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Harassment and Controlling or Coercive Behaviour

Legal advice on Controlling or Coercive Behaviour

If you find yourself in a situation where you believe you are experiencing controlling or coercive behaviour, it is essential that you understand your rights and seek appropriate legal advice.

Table of Content

What is Controlling or Coercive Behaviour

Is Controlling or Coercive Behaviour a cultural thing

Controlling or Coercive Behaviour and psychological abuse

Controlling or Coercive Behaviour and financial control

Controlling or Coercive Behaviour and sexual abuse

What law do we have in the UK against Controlling or Coercive Behaviour

Who, by law, can commit Controlling or Coercive Behaviour

What does the law of Controlling or Coercive Behaviour say about impact of the conduct on the victim

Are there any defences to a charge of controlling or coercive behaviour

Where can I find legal advice in relation to controlling or coercive behaviour


What is Controlling or Coercive Behaviour

Controlling or coercive behaviour is a criminal offence in the UK. It refers to a pattern of actions that an individual uses to exert control over another person, causing them to fear for their safety, well-being, or freedom. In such circumstances, it is crucial to gather evidence of the controlling or coercive behaviour. This can include text messages, emails, voicemails, videos or audio recordings or any other form of communication that demonstrates the coercive tactics being employed.

Additionally, documenting incidents and keeping a detailed record of dates, times, and descriptions of the behaviour can strengthen your case. Once you have gathered sufficient evidence, you might wish to consult with a qualified solicitor who is experienced in the field of harassment law. They solicitor will guide you through the legal process and help you understand the available options to protect yourself and to repair some of the damage, in the event that the controlling or coercive behaviour had led to material posted about you online.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, you may be eligible to obtain a restraining order or injunction against the perpetrator or even put them away through the criminal courts. It is essential to remember that controlling or coercive behaviour is a serious criminal offence as well as a civil wrongdoing. Therefore, reporting the incidents to the police or discussing them with a specialist solicitor is crucial. They can investigate the matter and take necessary action to ensure your safety, or at least, give you appropriate legal advice which you will be likely to use sooner or later.

Is Controlling or Coercive Behaviour a cultural thing

In some cultures, controlling or coercive behaviour is more common than in others. However, harassment and controlling or coercive behaviour are pervasive issues that continue to plague our society at large. These types of behaviour can be found in various settings and across a variety of cultures.

Mostly in personal relationships, controlling or coercive behaviour has detrimental effects on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of individuals. Harassment, in the context of controlling or coercive behaviour can take many forms, including but not limited to sexual, financial and bullying.

These forms of abuse, whether physical, emotional, or psychological, are insidious and can often go unnoticed for long periods of time. The subtle nature of these types of abuse can make it difficult for victims to identify the signs and seek help, leaving them trapped in a cycle of suffering.

Controlling or Coercive Behaviour and psychological abuse

One of the most common forms of controlling or coercive behaviour abuse is emotional and psychological abuse. This type of abuse involves the use of manipulation, humiliation, and control to undermine a person's self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

It can take many forms, such as constant criticism, withholding affection or love, and gaslighting. Gaslighting is a particularly damaging form of emotional abuse where the abuser distorts the victim's perception of reality, making them doubt their own thoughts and feelings.

Controlling or Coercive Behaviour and financial control

Financial abuse is a pervasive and damaging form of controlling or coercive behaviour that is often used by abusers to maintain power and control over their victims. It involves the abuser exerting control over the victim's access to money and other financial resources, creating a sense of dependency and vulnerability. This type of abuse can take many forms and can have serious and long-lasting effects on the victim's financial stability, self-esteem, and overall well-being.

One common tactic of controlling or coercive behaviour is financial abuse where the abuser witholds money for basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. The abuser may use this as a means of punishment or to manipulate the victim into complying with their demands. By controlling the victim's access to these necessities, the abuser can instil fear and a sense of helplessness in the victim, making it difficult for them to leave the abusive relationship. Another way in which abusers engage in financial abuse is by taking control of the victim's bank accounts and credit cards.

