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Looking closely at coercive control


#love dont feel bad, women's aid, Avon, campaign, coercive control, FAQsOnly 1 in 3 women understand what “coercive control” means.

Women’s Aid and Avon have launched a new campaign ‘Love Don’t Feel Bad’ as new research indicated a worryingly high number of young women have experienced controlling behaviour in their relationships.

In a survey of 2,000 16-24 year-old women, over one third said they had experienced controlling behaviour from a partner.

The research also revealed that those affected often blame themselves, or don’t know something is wrong.

One in 10 believe that controlling behaviour happened because their partner didn’t trust them.

Only 1 in 3 women understand what “coercive control” means, and 1 in 20 young women regarded being scared of their partner as normal and acceptable.

While over a third (39 per cent) of those questioned considered themselves as having been in controlling relationships, 37 per cent only knew this in hindsight – and 10 per cent only when it was highlighted to them by their friends and family.

The ‘Love Don’t Feel Bad’ campaign was launched to coincide with Valentine’s Day, a time when many are thinking about their relationships.

The campaign aims to help young women recognise coercively controlling behaviour and to spark discussion about what is acceptable in relationships, raising awareness of what healthy relationships and love really look like.

For example on its FAQs page the campaign explains how you prove this is happening to you.

It can be tricky to prove coercive control because a lot of it is unseen and happens in private. More information about the law, and the framework that the police will use in England can be found here.

We must stress that if you feel scared for your safety then you must call the police.

If you are feeling afraid and unsure of what is happening to you, then call, text or email one of these helplines for further advice.

If the police or the professionals on a helpline suggest that you are in a controlling relationship, they will suggest that you start to gather evidence.

The types of evidence that will be used in a coercive control case are: text messages and screenshots of messages on social media; copies of emails or letters; details of previous threats; phone records; 999 tapes; records of interaction with services such as support services; medical records; CCTV / body-worn video footage from when police attend a domestic abuse situation; witness testimony from family, friends or neighbours; bank records or evidence of isolation such as lack of contact with family, friends, or other agencies you were previously in contact with.

Chlo, an 18 year-old survivor of domestic abuse, said: “My ex was my first boyfriend, and I think it’s often the case that young people don’t have the experience of healthy relationships to know that what’s happening isn’t normal.

“It’s so easy just to think “all couples argue” – especially when someone is telling you that you provoked them all the time.

“And once they start wearing down your self-esteem and isolating you, it spirals to a point that you can’t see a way out.

“Having experienced coercive control, I know it’s very easy not to recognise those early signs of abuse, and end up staying in a relationship that’s dangerous.

“Raising awareness with young people is so important,  because it’ll empower them to recognise signs of control early on, and know what they are experiencing isn’t normal or their fault.”

Andrea Slater, managing director of Avon, said the sad reality is that too many women, especially younger women, simply don’t know that it’s not normal or right to be in a relationship where both partners aren’t equal.

This, she pointed out, is something we need to change.

And Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said: “Women’s Aid know that many girls are abused in their very first relationships, and do not know what a healthy relationship looks like.

“Coercive control underpins the vast majority of all abusive relationships.

“We are grateful to Avon for working with us to raise awareness of coercive control and to develop resources for young women, and for their parents and guardians, to make sure that there is relevant information and support available.”

Click here for a list of helpline numbers where you can talk to someone about coercive control and domestic abuse if you think it is happening to you or a friend.

In an emergency, please call the police on 999 for immediate help.

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