The Magazine on and around Coercive Control
DIVORCING A NARCISSIST
THE CCCHAT INTERVIEW
FAMILY COURT WITHOUT A LAWYER
RECOGNISING COERCIVE CONTROL IN FAMILY COURT
The Family Court Issue
3 For 2020:
Nothing less than 20:20 vision will do.
4 Continuing our serialisation of Freedom’s
Flowers by Freedom Programme founder,
Family Court Without a Lawyer?
12 Coping Strategies
For the Litigant in Person
The CCChat Interview
14 Meet Tina Swithin
Author of ' Divorcing a Narcissist' .
20 Read a free chapter of Rachel's new book
on coercive control for legal practitioners
Making The Invisible Visible
About The Editor
Min Grob started Conference on
Coercive Control in June 2015,
following the end of a relationship
that was both coercive and
Since then, there have been 7
national conferences, with two
more to come in 2020.
Min’s interest lies in recognising
coercive control in its initial
the ‘red flags’ of abusive
behaviour before someone
becomes more invested in the
relationship, as that is when it will
be much more difficult to leave.
Min has talked on identifying
covert abuse and, with the use of
examples from social media, she
identifies a number of covert
tactics that are commonly used to
manipulate. These tactics are
invisible in plain sight as the
abuser will deliberately keep their
abuse below the radar so as
to remain undetected.
Min is also a public speaker and
speaks on both her personal
experience of coercive control as
well as more generally of abuse
that is hidden in plain sight.
Min has been involved in an
exciting project. More of which will
be revealed soon.
Let's Grow The Conversation!
To contact Min:
Photo by Alex Kilbee
Nothing less than 20:20 vision will do
It's been a while since the last issue of CCChat. So much has happened in the last few
months that, sadly, this online magazine has had to take a back seat and, just like waiting
for a bus, you wait around for ages for an issue of CCChat and then several turn up at
once! Well, not quite. The Trauma Issue is out in March and, sometime in the summer,
The Cyberbullying Issue will drop. There will be other news too, but is too early to talk
about it just yet, but do keep watching this space!
This is the long-awaited Family Court Issue. It is an issue that could, so easily, have
turned into several hundred pages, such is the need for more information, but I felt it was
better to keep it deliberately short and return to the subject of the Family Court at a later
I'm thrilled to be interviewing Tina Swithin for this issue. Tina is the author of several
books including Divorcing A Narcissist. She experienced a horrendous lack of
understanding of her situation, within the Californian Family Court system. Although the
way the courts operate, and the legal system differs from the UK, many readers will be
familiar with Tina's experience. Please check out her website and her books.
I'm also really excited to be able to include a free chapter of Rachel Horman's new book,
which is a practical guide to coercive control, for both practitioners and victims. It packs in
a massive amount of information in an easy to read volume that is perfect for slipping into
a bag or briefcase, to dip into. For readers not familiar with Rachel, she also has a widely
read blog. Please check it out.
A Family Court Issue would not be complete, without considering those who selfrepresent
and Lucy Reed's The Family Court Without A Lawyer: A Handbook For Litigants
in Persons is a crucial companion. There is also more information to help those who selfrepresent
on the website. Please check it out.
Last, but not least, we continue our serialisation of the fab Pat Craven's Freedom Flowers.
Pat has written several books and is also the creator of the Freedom Programme, a
domestic violence programme. Please check out the website for more details.
See you in March,
Making The Invisible Visible
By Pat Craven
Chapter 7 - Tiger Lilly
married for 16 years to Clark. Our married life didn’t start off very well. We lived
in a very damp flat in rural Wales, money was always tight as Clark had purchased a
sports car which was expensive to run and insure. Clark was also a heavy drinker
and smoker. Even though we both worked (I was the higher earner, Clark frequently
got the sack), our outgoings were always more than our incomings.
The condition of our flat was really bad. We had black mould, chronic condensation, everything was damp. I had no washing
machine, phone or cooker. When I became pregnant with Becky, I really felt I had let my baby down living in such a horrible
place. We quickly got into rent arrears because Clark spent so much money on his ‘hobbies’, which were fishing, cars,
alcohol and, in hindsight, other women. I could never understand where our money went to, and every month was the same.