They may open joint accounts without the victim's knowledge or permission and use the victim's credit or debit card without their consent. This not only limits the victim's financial autonomy but also allows the abuser to track the victim's spending and control their every move. In some cases, an abuser may force their victim to work and then demand that they hand over all of their earnings. This effectively traps the victim in a cycle of economic dependence and prevents them from being able to save money or become financially independent.

Controlling or Coercive Behaviour and sexual abuse

Controlling or coercive behaviour through sexual abuse is a pervasive issue that affects millions of individuals worldwide. It is a form of controlling or coercive behaviour that can have devastating effects on the victim, both physically and emotionally. This heinous act often goes unnoticed for long periods, making it even more challenging for victims to come forward and seek help. One of the most alarming aspects of sexual abuse is that it can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, race, or social status.

The most common form of controlling or coercive behaviour through sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity forced upon a person without their consent. Sexual abuse can have severe and lasting effects on the victim's physical and mental well-being.

It can lead to physical injuries, sexually transmitted infections, and unwanted pregnancies. In addition, victims of sexual abuse often experience a range of psychological effects, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicidal thoughts. This type of abuse is often manifested in the form of turning the victim into a sex slave or forcing them to participate in the creation of pornography. The term "sex slave" can encompass a wide range of situations, all of which involve the complete domination and control of an individual's sexual agency.

This can occur in situations of human trafficking, where individuals are forced into sexual servitude against their will. It can also occur in relationships where one partner exerts power and control over the other's sexual choices, often using threats, manipulation, fake or conditional love and physical violence to maintain control. In addition to being forced into sexual acts, victims of this type of abuse may also be coerced into participating in the production of pornography.

This can involve taking explicit photos or videos, engaging in sexual acts on camera, or being involved in the distribution of pornographic material. In all cases, the victim's agency and consent are completely disregarded, reducing them to mere objects for the gratification of others.

The psychological and emotional impact of being used as a sex slave or being forced to participate in the creation of pornography can be devastating. The victim may experience feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame for their involvement, even though they were coerced and had no choice in the matter.

Victims often suffer from trauma and anxiety, lasting for years. One of the most damaging effects of sexual abuse is the impact it has on the victim's self-esteem. When the victim of controlling or coercive behaviour through sexual abuse is forced to participate in pornography which ends up online, the long-term damage to their self-esteem is often irreparable, at least until the pornography is removed from the internet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Different forms of harassment and controlling or coercive behaviour can include physical violence, verbal abuse, stalking, cyberbullying, financial control, isolating the victim from friends and family, gaslighting, and using threats or intimidation to gain power and control. These behaviours can occur in various contexts such as relationships, workplaces, and online spaces. It's essential to recognize and address these forms of harassment and control to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals.

Someone can recognise if they are being harassed or subjected to controlling or coercive behaviour by being aware of certain red flags. These may include constant criticism, monitoring or tracking their movements, isolation from friends and family, threats or intimidation, financial control, and manipulation. Trusting one's instincts and seeking support or advice from trusted friends, family, or professionals if they suspect they are being subjected to such behaviours is important. It's essential to prioritize one's safety and well-being in such situations.

The potential consequences of harassment and controlling or coercive behaviour on the victim's mental health can be severe. Victims may develop symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They may also experience low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, and a loss of trust in others. Additionally, the constant stress and fear caused by these behaviours can lead to physical health problems such as headaches, insomnia, and digestive issues. It's crucial to address and support victims of harassment and controlling behaviour to prevent further harm to their mental and emotional well-being.

Individuals can effectively respond to and address harassment and controlling or coercive behaviour by first recognizing and acknowledging the behaviour as unacceptable. Setting clear boundaries and communicating assertively with the person engaging in the behaviour is important. Documenting incidents and gathering evidence if necessary, and reaching out for support from friends, family, or professionals is also crucial. Speaking to a specialist solicitor and reporting the behaviour to relevant authorities or organisations can also help address the issue.

