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"They said if I love them, I’d do it”
“He tracks my phone because he cares”
“He puts me down whenever he can”
"If I don't text back straight away she'll be angry"
Does any of this sound familiar?  It’s not love.  It’s abuse. 

Domestic and/or familial abuse can include violence, but did you know that it isn’t always physical? It can also include coercive control (an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse) to harm, punish, or frighten.  Controlling behaviour works to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. 

Abuse can be psychological and/or emotional, physical or sexual or financial and can take place in person or online.  It is very common and can affect anyone, regardless of their gender or sexuality, although in the vast majority of cases it is experienced by women and perpetrated by men. Domestic abuse doesn’t only happen between intimate partners – it can also take place between family members. 

Relationships rarely start out abusive, and coercive control can be difficult to detect, as it is a slow deliberate process that develops over time. 

Know the signs 

Criticism and verbal abuse: shouting, mocking, name-calling, putting you down.
Using pressure-tactics: sulking; threatening to withhold money, disconnecting the phone and internet, taking away or destroying your mobile, tablet or laptop, taking the car away, taking the children away; threatening to report you to the police, social services or the mental health team unless you comply with their demands; threatening or attempting self-harm and suicide; withholding or pressuring you to use drugs or other substances; lying to your friends and family about you; telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.

Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk; interrupting your telephone calls; taking money from your purse without asking; refusing to help with childcare or housework.

Isolating you: monitoring or blocking your phone calls, e-mails and social media accounts, preventing you from seeing friends and relatives; shutting you in the house.

Harassment: following you; checking up on you; not allowing you any privacy, accompanying you everywhere you go.

Breaking trust: lying to you; withholding information from you; being jealous; having other relationships; breaking promises and shared agreements.

Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts; having sex with you when you don’t want it; forcing you to look at pornographic material; constant pressure and harassment into having sex when you don’t want to, forcing you to have sex with other people; any degrading treatment related to your sexuality or to whether you are lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual.

Threats: making angry gestures; using physical size to intimidate; shouting you down; destroying your possessions; breaking things; punching walls; wielding a weapon
Physical violence: punching; slapping; hitting; biting; pinching; kicking; pulling hair out; pushing; shoving; burning; strangling, pinning you down, holding you by the neck, restraining you.

Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen; saying you caused the abuse; begging for forgiveness; saying it will never happen again; saying they can’t control their anger; being publically gentle and patient.

Using coercive control to harm, punish, or frighten you (e.g.  depriving you of basic needs, such as food; monitoring your time / your activity throughout the day i.e. use of hidden  cameras; denying you freedom; taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear and when you can sleep; depriving you access to support services, such as medical services; repeatedly putting you down; humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you; controlling your finances / limiting your access to money). 
Support available:
Acknowledging these factors is an important step in preventing and stopping the abuse.  If you are experiencing abusive behaviour, it is important to remember that the abuse is not your fault, that domestic abuse is against the law, and that you don't have to deal with this on your own because there is a lot support available.

In an emergency you should call the Police on 999 (you do not need a signal or credit to do so). We would also encourage you to call the 24 hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.
Our Report + Support webpages provide more information about domestic and/or familial abuse, including details of specialist external organisations who can help. 

Students can contact the Advice and Counselling Service directly for confidential advice and support to help you decide what course of action you may want to take, they can to help you think about your support options in confidence or put you in touch with external specialist organisations for expert advice.   

Want to know more?

Women's Aid offer more information about recognising domestic abuse and recognising coercive control. 

There are two ways you can tell us what happened