Controlling behaviour in relationships
Published: 11 June 2021
Abuse isn't always physical
Domestic abuse and toxic relationships don't always involve physical violence. It can be sexual, financial and emotional abuse and can happen to anyone. Sustained controlling behaviour such as regularly intimidating, bullying, criticising or threatening someone in a personal relationship, are all forms of what is called 'coercive control'. This is a form of domestic abuse and is a criminal offence.
What is coercive control?
Typically one person in a personal relationship, whether it be a partner, spouse or family member, will control the other over a period of time and in ways that go largely unnoticed by friends and family. As well as the bullying and criticism, common traits of coercive control can include checking the other's phone, making them dress in or look a certain way, wanting to know where they are and who they are seeing, restricting their money or cutting them off from friends and family.
Who can it happen to and what support is available?
Abuse can happen to anyone. Children and young people that are new to relationships might not know what a healthy relationship is. So it's really important to help young people spot the signs when a relationship is unhealthy.
What support is available?
The LoveRespect website includes lots of helpful information for young people including a quiz to learn more about how healthy their relationship is, and advice on how to help a friend who might be spending time with someone who doesn't treat them well.
Drawtheline.uk is an online interactive platform for use on a smartphone to help young people to identify harmful, toxic and abusive behaviour in their relationships and also provides information, help and advice. More information can be found on the Drawtheline.uk website.
A range of help and support is available, including general advice and confidential listening. So if you think you may be in a controlling relationship or know someone who is, we are here to help when you are ready. Visit the Surrey Against Domestic Abuse website, call Surrey's Domestic Abuse helpline provided by Your Sanctuary on 01483 776822 or visit the Your Sanctuary confidential online chat web page to get advice, signposting and information just as you would over the phone.
In an emergency you should always call 999.
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