Someone on a Freedom Programme recently said to me, about her life with an abuser, ’Same shit, different day’. That is
exactly how my life was, and now I was pregnant for the first time.
I am, and was, a qualified early years practitioner, having trained as a nursery nurse. Before I met Clark, I had a very
successful career working with young children and their families. I felt I had really let my baby down, and this led to severe
depression which lasted throughout the pregnancy.
Clark would not talk about the baby, or what we could do about our living conditions. He would not attend antenatal classes.
Because we were so short of money, I carried on working late into the pregnancy. This resulted in varicose veins and high
blood pressure. I begged him to sell the car. The insurance, alone, was over £1,000 per year (this was 1989), but he refused
saying I was selfish and the car was his only pleasure in life.
I ordered a pushchair and car seat from a colleague at work who had a catalogue. I could never keep up with the repayments
and started to avoid her.
I knew people were talking about me, and this increased my anxiety and depression. I lied to work, saying I would be going
back to my job so that I could receive maternity allowance after Becky was born. But, in reality, I knew that I was planning
my escape back to Darlington (I didn’t manage to escape until 2006), and I would never go back, because I owed money to
my colleague and she had told all my workmates. I still wake up in a cold sweat some nights after having relived this episode
in my dreams. My dad, eventually, sent her a cheque for the balance, but by the time I had ‘confessed’ to him, the damage
I went off sick. I did not get a ‘baby shower’ or cards or anything for my baby, as I had seen other pregnant colleagues
get, because everyone thought I was a thief and a liar. I was completely ostracised and did not have one friend when I was
pregnant with my first child.
I was in a desperate situation. Clark spent days and nights away from me, saying he couldn’t get home after the pub; he’d
had too much to drink and couldn’t drive so he’d stayed at a friends. I was terrified I would go in to labour and he wouldn’t
be there. We were not on the phone and it was in the days before mobiles.
A month before Becky was born I persuaded Clark that we should move in with his parents. He readily agreed, partly
because we could do a ‘moonlight’ flit due to rent arrears and partly because he was a ‘mummy’s boy’. His parents were
also heavy drinkers and smokers.
Making The Invisible Visible
When we moved in with his parents, he told them that I was
mentally ill and needed looking after whilst he was at work.
They then treated me as if I had the plague and they would
catch it. Because of their drinking and smoking I spent all the
time in my bedroom.
I often thought about suicide, but I would feel Becky kicking
inside me and could not bring myself to do it. Clark told me
that the sight of my huge stomach disgusted him and he
would spend the evenings drinking and smoking with his
parents in the living room and then sleep on the sofa.
I was completely alone and too ashamed to tell my family,
who were in Darlington, about the way I was living. I thought I
had made my bed and now I had to lie in it.
My provisions for Becky amounted to a pack of three white
romper suits, a stolen pushchair and car seat, a second hand
baby bath and a pack of bibs. I had no money for nappies or
maternity bras or clothes.
It was a very confusing time, and whenever I tried to talk to
him about things he would say I was ‘mad’ or ‘mental’, that I
was a ‘kill joy’ and just talked about babies all the time. I
really thought I was going mad.
Things came to a head when a health visitor did a home visit
and saw how I was living - stuck in one room in a cramped
house with horrible in-laws. She asked me if I was suffering
from domestic violence. I said ‘No’. That night, I managed to
ring my dad in Darlington when everyone had gone to the
pub. He had recently visited me with my sister and was
visibly shocked at the state I was in. He’d had words with
Clark then, but all that happened was that I got the cold
shoulder from Clark and his parents and more abuse about
When my dad answered the phone all I could say was ‘dad’.
All my dad could say was, ‘I’ll come and get you in the
morning. Be ready at eight’. The next day, I left Wales and
went home with my six-week-old daughter. My dad took me
straight to the GP, and I was diagnosed with mastitis (I
couldn’t afford a maternity bra) and severe PND.
