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We've launched a campaign designed to raise awareness of controlling and coercive behaviour - and how it can take many forms - in a bid to encourage victims to come forward and speak out.
The campaign is titled We're on Your Side, and is aimed at men and women and explains how coercive control can happen to anyone, at any age, in any kind of relationship.
We’re working with national expert Jane Monckton-Smith, Staffordshire Women's Aid and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) West Midlands Area.
Controlling and coercive behaviour is at the heart of domestic abuse. It is a deliberate and calculated pattern of behaviour and psychological abuse designed to isolate, manipulate and terrorise a victim into complete fearful obedience.
Coercive control survivor Sarah, describes her experience: "The problems began after I'd had my third child. In a very short space of time he became very controlling - limiting my freedom, stopping me from working, monitoring my use of social media and threatening that social services would take my children away. He became physically violent and knocked me out twice. I realised I had to get out and rebuild my life."
Signs include taking control over aspects of someone's everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep. Pressure tactics can include monitoring someone's time, controlling someone's ability to go to work, taking money; taking away someone's phone, tablet or laptop. Stalking can include monitoring online communication, following someone; going through someone's mobile, tablet or laptop. Threatening someone, their children, their pets or their family are also signs of an abusive relationship.
The law, which was introduced at the end of 2015, enables charges to be brought in domestic abuse cases where there is evidence of repeated controlling or coercive behaviour. It carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment and a fine can be invoked if a victim suffers serious alarm or distress that impacts on their day-to-day activities, or if they fear violence will be used on at least two occasions.
Watch a video of Sarah's story.
He knocked me out twice. He cut all the phone lines. He made me wear his clothes. I woke to find his hands around my throat. This was my life. I thought it was normal. It isn't.
I met my husband when I was 19 and the first ten years were ok. I had my first child when I was 26. He said I didn't need to go to work anymore. He smashed all of my make-up. My second child was born two years later.
The problems really began after I'd had my third child. He began to get more aggressive, isolating me more and more. My doctor advised me against having any more children as each pregnancy had made me more ill. Being pregnant and having children was just another way to isolate and control me. By the time I was 37, I had five children under 11.
It was like walking on eggshells. He wouldn't let me go anywhere apart from walking the children to school and back, but if I was more than five minutes late he would accuse me of sleeping with other men. He did not help with the children and if I wanted to nip to the shop for a loaf of bread I would have to take all five children with me. Another way to control me.
No-one knew what was going on. I was frightened of telling anyone because of the repercussions.
He constantly threatened that social services would take the children away. He smashed everything of sentimental value to me. I was allowed to have a Facebook account but I couldn't be friends with any men and he would check it constantly.
The last two years were the worst. He was increasingly violent. I woke up one day to him spitting in my face. I slept with my children for my own safety and I felt trapped upstairs. He threatened to kill me, to have me run over and to kill my parents.
One day, he shouted at me for being five minutes late back. That was the final straw. I left with my children. I lost everything else. He would not let me have my birth certificate and I had no form of identification.
He got three months' imprisonment and a full non-contact order. I got to rebuild my life.
If you are a victim of coercive control, or know someone who is, and there is an emergency that is ongoing or life is in danger, dial 999. In non-emergency cases and for general advice, please call 101.
Arch North Staffs
(10am - 3pm Monday to Friday)