Domestic abuse can take many forms and one of the most insidious is coercive control, which is defined as ongoing psychological behaviour with the purpose of removing a victim’s freedom. It has been a crime in the UK for some years and has just come into law in Ireland. Miriam O’Callaghan was joined by Davina James-Hanman, an independent consultant specialising in violence against women, ahead of the Safe Ireland seminar, .
“I think it’s often quite difficult to recognise it in the very early stages because one of the very first ways in which an abuser gains control over their victim is what in my world we call ‘love bombing’. It’s very difficult to tell women when they’ve met a man who behaves like the prince that we’re all supposed to be looking for, who showers you with presents and compliments and spends all his time with you… that actually you need to be careful with someone who is being so attentive and so complimentary.”
Davina says if something is happening at lightning speed and feels too good to be true, it may well be.
“Part of the purpose from the abuser’s perspective of this kind of ‘love bombing’ stage is that you form a bond very quickly and, crucially, part of it involves them finding out your secrets because you are then handing over the information that they will later use to torment you with.”
Davina warns that often women don’t question their situation until the fear kicks in, at which point, they can feel like it’s too late to turn back.
“Sometimes people think that coercive control is just another form of psychological abuse but it’s more than that. It’s actually an assault on women’s liberty. The easiest way to understand coercive control is that it literally or metaphorically makes a victim’s world smaller… This is why it’s a much better indicator of future risk than physical violence.”
Click here to listen to Davina’s interview in full and if you’ve been affected by issues raised in this article, you can contact Women’s Aid for help and information on freephone 1800 341 900 or log onto www.safeireland.ie.
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