Coercive control – Spot the signs

There is a hidden beast within many relationships, the victims all to often suffer in silence, they are slowly isolated from their friends, their support network and even their families. The effects of a Toxic relationship' can completely destroy one's self-esteem, confidence and even the will to live.

It all creeps up so very slowly, normally with flattery, open displays of affection and public seduction, this is how it is so very often missed by those closest to the victim, who may actually be envious of the attention the victim is getting. However, beneath the surface, there is a festering emotional and very sinister agenda.

The coercive abuser begins by seizing on every opportunity to find fault with the victim, their actions, their behaviour, their friends and their families. The exploit those situations to gradually alienate them, leaving the victim increasingly alone.

Gradually, it can all seem normal to the victim, apart from the fact that they cannot do right for doing wrong, they eventually begin to question themselves, actually believing that they may be at fault. The more they believe that they may be to blame, the more they are subjugated to the will of the abuser and that is the slippery road to an emotional, psychological and even physical prison sentence.

I would highly recommend reading through this checklist, courtesy of 'Living Without Abuse' 

Check off the symptoms of abusive or manipulative partners.

Read over the following bullets. Answer honestly and without justifying your partner's behaviour (don't say "Well, she's not like that ALL the time," or "It's only happened once or twice--" if it happened at all it's an issue!). Simply answer yes or no. Even 3-4 yes's mean it is time to get out and get with someone who treats you with the respect you deserve. Does your partner:

  • Embarrass or make fun of you in front of your friends or family?
  • Put down your accomplishments or discourage your goals?
  • Make you feel like you are unable to make decisions?
  • Use intimidation, guilt, or threats to gain compliance?
  • Tell you what you can and cannot wear?
  • Tell you what you need to do with your hair?
  • Tell you that you are nothing without them, or they are nothing without you?
  • Treat you roughly without your consent - grab, push, pinch, shove or hit you?
  • Call you several times a night or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
  • Use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
  • Blame you for how they feel or act?
  • Pressure you sexually for things you aren’t ready for?
  • Make you feel like there "is no way out" of the relationship?
  • Prevent you from doing things you want - like spending time with your friends or family?
  • Try to keep you from leaving after a fight or leave you somewhere after a fight to "teach you a lesson"?

Keep your ear to the ground for troubling stories or rumours about your partner.

Hearing multiple versions of the "same" story? Do their friends tell you things about your partner that you've never heard, or that your partner flat-out contradicted? Half-truths and selective memories often mean they're shaping the "truth" for you. This is a major red-flag for manipulation, and you best get to the bottom of it.

  • When you're being controlled or manipulated, it's usually through half-truths or omissions, not outright lies. There's just enough weirdness to make you stop and think, but not quite enough to get you to re-evaluate the entire relationship.
  • If this happens more than once, STOP and remind yourself that this isn't the first time you've had this reaction. Start analyzing discrepancies between what your spouse/significant other said and what your friends say. If there are a lot of them, call him/her out on them. If his/her reaction or answers don't satisfy, it is time to re-evaluate in a major way.

Keep your friends close -- especially if he/she is trying to cut them out of the picture.

Cutting you off from the friends and family helps her/him gain dominance over you. Then, because they are so terrible, they make you think that it's your decision to leave them. If they're constantly talking behind your friends' backs, making jokes about your family, or making a big scene every time you leave to be with pals, then screw that relationship and move on.

  • Controlling people love to make tension and drama. They'll stir up the pot by pushing people, acting passive aggressive, and initiating conflict. Then, like "innocent" little children by a broken lamp, they'll put their hands up and blame it on your friends and family.
  • It's much easier for him/her to control you when you've decided there is too much tension between your loved ones and your mate, and soon, you have no one but her/him to turn to.

Show excessive jealousy or possessiveness the door.

If your partner is protective of you, that's sweet. If they're bizarrely over-protective, it's scary and super annoying. Does she/he interrogate you if you aren't home exactly on time, or if you go out for any reason? Do they question you too intensely about why you were talking to another person? Does your partner tell you that you don't care about them if you spend time with a friend?

A little jealousy is normal, even cute. But it shouldn't affect your daily relationships. Jealousy means they don't trust you. And if they don't trust you, they aren't worth dating.

Walk out on double standards and can't-win situations.

It's okay for your partner to be two hours late, but you get attacked if you're five minutes off schedule? It's "perfectly innocent" when they flirt but you're accused of infidelity for saying "Hey?" If you save money then you're being too stingy, if you spend it you're careless with money. No matter what you do, you are at fault -- and this kind of bullshit can't stand.

These are just games meant to screw with your head, and are common in controlling-manipulative relationships. You're not going to win, so don't play the game. Get out!

Ignore their sweet, fake attempts to make nice.

He/she does something that is totally unacceptable then asks your forgiveness. They tell you they realize they were wrong, and promises to change. They seem utterly sincere and convincing — and this is what makes them such master manipulators. They're using you -- the compassionate, kind one-- and turning your kindness against you. Watch for the bad behavior to resume as soon as they believe they have you hooked and complacent again. Then watch as they apologize again, rinse, and repeat.

  • At this point he/she may even tearfully say she/he wants your help to change, particularly if you have let them know that you will not tolerate such things again. They may bring you lavish gifts and attempt to sweep you off your feet again. It's up to you whether to give them a second chance or not. If they betray your trust again, though, cut through the crap and cut them out of your life.

Coercive behaviour can frequently become physical, although the damning effects of psychological abuse do go unnoticed.

Here are some statistics courtesy of the 'Living without abuse' website visit them HERE

Statistics

Domestic abuse

  • Will affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men in their lifetime
  • Leads to, on average, two women being murdered each week and 30 men per year
  • Accounts for 16% of all violent crime (Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report), however it is still the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police
  • Has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police)
  • Is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless (Shelter, 2002)
  • In 2010 the Forced Marriage Unit responded to 1735 reports of possible Forced Marriages.

In addition, approximately 400 people commit suicide each year who have attended hospital for domestic abuse injuries in the previous six months, 200 of these attend hospital on the day they go on to commit suicide

The cost of domestic abuse

It has been estimated that domestic abuse costs the public £23 billion per annum.  This includes the cost to the criminal justice system, to the health service, to social care and to housing.  It is widely accepted however that this figure is an under-estimate as there are so many costs that can not be measured.

The Home Office estimates that each domestic abuse murder costs the country just over £1 million and totals £112 million per annum.

Further statistical information is available from the British Crime Survey Statistical Bulletin.

For those in need of help, call LWA directly on their Outreach number 0808 80 200 28

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