What law do we have in the UK against Controlling or Coercive Behaviour

Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 sets out the criteria that must be met for such an offence to be established. Firstly, it requires that the suspect repeatedly or continuously engages in behaviour towards another person that is controlling or coercive. Additionally, there must be a personal connection between the suspect and the victim, and the behaviour in question must have a serious effect on the victim. It is essential for the suspect to be aware or should have been aware that their behaviour would have a serious impact on the victim.

The importance of understanding the consequences of one's actions cannot be emphasised enough, especially when it comes to the well-being and safety of another individual. In the context of criminal behaviour (as opposed to a civil wrongdoing), the suspect in any criminal case must be cognisant of the fact that their actions have the potential to cause harm to their victim. The perpetrator must understand the gravity of their behaviour and the ripple effect it can have on the lives of those involved.

Ignorance or lack of understanding cannot be used as an excuse for harmful actions. However, acts that are designed to make a person feel inferior and/or dependent by keeping them apart from friends, help and support will almost always fall under the definition of controlling or coercive behaviour. By keeping the victim apart from their social network, the abuser is able to create a sense of dependence and reliance on them, which at first sight appears to be consensual. This not only makes the victim feel inferior and isolated but also limits their access to resources that could potentially help them escape the abusive situation. Isolation can happen in various ways, including physical, emotional, and financial isolation.

Who, by law, can commit Controlling or Coercive Behaviour

The law refers to an individual who is "personally connected" to the victim of the controlling or coercive behaviour. Personally connected is a term used to describe the relationship between a suspect and a victim in cases of harassment and controlling or coercive behaviour. According to the Statutory Guidance Framework, individuals are considered personally connected if they have been married or in a civil partnership with each other, have agreed to marry or enter into a civil partnership, have been or currently are in an intimate personal relationship, have a parental relationship in relation to the same child, or are relatives.

While the term "intimate personal relationship" is not explicitly defined in the statute, it encompasses more than just a sexual relationship. It can also include relationships where there is a level of personal or emotional intimacy, such as dating or sharing a bed. The determination of whether a relationship meets the criteria of being personally connected should be based on the ordinary dictionary meaning of the words and the specific context of the situation. There are numerous types of relationships that exist, ranging from friendships to romantic partnerships.

So, what exactly does it mean to be personally connected? According to the legal definition, a personally connected relationship is one in which the individuals involved have a strong bond or connection that goes beyond just a mere acquaintance or casual interaction. This bond can be based on a variety of factors, such as familial ties, close friendships, or intimate relationships. In many cases, individuals may not even be aware that the type of relationship they are in meets the criteria for being "personally connected."

This is especially true for young adults who may be navigating the complex world of relationships for the first time. They may not fully understand the implications of being in a personally connected relationship and the potential consequences that may arise. One common example of a personally connected relationship is that of a romantic partnership, specifically the boyfriend/girlfriend type. This type of relationship often involves two individuals who have formed a strong emotional connection and may have even declared their commitment to each other. However, the interesting thing about this type of relationship is that it can exist even if the two individuals do not live together.

What does the law of Controlling or Coercive Behaviour say about the impact of the conduct on the victim

In cases of harassment and controlling or coercive behaviour, the element of "The behaviour has a serious effect on the victim" can be proven in one of two ways. The prosecutor only needs to establish one of the following: firstly, if the behaviour causes the victim to fear violence on at least two occasions (section 76(4)(a) SCA 2015), or secondly, if the serious alarm and distress caused by the suspect's behaviour has had a substantial adverse effect on the victim's usual day-to-day activities (section 76(4)(b) SCA 2015). It is important to note that for this offence, the behaviour or activities must be carried out repeatedly or continuously, but they do not need to be of the same nature. Examples of a substantial adverse effect on the victim could include physical or mental health deterioration, withdrawal from social activities or physical exercise, implementing safety measures at home for themselves or their children, such as installing CCTV, self-harm, improper eating habits, or other necessary precautionary measures.

