Domestic abuse can take many forms, and is rarely purely violent. Many people experience psychological, emotional or financial abuse; controlling behaviours that were not protected by any specific legislation until December 2015.
The coercive or controlling behaviour offence changed that, as police forces were given the power to protect those subjected to threats, humiliation and intimidation, often leading to total control of their lives. In isolation, these incidents were often seen as insignificant but, to the person experiencing them, they can mean the gradual loss of confidence, freedom, friends and family.
Nationally, there has been a positive response to these new powers, with forces taking this legislation and applying it to a wide set of circumstances to protect people and bring perpetrators to justice. The convictions to date are diverse in their nature, with a marked increase in standalone coercive control offences as well as individual cases forming part of a catalogue of offences.
In Nottinghamshire, a man who used intimidation and violence to control every aspect of his partner’s life was jailed for four and a half years. He admitted using coercive and controlling behaviour, along with two charges of causing actual bodily harm, harassment with violence and two charges of criminal damage.
The court also imposed a restraining order ‐ banning him from making contact with the victim or her family for life. His ex partner bravely attended court to watch his sentencing and describe the effect he had on her life.
In a statement in court, she said: “He controlled every aspect of my life; from where I went, to what I wore, to what possessions he allowed me to own. I wasn’t a person, but an object to him. He undermined any confidence that I had to move away from him, and told me that he knew how to manipulate the legal system and police into not being caught.”
The coercive or controlling behaviour offence is in place to give those people experiencing this type of abuse the confidence to come forward and start to take back control from those who seek to intimidate and isolate them. Such acts can destroy careers, life prospects, affect their children and loved ones and vital support networks. When people try to break free from suffocating control they often face great risk.
It is encouraging that after just over a year there have already been some significant sentences to date, the longest being four and a half years followed by a number of sentences for four years. The maximum sentence for this offence is five years.
There is hope that others in similar situations are now provided with the strength and confidence to talk to us and stop the abuse. If you have experienced any type of domestic abuse, or think it may be happening to someone else, call your local police on 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.
If you feel motivated by our cause, don’t forget you can get involved with our work to combat gender-based violence by getting in touch or joining our community on Facebook and Twitter.