" I often thought about suicide, but I would feel Becky kicking inside me and could not
bring myself to do it. Clark told me that the sight of my huge stomach disgusted him and
he would spend the evenings drinking and smoking with his parents in the living room
and then sleep on the sofa."
Becky was born after 18 hours labour. Clark had to be
dragged in to see the birth by some very irate midwives. By
the end of the 18 hours labour they had become thoroughly
pissed off with him because, instead of being a loving and
attentive husband, rubbing my back and telling me to
breathe, he had been found asleep in a bed on the ward,
intoxicated and abusive.
As soon as Becky was born, he went off to wet the baby’s
head. I did not see him for three days. During our stay in
hospital I had to borrow sanitary towels and nappies from
another mum on the ward. Luckily for Becky I had chosen to
breastfeed, otherwise I think she may have starved. Clark
then arrived with his mum to take me home. We had to stop
at Tesco on the way back to get some beers in, and he made
a fuss when I bought some nappies. He said, ‘She (meaning
three day old Becky) had better not be using all my beer
money, or there will be trouble’. His mum laughed.
And trouble there was. Within days of arriving home from
hospital Clark began physically abusing me. This physical
abuse lasted until I left him in 2006. Becky was born in 1991.
Clark resented Becky from the moment she was born. When
he saw me breastfeeding her he would call her a ‘leech’ or a
‘tick’. Yet, in front of the few friends we had, he would sing
my praises and walk around holding Becky as if he were a
Then the phone calls started; the persuading, the head
working, relentless pressure and coercion. This resulted in
Clark joining me in Darlington, promising he would change,
he loved us etc etc. We then lived in a council house for the
next two years, and then we bought my family home, which
was the house that I had grown up in, from my dad and we
stayed in Darlington until 2004.
I had two more children with Clark. Clare was born in 1993,
and Michael was born in 2002. Michael was conceived
through rape by Clark, my husband. He was also born nine
weeks early. I suffered a bleeding in the lining of the brain
and Michael was born by emergency caesarean with
breathing problems. Clark abandoned us in hospital and did
not tell my family that both Michael and I were nearly dying.
Luckily, one of the midwives was a friend of my sister, and
told her that I was in hospital fighting for my life with no-one
I didn’t see Michael for five days because I was in and out of
consciousness. When I eventually got down to the SCBU to
see him, on his medical notes were the words ‘dad
disappeared, mum has made no contact’. When I saw those
words I fainted from grief. Michael weighed 2lbs 4oz. He was
fighting to breathe and I hadn’t even been there for him, and I
didn’t know where his dad was.
Making The Invisible Visible
Because of this, our aftercare from the health visitor was
more intensive than for the two previous pregnancies. Clark
resented the frequent visits from the health visitor to our
home. He would be openly hostile to her if he was around
(he worked shifts). He would not let me attend appointments
to hospital for MRI scans. He would take the buggy in the car
to work. The health visitor asked me if I was suffering from
domestic violence. I said ‘No’.
When Michael came home from the special care baby unit
weighing 3 pounds, Clark punched me in the arm whilst I was
holding him, just missing his tiny head. When Michael was
one, Clark began a sexual relationship with a woman from
his work. Afterwards, I was told that this poor lady went from
man to man and was known as the ‘factory bike’. Clark had
unprotected sex with her. I had to go for tests for sexual
It took me five years to leave Clark because he always kept
Clare with him. I just could not leave her behind. Clare has
more emotional problems than Becky or Michael because
she was Clark’s favourite. He was openly full of contempt
and rage concerning Becky and Michael.
Poor Becky, she could hardly write the truth:
“On Saturday, daddy pulled mummy’s hair and pushed her
on the floor. When she tried to get up, daddy hit her with a
chair. Mummy was worried because my little sister was in the
bath and she might drown. Daddy told mummy to stay on the
floor until he told her to get up.
“On Sunday, I watched CBeebies with my fingers in my ears
because I didn’t want to hear the shouting. I looked after my
little sister because mummy was crying all day because we
haven’t got any money. We had peanut butter sandwiches for
dinner and water out of the tap."
