Domestic Abuse: Coercive Behaviour Explained

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What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse refers to any pattern of behaviour used to gain power and control over a partner, family member, or household member. It can take many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse.

Physical abuse includes actions such as hitting, pushing, choking, or using a weapon to cause harm. Emotional abuse can include verbal abuse, intimidation, or manipulation to control or belittle the victim. Sexual abuse includes unwanted sexual contact or coercion. Financial abuse can include controlling or limiting access to money, resources, or property.

Domestic abuse can also include stalking, isolation, or harassment and it can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. It’s important to note that domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence and can take different forms, often subtle and difficult to detect, but all are equally harmful.

What is coercive behaviour?

Coercive or controlling behaviour refers to a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation or intimidation to control or manipulate another person’s actions or decisions and regulating their everyday behaviour. This can include physical, emotional, or psychological abuse, as well as financial or legal manipulation. Examples of coercive behaviour include:

  • Threatening to harm oneself or others
  • Withholding resources or support
  • Using guilt or shame to control someone’s actions
  • Monitoring, tracking or controlling someone’s movements
  • Restricting access to money, food, or other necessities
  • Isolating them from friends and family
  • Threatening violence, self-harm, or suicide
  • Humiliating, degrading, repeatedly putting down or belittling them


Coercive behaviour is not healthy and can be detrimental for the person who is being controlled. If you, or someone you know is experiencing intimidation or other abuse, such as coercive controlling behaviour, you should speak to a domestic abuse solicitor today to find out how they can help.


Is coercive behaviour a form of domestic abuse?

Yes, coercive behaviour is considered a form of domestic abuse. It is designed to harm, punish or frighten a victim into doing something.

Domestic abuse refers to any pattern of behaviour used to gain power and control over a partner, family member, or household member. Coercive behaviour is one of several forms of abuse that can be used in domestic abuse situations, along with physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse.

Coercive behaviour can include threats, manipulation, and force to control or manipulate another person’s actions or decisions. It can be used in combination with other forms of abuse to maintain power and control in the relationship.

How can the law protect victims from domestic abuse coercive behaviour?


In the UK, coercive behaviour is considered a criminal offense under the Serious Crime Act 2015. The act introduced the new offense of controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship.

Under this law, a person can be found guilty of controlling or coercive behaviour if they engage in a pattern of behaviour that has a serious effect on another person. The behaviour is a criminal offence if it causes the other person to fear that violence will be used against them, or if it causes them serious alarm or distress that has a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities.

The maximum sentence for this offense is five years’ imprisonment. In addition to this, the offender can also be subject to other penalties such as restraining order, fines and community service.

It’s important to note that domestic abuse and coercive behaviour are not limited to physical violence, it can include assault, threats, humiliation, and controlling behaviour. The law also recognises that these behaviours can happen in any type of relationship, not just romantic ones.

Using a solicitor, a victim of domestic violence and abuse can obtain injunctions to protect themselves and their families from an abuser.

These injunctions can include:

If you are married to your abuser and wish to obtain a divorce, an expert from our panel of family law solicitors can help you through this process. We can also help in sorting out finances and the splitting of assets after the divorce.

If you are in an abusive relationship and have children, a family law solicitor will be able to provide you with the best advice and assistance on ensuring appropriate contact arrangements are in place between your former partner and your children.

If you are currently experiencing domestic abuse, contact us to find out how we can help.

Do I need to pay for a domestic abuse solicitor?


In the UK, domestic abuse victims are entitled to legal aid in certain circumstances. Legal aid is financial assistance provided by the government to help individuals access legal services. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) provides legal aid for victims of domestic abuse in certain civil and family law cases.

Victims of domestic abuse may be eligible for legal aid in the following cases:

  • Injunctions: Victims can apply for an injunction (a court order) to protect themselves from further abuse.
  • Divorce and financial matters: Victims can apply for legal aid to help them divorce their abuser and obtain financial support.
  • Child contact and residence: Victims can apply for legal aid to help them make arrangements for their children to be looked after.

Victims of domestic abuse may also be eligible for legal aid in certain criminal cases, such as when the abuser is charged with a criminal offense.

It’s important to note that the eligibility criteria for legal aid can vary depending on the specific case and the individual’s circumstances, and it’s recommended to reach out to a legal aid provider for more information.

How can Expert Family Law’s panel of domestic abuse solicitors help with domestic abuse coercive behaviour?

Our panel of domestic abuse solicitors will ensure you get the best advice and will ensure you are made safe from domestic abuse coercive behaviour as soon as possible. We can assist by obtaining the right court order or injunction as well as assisting in divorce, child arrangements and ancillary relief.

We understand that being a victim of domestic abuse can be extremely distressing. We ensure that the domestic abuse solicitors on our panel have the skills and experience required to assist on your legal case. We can assure you that your case will be dealt with in a compassionate and understanding manner.

Get in touch today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a family law solicitor from our panel could help on your case.



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