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Are you trapped? How to Spot Coercive Control and Break Free

If you are concerned that you need to hide your history of reading this article, on your device, Women's Aid have provided advice here on how to cover your tracks.

Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse that involves a pattern of behaviors aimed at exerting power and control over a partner. It is insidious and often goes unnoticed, leaving victims feeling trapped and isolated.

How do I know if this is me?

Here's a self-assessment questionnaire to help you identify if you might be experiencing coercive control in your life.

Spend time on each question, as we can be well versed in not seeing reality and these questions are about how we can feel, deep down - day to day, when coercive control is in our lives:

  1. Are you often made to feel guilty or ashamed by your partner?

  2. Does your partner control or limit your contact with family and friends?

  3. Do you feel like you're walking on eggshells around your partner?

  4. Are you afraid to express your opinions or feelings to your partner?

  5. Does your partner constantly criticize you or put you down?

  6. Does your partner use threats, intimidation, or physical force to get their way?

  7. Does your partner control your finances, or limit your access to money?

  8. Does your partner monitor your phone, internet use, or whereabouts?

  9. Do you feel like your partner is always watching and judging you?

  10. Do you often feel confused or uncertain about what is happening in your relationship?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, you may be experiencing coercive control in your relationship.

So, let's add more education in - as answering 'yes' can be a confusing reality for people, when they perhaps didn't realise before.

What behaviours to look for in controlling partners.

In the assessment above, we focused on your feelings and the experiences of your partner - as these can be simple to think about. But, what behaviours might a coercive controlling partner be using against you - to create these experiences? Here are some examples:

  1. Isolation - One of the key tactics of coercive control is to isolate the victim from friends and family. If your partner is limiting your contact with loved ones or discouraging you from pursuing your interests, it may be a sign of coercive control.

  2. Intimidation - Coercive control often involves threats, intimidation, and other forms of psychological manipulation. Your partner may use their size or strength to intimidate you, make you feel small or vulnerable, or even threaten to harm you or others.

  3. Monitoring - A controlling partner may constantly monitor your activities, including your phone and internet use. They may demand access to your passwords, track your location, or insist on knowing your every move.

  4. Gaslighting - Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse that involves making the victim doubt their own memory, perception, or sanity. If your partner constantly denies or trivialises your experiences, feelings, or concerns, it may be a sign of gaslighting (this is a big theme on its own, so we wrote more about it here).

  5. Financial Control - Coercive control often involves controlling the victim's finances. Your partner may prevent you from working, limit your access to money, or force you to account for every penny you spend.

If any of these are resonating with you, it is important to get help to understand your needs. We often can't make sense of it alone, as the very experience is confusing and often strips us of a sense of choice and clarity about what we need.

I think this is me now (or was me in the past) what do I do?

It is important to seek help and support if you are in this situation. Contact a trusted friend, family member, or professional (see our signposting page) for assistance, and remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

Try to realise that you are not alone, this form of abuse is unfortunately quite common and there are ways to escape and to recovery.

We've written more here on how to approach healing after these experiences, remembering that escape and safety come first!

More to read on this here:

Both organisations also providing support.


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