Instead, every time Becky had to write about her ‘news’ she
“On Saturday we went to the park. On Sunday I played with
Clare with Barbies.”
"It took me five years to leave Clark because he always kept Clare with him. I
just could not leave her behind."
He called Michael a ‘sissy boy’ or ‘mummy’s boy’ (he was
just three years old when I escaped). He said Becky ‘hated
him’, and so he would hate her, and it was her own fault.
Becky was 14 when I left.
The girls were very bright and high achievers throughout
their school lives. This was a miracle, really, as their home
life was nothing short of a nightmare. There was always a
We were always in debt and frequently had bailiffs at the
door. The phone was cut off on many an occasion. I couldn’t
regularly provide healthy meals for them. We never had a
holiday. The police were often at our home, either because
Clark was fighting in town at weekends, or because the
neighbours had heard us fighting. Clark regularly got the
sack, and this contributed to our chronic debt. This has
affected my credit rating to this day.
When Becky was six and Clare was four, I got a job at their
school as a teaching assistant. One day, Becky got told off by
her teacher for writing the same things for ‘news’ in her
writing book week in week out.
Clark frequently stormed into my workplace demanding
money or making a scene of some sort. This was so
embarrassing and really bad for my career. I had to tell so
many lies, I couldn’t go out with colleagues socially, and
people avoided me because Clark’s behaviour was so bad.
He embarrassed me at parents’ evenings, school shows, it
was just a nightmare.
This culminated in the head teacher asking me to escort
Clark off the premises on one occasion, as he had arrived at
school with a hammer threatening to bash another dad’s
brains in who he thought was ‘after’ me. This was the place
where my daughters received their education. It should have
been a time where they felt happy and had lots of friends.
Instead, they never went to other children’s birthday parties
and they had to tell so many lies to cover up what was
actually going on at the weekends.
As I mentioned previously, Clark began to see someone else
around this time. Michael was still a baby. I was recovering
from a traumatic birth and working part-time. I found out
about Lorna as Clark used Becky’s mobile phone to send sex
texts. The upset this caused Becky was immense. She was
12 at the time. I don’t know how many of these texts she
saw, but I will never forget the day when she handed me her
mobile phone, burst into tears and ran off. The text was
about anal sex.
Making The Invisible Visible
Lorna finished with Clark. I was then left with a husband who
expected me to comfort him because his girlfriend had
packed him in. I was so exhausted and ill that when he
suggested that we sell up and move to a lovely village in
Wales, I just let things happen. It was like I was in a bad
dream. I watched as my family home was sold and
everything that I loved just fell apart.
Very conveniently, Clark managed to fall out with my entire
family and my dad around this time. So when my house was
sold, after three days on the market, and everything went into
storage, no-one waved us off or wished us well. No-one
planned to visit us as soon as we were settled. The girls
were wrenched from their schools and friends, their
granddad wasn’t around anymore. They were dumped in a
Welsh speaking school, with an abusive father and a
depressed,ill mother and little baby.
Clark was in his element. We rented an enormous house by
the sea (I daily wanted to drown myself in it). He had
£120,000 in the bank from the sale of our house. He was
king of the castle and lorded it over everyone.
Every morning she would look at me and I would shake my
head slightly. She always looked crushed when I did this, and
I knew I couldn't stay much longer. I was desperate and
January 6th 2006
New Years Eve had been especially grim. Michael was ill and
I was nursing him. Clark told me he was going to the pub and
would be back to see the New Year in with me, and I was to
stay up. I fell asleep next to Michael as I had been watching
his breathing. The next thing I knew I was being dragged
down the stairs by my hair to celebrate the New Year. This
time Clark hit me in the face, something he had never done
before. He had always hit me on my body, legs and arms (I
never wore short sleeves).
On the morning of January 6th I woke up with a strong
conviction that I was to leave him that day. I got together the
kids’ favourite cuddly toys, my passport and £120 of child
benefit that I had hidden in a Tampax box. I got on a train in
the village, and changed trains at Birmingham for Darlington.
