Watch: Women's Aid launch new campaign to raise awareness of coercive control
Women’s Aid has launched a thought-provoking campaign to help women spot the signs of coercive control and highlight the fact that many don't realise they are in an abusive relationship.
The charity has developed a spoof TV show called ‘Spot The Abuse’ to highlight the issue and educate people about the signs of coercive control.
During the two-minute film, made with Engine Creative, three female contestants are asked questions by the host to help educate people about the signs of coercive control.
Questions include: "Your partner often tells you what to wear and gets moody if you don’t agree. Is this normal?", "Your partner won’t let you have a bank account as he says you’re no good with money. Do you think that’s okay?" and "Your partner has a right to stop you going out with your friends and family because he says he worries about you when you’re out. Is this okay?".
The women buzz in to answer "Yes!" in response to the questions, before being told they have answered incorrectly as the behaviour of their partner is either "controlling", "coercive control" or "not normal or usual".
The female contestants all look increasingly unsettled before it is revealed their partners are in the audience.
The ad ends with the line: "Many of us struggle to spot the signs of coercive control. What your partner says is normal might not be" before directing people to the Women’s Aid website.
What is coercive control?
Not all domestic abuse is physical.
According to Women's Aid coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
"This controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour," the site explains.
The charity have outlined some common examples of coercive behaviour including:
Isolating you from friends and family
Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
Monitoring your time
Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware
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, such as saying you’re worthless
Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you
Controlling your finances
Making threats or intimidating you
The new campaign is designed to demonstrate that women often don’t realise their relationship is abusive and that they’re victims of coercive control, as their partners tell them that their controlling behaviour is normal.
Women’s Aid is keen to raise awareness of the issue, because coercive control offences have continued to rise since it was made illegal in 2015.
According to recent figures from the charity, police recorded 24,856 coercive control offences in England and Wales in the year to March 2020, more than double compared to the 16,679 recorded the previous year and the pandemic has only fuelled the problem.
Within the first two weeks of lockdown alone, there was a 41% increase in users visiting the Women’s Aid Live Chat site to seek help on the issue.
Watch: UN begins 16-day activism campaign highlighting female abuse
Meanwhile research by Women’s Aid and Cosmopolitan in 2019 found that over a third of teenage girls had been in abusive relationships and more shocking still, when the remaining two thirds were asked about their relationships, 64% had been in abusive relationships without even realising it.
The advert, which will be rolled out across social media channels, aims to domestic abuse isn’t always physical and that coercive control can happen gradually in a relationship with a pattern of behaviours that people may not initially identify as abusive.
The campaign was launched yesterday, 25 November, the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Farah Nazeer, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid said: “This advert shows that if you are in an abusive relationship, your partner is not going to tell you that it is abusive – and coercive control is still not widely understood, despite being against the law since 2015 in England and Wales.
"We hope this advert will raise awareness and start important conversations about controlling behaviour in relationships. Greater awareness and understanding of the behaviours that make up coercive control means that more people will be able to identify it, prevent it and prosecute it.”