What is coercive control? ITV's Ruth Dodsworth reveals texts abusive ex sent children

Ruth Dodsworth speaks about coercive control. (PA Images)
Coercive control: 'I am very scared, my family is scared,' says Ruth Dodsworth as she prepares for her abusive ex-husband to be released. (PA Images)

Ruth Dodsworth has revealed how her ex-husband emotionally abused her children "when he could no longer manipulate me anymore" as she raises awareness about coercive control.

The ITV weather presenter, 46, posted about an incident that happened three years ago, showing how Jonathan Wignall sent photos and messages to her children telling them their mother "didn't want" them.

He was given a three-year sentence last April after being found guilty of coercive behaviour and stalking, subjecting Dodson to nine years of abuse, but could be released later this year after serving half his sentence.

The picture shared by Dodsworth to her 38,000 followers shows an image of her bottom half lying in a hospital bed with medical wires attached, the text Wignall sent to her kids.

"This is what it looks like when you don't want your children anymore," his accompanying message read.

Read more: Women’s Aid launches powerful campaign to highlight signs of coercive control

After providing her followers with a "#triggerwarning" Dodsworth explained, "3 years ago I was taken into hospital. He photographed everything. I never knew why.

"After he was arrested months later this is the message he sent my children. He couldn't manipulate me anymore. So he tried to manipulate them. #coercivecontrol #DomesticAbuse."

Women's Aid describes coercive control as 'an act or a pattern of acts of assaults, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim'.

This form of abuse, something which isn't always physical, is 'designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour'.

Read more: New law makes it illegal to threaten to release someone's nude photographs

Women's Aid's successful campaign in making coercive control a criminal offence in 2015 in England and Wales helped to take a huge step forward in tackling domestic abuse, though there still needs to be more discussion around what it is.

Dodsworth has also spoken out about preparing for Wignall's release. "I am scared, I'm very scared, my family is scared, my mum," she said on Good Morning Britain.

"We do worry about what's going to happen."

Watch: Ruth Dodsworth discusses ex-husband found guilty of coercive behaviour

But this hasn't stopped her wanting to publicly talk about the abuse she faced.

"All I want to do is keep this conversation going," she wrote on social media. "And if even one person can save themselves or someone they know then it has all been worth it" and "Keep talking... so that we can keep saving lives..."

She told the Loose Women panellists in April that she didn't know what coercive control was at the time, but started to notice when things would turn from what appeared to be normal jealousy and possessiveness – making her think "he must really love me" – to something more sinister.

"It becomes overwhelming and overpowering. And suddenly, there was friends of his I wasn't allowed to speak to, and contacts in my phone that started disappearing," she said.

"You realise you haven't seen your family in a while, you've lost contact with your friends. It's all very insidious, it happens under the radar. It's a type of domestic abuse, but it's so subtle I lived with it for 20 years."

Read more: Why are more women seeking domestic abuse support post-lockdown?

She described it as "constantly walking on eggshells" around her ex-husband and that, as someone who could be "the nicest person and charm personified", "you never knew when he was going to switch."

He would get her to FaceTime him when she was away to show him where she was and that she was alone, and hated that she had a pin number on her phone.

The "turning point" was one evening when her children called her and warned her not to come home because "he will kill you".

Dodsworth is due to share her story of being in an abusive marriage in the new documentary Controlled By My Partner? The Hidden Abuse, which will also feature her daughter Grace, 18, on Thursday 5 May at 8.30pm on ITV.

For more information on domestic abuse and how to get help visit Gov.UK's official guide, seek information and support from Women's Aid, or call Refuge's helpline on 0808 2000 247, chat live here or use the British Sign Language (BSL) helpline.

Watch: Ruth Dodsworth says her children told her not to come home as husband threatened to kill her