“After I escaped from Wales to Darlington, he left a message on my mobile which
said, ‘When I find you I’m going to burn you alive and you’ll never see the children
He soon started to make enemies in the village because he
would be arrogant, rude and chat up their girlfriends and
wives. I have never felt as lonely as when I’ve sat next to
Clark in the local pub, surrounded by people. They hated
him. One lady asked me why I stayed with ‘that bastard’. I
couldn’t answer. Michael started to have frequent
bronchiolitis around this time due to being a premature baby.
He was diagnosed with asthma and he developed phobias
around meal times. Mealtimes were so stressful in our
Becky was so depressed. She really missed her granddad
and her friends. She couldn’t speak to me because I was
crying all the time. If I wasn’t crying I was hiding from the
neighbours. She looked after Michael when she wasn’t at
school. Clark kept Clare with him at all times. When she
wasn’t at school, she was with him at work (he was self
employed doing property maintenance then), or in the local
pub. She would often be there until two in the morning at
weekends. She was 11.
One night, I went out with some girls from the village for a
meal. I got really drunk and told them all about my life, well
some of it. The next day, I had a near breakdown when I
remembered what I’d said and to whom. I shook for days and
was so scared. It was then I really began to think about the
possibility of escaping. I thought, ‘If I stay, he will kill me’. I
confided in Becky and she began to collect some of
Michael’s toy cars in a bag.
When we got to Birmingham I told the children that we
weren’t going back to Wales. Michael cried so much for his
transformer toys. Becky went pale and put her arms round
me. She was really scared. Clare shouted ‘NO!’ and
repeatedly thumped me in the leg.
I was amazed that I still had money in my purse! I was
determined that this was it. I was quite firm with them all. I
didn’t shout. I think they were relieved I was taking charge.
With all of this money (honestly I’d never had so much
money to myself) I took them for a MacDonald’s (that
diffused the situation) and then got the train to my sister’s
house in Darlington.
Separation was a very dangerous time for us. I honestly
thought that Clark would find me and kill me. After I escaped
from Wales to Darlington, he left a message on my mobile
which said, ‘When I find you I’m going to burn you alive and
you’ll never see the children alive again."
We left my sisters after he had found us and had dragged me
into the street by my hair. She had to call the police. She told
me that I couldn’t live there as her 11-year-old daughter had
witnessed the incident. She was angry with me. She has not
spoken to me since.
Making The Invisible Visible
From there, we sofa surfed at friends houses. Clark always
found us. My nephew was a builder. He told me I could stay
in a house he was renovating. The house was gutted. There
were wires hanging down. There was no hot water, just
concrete floors, no flooring or carpets. He had not put all the
windows in. It was January. Compared to life with Clark it
One day I was spotted going to the launderette with a buggy
full of clothes by an ex-boyfriend who was an architect. He
could not believe what he was seeing. Last time he had seen
me I was a gorgeous blonde-haired blue-eyed successful
career woman with everything to live for.
We lived in this building for about six weeks until Clark found
us again. This time the police were called by some people
who heard us screaming. The police took us to a refuge.
We were re-housed in the summer of 2006. Then Clark
continued his abuse through the courts. In 2008 I
represented myself in court. I was not eligible for Legal Aid
as I had resumed my studies on a degree course, and so did
not qualify, and I could not afford a solicitor.
My children have not seen Clark since 2008. Last year, I
learnt from the CSA that they have had a baby together. I
pray for that baby. I have never received any monies for the
provision of the children. There is no-one who will make
Clark accountable, as he says he is self employed.
Becky is now 20. She still lives at home. She has a full-time
job at Zara. She is going to Venice with her friend, Veronica,
in two weeks time. She has paid for it herself, sorted out
insurance, hotels, transport, everything independently. She
adores Michael. They are very close. He is the trendiest tenyear-old
you will ever see, dressed entirely in Zara clothes
for boys. Becky and Michael are going on a cruise together
next year around the Mediterranean. Becky is paying for it.
