Coercive control is a pattern of repeated or continuous behaviours that are used to harm, punish or frighten someone; which causes them serious alarm or distress and which has a substantial adverse effect on their day to day life.

Walking on eggshells - video


On 29 December 2015 a new offence, Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 - controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship, was introduced. This has made it easier to prove a pattern of behaviour within a relationship. 

The type of behaviours used will vary and will potentially be a combination of some of the following (this list is not exhaustive and there are many others that could be considered): 

  • Limiting access to and isolating from family and friends
  • Taking control over where someone can go or what they can wear 
  • Taking wages, benefits or allowances 
  • Threatening to harm or kill children or pets 
  • Family 'dishonour' 
  • Controlling access to medical treatment, transport, education or employment 
  • Monitoring online activity or how someone spends their time 
  • Forcing someone to engage in criminal activity 
  • Repeatedly putting someone down, degrading them or making them feel worthless

When considering coercive control, all behaviours being experienced will be taken into account and not looked at in isolation to ensure the full impact on an individual can be understood. 

The offence of coercive control can be used in respect of intimate or familial relationships. 

Coercive control is a series of behaviours which are also acknowledged as being an integral part of spiritual abuse where, in addition to experiencing behaviours commonly seen in cases of domestic abuse, individuals may also be subject to the threat of spiritual consequences; exercising control through the misuse of the scriptures, use of divine position or calling to coerce or using God's name or suggested will.  Spiritual abuse is not limited to one denomination or faith. 

The term 'gaslighting' is often used to refer to the way an individual can manipulate or control someone psychologically into doubting their own sanity. This short animation describes some of the behaviours used by someone who wants to manipulate and control you. 

If you need help and support please contact Torbay Domestic Abuse Service or check the Directory for other services.  

If you believe you are in immediate danger always telephone the police on 999.