do.

Examples of coercive control

Coercion can happen in many ways, but the following are the most common –

Isolating the victim from friends and family. The abuser will try to control who the victim talks to and what they do. They may tell them who they can and cannot see or try to keep them from talking to certain people.
Controlling the victim’s finances. The abuser may control all the money in the household and decide what the victim can spend it on. They may also try to prevent the victim from working or earning their own money. This leads to the victim becoming totally financially dependent on the abuser, making it very hard for them to leave.

Dictating what the victim can and cannot do. The abuser may try to control every aspect of the victim’s life, from what they wear to where they go. They may tell them what they can and cannot eat or try to control their every move.

Constantly checking up on them or monitoring their activities. The abuser may call or text the victim constantly to check up on them or follow them around. In this day and age it is also possible to spy on the victim using mobile apps, or even something as simple as the Find My function available on iphones. This is done to instill a sense of fear in the victim and make them feel like they are always being watched.
Making threats or engaging in physical violence. The abuser may threaten to hurt the victim or their loved ones if they don’t do what they want. They may also use physical violence as a way to control and intimidate the victim.

What are the signs of coercive control?

Signs that you may be in a coercive control relationship include:

  • You feel like you have to check in with your partner all the time. If you do not manage to touch base with them you get very anxious or worried.
  • You are not allowed to see your friends or family without them being there. If you do manage to see them, they will be interrogating you afterwards about who said what.
  • Your partner is always monitoring your activities, either via phone calls, text messages, apps, or even GPS tracking.
  • Your partner forces you to perform sexual acts that you do not feel comfortable with.
  • You are not allowed to work, or they control all the finances in the household so that you have no money of your own.
  • Your partner dictates what you can and cannot do, from what you wear to what you eat.
  • You are constantly walking on eggshells, never quite sure what will set them off.
  • You have experienced physical violence or threats of violence from your partner.
  • Your partner is very jealous and possessive. As a result, you have to stop seeing friends of the opposite sex, and in some extreme situations, you will stop seeing any friends at all.
  • You are not allowed to leave the house. Your partner may take your car keys or hide your phone so that you cannot go anywhere.
  • You are constantly being criticized and belittled by your partner. They may call you names, put you down in front of others, or make you feel like you are not good enough.

The abuser’s ultimate aim is to control your entire life and make you feel completely powerless. The coercion will start with small things, but with time it will grow, and you suddenly find yourself not able to do anything without the abuser’s permission.

If you are experiencing any of the above signs, it is important to reach out for help.

How does coercive control impact the victim?

Coercive control has a profound impact on the victim. It can cause them to feel isolated, anxious, depressed, and even suicidal. Victims of coercive control often blame themselves for the abuse and feel trapped in the situation.

This is due to a psychological phenomenon called Learned Helplessness. Victims of coercive control often feel like they have no control over their lives and that there is nothing they can do to change the situation. They come to believe that there is nothing they can do to improve their situation. This sense of powerlessness can be very debilitating and make it difficult for victims to leave the abusive relationship.

How can you leave a partner who is using coercive control?

If you are in a relationship with someone who is using coercive control, it is important to reach out for help. There are many organizations that can assist you in leaving an abusive relationship.

The first step is to reach out to a friend or family member who can offer support. They can provide you with practical assistance, such as a place to stay, and emotional support. There is the possibility that this step will be difficult, because you might have severed links with your friends and family because of the abuser. However, it is important to reach out to them if you can. You are likely to discover that they will be delighted to hear from you, and that they had been worried about you for a long time.

Another option is to seek help from a domestic violence hotline. These services are confidential and can offer you support and resources. National Domestic Violence Hotlines provides 24/hour support for victims of domestic violence. They will help you assess the situation and develop a safety plan.

What can you do to heal after experiencing coercive control?

If you have been a victim of coercive control, it is important to seek professional help. There are many counsellors and therapists who specialize in helping people heal from this type of abuse.

In addition to professional help, it is also important to reach out to your support network. These are the people who will offer you practical and emotional support as you heal from the abuse.

Finally, it is important to give yourself time and space to heal. This means taking care of yourself, both physically and emotionally. This may include exercise, relaxation techniques, and healthy eating.

The Bottom Line

Your life is your own, and you are entitled to make your own choices, earn your own money, see whoever you please and live wherever you want to. No one has the right to take that away from you or control your life.

If you are in a relationship where you feel like you are not free to be yourself, or if you are being controlled and belittled, reach out for help. There is no shame in admitting that you need help to escape an abusive relationship. There are many people who can and will support you.

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