She wants Michael to travel. She loves fashion. She looks
like Audrey Hepburn. She got thirteen GCSEs and four A-
Levels, including an A* for English and history. Becky tried to
go to Uni, but came home after a term. Her dad had been in
contact with her via Facebook and went through the whole
process of rejecting her again. This time he did it online. The
stress caused Becky to have a stomach ulcer at the age of
18. She doesn’t have a boyfriend.
“Six weeks after I had left him he had become engaged to Paula, a teacher. Paula
joined Clark in his continued abuse through the court system, saying she had
evidence that I was mentally unstable and not fit to take care of my children.”
I secured a court order that Clark should have supervised
contact with Michael every other week. He wanted
unsupervised contact every weekend.
Six weeks after I had left him he had become engaged to
Paula, a teacher. Paula joined Clark in his continued abuse
through the court system, saying she had evidence that I was
mentally unstable and not fit to take care of my children.
Paula had a lot of credibility and I had a fight on my hands
with CAFCASS. They kept on saying, ‘Paula is a teacher.
She knows what she is on about."
CAFCASS kept on asking me for evidence that I had been
abused. They said Clark had rights, and that the children
needed to get to know Paula, as she would be a part of their
lives. I was portrayed as being uncooperative and
emotionally unstable. The CAFCASS officer said I was bitter
and jealous about Paula, and that I should ‘move on’ with my
life. The children were interviewed. I had six home visits. I
was accused of brainwashing the children because they had
said in their interviews that they would not see their dad.
I had to prove I was not mentally ill by taking psychiatric
assessments and tests. Clark and Paula did not even have a
home visit. Once the court order was in place, they had
contact with Michael three times, and then they literally
She says boys her age are ‘players’, out for what they can
get and to mess with your mind.
Becky tried to go to Uni, but came home after a term. Her
dad had been in contact with her via Facebook and went
through the whole process of rejecting her again. This time
he did it online. The stress caused Becky to have a stomach
ulcer at the age of 18. She doesn’t have a boyfriend. She
says boys her age are ‘players’, out for what they can get
and to mess with your mind.
She found it hard when I married Paul in 2009. She is now
warming to him as he has been wise to always be consistent
and to keep his promises to her. He doesn’t try to be her dad,
but he tries to be her ‘Paul’ instead. She suffers from
depression. She gets over anxious about money. She gets
Clare is 18. She is very artistic and creative, with an amazing
sense of humour. She is really pretty and always looks
stunning. She loves her boyfriend, Seb, who is a musician in
a band. She takes photos of the band for their promos. She
loves music and animals. She also got thirteen GCSEs. She
was really popular at school, and had loads of friends. She
has done charity work in Spain and Poland. She gets on well
with Paul. She calls him ‘Perfect Paul’. She is brilliant at
cooking. She loves having people over for dinner and then
playing board games.
Making The Invisible Visible
She has invented a new twist on the board game ‘Guess
who?’ Instead of saying, ‘Has the person got a ginger
moustache?’ you ask, ‘Is the person a social worker’ or, ‘Is
the person running for president of the USA?’ It’s hilarious
after a couple of glasses of red. Try it.
Clare loved Clark and was his favourite. Clare finds having a
relationship with Becky and Michael difficult. She wants to
move in with her boyfriend, but can’t afford it. There have
been arguments between all of us, because Clare says she
hates being at home with us because she is the odd one out.
She depends on Seb to make her happy. Seb frequently
finishes with her, because he can’t cope with this pressure to
make her happy all the time. When he asks for time out she
They separated three weeks ago. She has hit Seb on
occasion. Clare did not take her A-Level exams. She has
been referred for counselling by our GP. She has depression
and acute anxiety. She just can’t handle rejection. She
doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. She has
started seeing Seb again. Now she is at his house all the
time. She won’t answer her phone.
Michael still has a tendency to be a fussy eater, but we
ignore it. He hates giving anything away or giving toys to
charity shops, even his clothes which don’t fit him anymore. I
always have to build up to these times with lots of
reassurances and reasoning. I don’t think he has ever got
over the shock of losing all of his toys, his pets and his home.