These effects can have a profound impact on the victim's daily life, causing them to experience a range of emotions such as fear, anxiety, and depression. Physical health deterioration can manifest in various ways, such as chronic pain, headaches, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. The victim may also experience frequent illnesses due to a weakened immune system caused by the stress and trauma of the situation. This can lead to an overall decline in their physical well-being and quality of life.

Mental health deterioration is another common consequence of being a victim of a substantial adverse effect. The constant fear and stress can trigger mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. These conditions can significantly impact the individual's ability to function in their daily life, affecting their relationships, work, and overall happiness. One of the most damaging effects of being a victim of a substantial adverse effect is the withdrawal from social activities and physical exercise.

The victim may isolate themselves from friends and family, feeling embarrassed or ashamed of their situation. This isolation can have a profound impact on an individual's mental health, leading to further declines in their well-being. In times of crisis or traumatic events, having a strong social support system is crucial in helping individuals cope and recover. However, with the current situation of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders, many people are cut off from their usual sources of support, whether it be friends, family, or community organisations.

Assessing the evidence of serious effect is a crucial aspect when dealing with cases of harassment and controlling or coercive behaviour. It is important to approach the evaluation without any preconceived notions about what a "typical" victim should look like or how they should behave. Victims of controlling or coercive behaviour can respond in various ways, such as turning to drugs or alcohol or displaying signs of humiliation, detachment, anger, or retaliation.

Their interpretation of the abuse may also differ, influenced by their social or cultural context, leading to feelings of guilt. It is essential not to compare victims to each other but rather to consider how their day-to-day lives have been impacted. It is crucial to not overlook cases of controlling or coercive behaviour, as victims may be perceived as colluding or consenting to the actions. In some instances, victims might not even be aware or ready to acknowledge, let alone report, that they are being subjected to such behaviour.

Are there any defences to a charge of controlling or coercive behaviour

Yes. The defence provisions under Sections 76 (8) to (10) of the Serious Crime Act 2015 offer a potential defence for behaviour categorised under Section 76 4(b) of the same act, which involves causing serious alarm or distress with a substantial adverse effect on the victim's day-to-day activities.

This defence requires the suspect to demonstrate that they genuinely believed their actions were in the best interest of the victim and that, considering all the circumstances, their behaviour was reasonable. The suspect can establish this defence by presenting sufficient evidence to raise an issue regarding these facts, and if the contrary is not proven beyond reasonable doubt.

It is important to note that this defence is not available for behaviour falling under Section 76 (4) (a) of the act, which pertains to causing the victim to fear violence on at least two occasions.

Where can I find legal advice in relation to controlling or coercive behaviour

Seeking legal advice in connection with controlling or coercive behaviour is crucial at any stage, even after a relationship has ended, especially for victims who may have been coerced or manipulated for along period of time. Often, individuals only recognise the need for help and support once they have distanced themselves from the situation. An experienced solicitor can provide guidance on the available options, such as obtaining restraining orders, pursuing civil remedies, or reporting the abuse to the appropriate authorities.

They can also help victims understand their rights and navigate complex legal processes, ensuring their safety and well-being are prioritised. By seeking legal advice, victims can regain control over their lives and take necessary steps towards justice and healing. Victims of mental abuse often feel overwhelmed and lost in the complex and often daunting legal system. With the help of legal support, they are able to gain a better understanding of their rights and the legal processes involved in seeking justice.

This knowledge can be instrumental in helping them navigate the intricacies of the legal system and make informed decisions about their case. In addition to providing guidance and support, by speaking to the right solicitor about their experiences being controlled and coerced, victims regain a sense of control over their lives. Many victims of controlling or coercive behaviour abuse feel powerless and helpless, but by seeking legal advice, they are taking an active step towards reclaiming their power and standing up for their rights.

This can have a significant impact on their emotional well-being and overall healing process. If the controlling or coercive behaviour involves forcing the victim to take part in the production of pornography, a specialist solicitor can help and facilitate the removal of the material from the internet, regardless of the amount or volume of the video clips that are available on the internet.

Are you a victim of harassment? Time might be of the essence. Call us now for legal advice on +44 207 183 4123 or send a confidential contact request and we will contact you as soon as possible.


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