I once asked a Professor on my degree course (in early
childhood studies) the question: ’What do neglected or
abused children remember?’ He replied: ‘They remember
what they didn’t have. Love, warmth, security, safety, food,
shelter, happy parents, clean clothes, things that everyone
needs to make their lives work.’
I think that Michael doesn’t remember the abuse, but he
remembers the loss, the shock, the fear. However, Michael is
the least affected of the three, the happiest, the most
confident, the most empathetic and the most trusting.
I think that says it all.
“I once asked a Professor on my degree course (in early childhood studies) the
question: ’What do neglected or abused children remember?’ He replied: ‘They
remember what they didn’t have. Love, warmth, security, safety, food, shelter,
happy parents, clean clothes, things that everyone needs to make their lives work.’
I wish you could meet Michael. He would have you in stitches
in seconds. He is really clever and can tell you how nuclear
power works. He plays the clarinet. His recent certificate from
school reads: ’for an excellent attitude and for taking people
just as they are and never judging’. He loves to go out for
meals and holidays. He loved going to New York after Paul
and I were just married. It was the children’s first time on an
aeroplane. I don’t think he will ever forget it. He loves
animals and meeting new people.
He doesn’t remember Clark. He remembers the refuge
because he always won the kids bingo. He loves Paul. Paul
is an engineer, a Star Wars geek and can build Lego. They
are best mates, always having water fights and putting fake
spiders on the stairs. He loves to wear his life-size Cyberman
helmet whilst doing his homework. He puts Post-it notes on
his remote control tarantula which say, ‘get up now I want
breakfast’. We are often woken up by a giant tarantula
coming into our bedroom bearing messages of this kind.
I am now 48. In 2010 I stopped looking over my shoulder
every time I left the house. I am studying to be a barrister in
family law, specialising in domestic abuse and child contact
issues. I am a Freedom Programme facilitator, having run
four over the last year. I am married to the ‘Perfect Paul’ and
we are doing life together, working it out as we go along.
Paul is incredibly biased and says I am the most amazing
woman he has ever known.
I don’t feel amazing much of the time. I battle with my weight
and depression. I struggle with friendships. I’m not quite sure
what to do with a friend once I’ve got one. I’ve been taken
advantage of by needy people. I’m just learning about
boundaries. I remembered that I used to like knitting, so have
taken that up again. I find it hard to cry. I can’t listen to music
unless it’s Classic FM, which is something that I’m not really
into. I don’t have much in common with other women. If I
don’t make a conscious effort to be sociable I can be
withdrawn and isolate myself. I still have a feeling that I’ve
got something to hide.
Making The Invisible Visible
I miss my photos of the children, but if I close my
eyes I can remember what they looked like. I feel
like a failure as a mother half the time, but what I
do say to myself when I doubt my parenting is,
“Think of the alternative. You could still be with
HIM!’ Then I am absolutely convinced, without a
shadow of a doubt that, by leaving Clark, the
children are in a better place despite their issues.
Because, quite honestly, who hasn’t got issues?
Reproduced with kind permission by Pat
Craven and The Freedom Programme. All
Making The Invisible Visible
10 Coping Strategies
For The Litigant In Person
Not everyone is in a position to have court representation.
What can make the process easier?
Firstly, nothing, absolutely nothing can make going to court
and facing your abuser easy. The whole process is
undoubtedly complex and intimidating, at a time that will
most probably already be stressful enough but,
when instructing a lawyer is unaffordable, and Legal Aid isn’t
an option, the only thing that remains is to self-represent.
One of the most difficult aspects of going to court, as a
Litigant in Person, is that the whole process was never
designed to be navigated by a lay person. Anyone unfamiliar
with how the legal system works, who lacks the
understanding of the jargon and procedures, will face a steep
learning curve that is not only time consuming, but often,
Having said that, there are things that can make the process
a little bit easier, which may not seem like much consolation
when what lies ahead seems insurmountable, but it all does
1. Prepare You
Going to court is a difficult process. It will be even more
difficult in the Family Court because of the personal nature of
the proceedings and the emotions that it will evoke. It is a
process that will also, most likely, last months if not years.
It is important to know this, and be prepared to pace yourself
for what is coming.This means taking care of yourself,
making sure you eat properly, get enough sleep, and know
when to step back when the emotional toll being taken is too
2. Know When To Step Back Preparing for court is time
consuming and will bring up bad memories.
It is important to know when to step back, to self-care. Going
for a walk, to clear the head or just removing yourself away
from the paperwork, to focus on something else, is
necessary not only for your mental health, but also to be able
to prepare statements more effectively.
3. Take Out the Emotion.
Not only is this particulary difficult, it is also vitally important.
You are putting forward your case and it needs to be as
clearly set out as possible. Identify a time of day when it is
easier for you to focus and process. It could be first thing in
the morning, upon waking, when the task seems less
daunting, or at night, when the house is quiet and it is easier
to concentrate. It may help to put yourself in the position of
advocate. If someone came to you, with your situation, how
would you advise them?
4. Allow Time To Process
Read emails and documents and then walk away. Process
what has been said and how you will respond, to avoid
5. Don’t Listen to Angry Experience
It's easy to believe that someone else's experience is the
same as yours but it isn't, and listening to the bad
experiences of those you know will likely make you worry
more about what is happening.
6. Get A Second Opinion
If your not sure about the advice you have received, get
another opinion. Views are formed, based on experience.
This includes the views of professionals.
Making The Invisible Visible
7. On the day
Take someone with you, but only someone who will have a
calming effect. You don’t want your support to cause you
more anxiety or inflame the situation. This is YOUR case and
you do not need someone making it about them.
8 Consider the Judge
Chances are the Judge won’t see your bundle until the night
before the court hearing. Make sure it is easy to read, clear
and concise, with the most important points set out first, so
that the judge understands the issues.
9. Prepare for the court date
You probably won't get much sleep the night before the
hearing. Prepare yourself by getting as much sleep as you
can in the days leading up to the court date so that a
sleepless night will not impact you as much as it could.
10. Get a copy of' The Family Court without a Lawyer: A
Handbook for Litigants in Person' by family barrister
For more information look at www.nofamilylawyer.co.uk
Action Plan To Prepare For Court:
• Remind yourself to eat, even if you don't feel like eating. It's
not possible to function properly when your body is running
on empty. Set an alarm or a reminder, if necessary.
• Understanding the effects of stress and trauma on the body
and look at nutrition. Maybe consider taking a vitamin
• Finding time for yourself. It's easy to become totally
absorbed in the proceedings, but it's also necessary to be
able to switch off and recharge - even if it is something small
like having a bath, meeting friends or going out in nature.
• If you have trouble sleeping, take naps when you can, to
tide you over.
• Spend time with people who make you laugh.
• This won't be forever. No matter how hopeless it may all
seem, it will end.
• Don't be afraid to ask for support. Talk to your GP and ask
for a referral or contact a helpline.
• Learn helpful distraction techniques, such as mindfulness or
breathing exercises. It can help with feelings of anxiety, panic
attacks or when things are feeling overwhelming.
• Join an exercise class or, if going out feels too
overwhelming, find an online class or an app. Schedule this
into your day, as a part of your action plan for preparing
yourself mentally for the court proceedings.
Making The Invisible Visible
Tina Swithin is a divorce coach and consultant
specializing in high-conflict custody battles and
She is also the author of several books, including
" Divorcing A Narcissist"
More information on Tina's work can be found on:
Making The Invisible Visible
THE CCHAT INTERVIEW:
"My goal was to allow my closest friends and family members to follow
and to spare myself from having to explain things
or to respond to questions that lacked answers. "
Hi Tina, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview.
Your book was the first book I read, when out of my
abusive situation. At the time I didn’t even really
understand coercive control, nor the situation I had
found myself in but I found your book incredibly helpful
in gaining insights into some of the tactics that are
commonly used. For the UK audience, could you tell me
what made you write the book?
Absolutely – I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my
journey with you. I’m going to take us back a bit to 2011
when I first started my blog and, I haven’t shared the entire
story publicly prior to this. I was about a year and a half into
my custody battle and I had discovered that no-one
understand what I was going through. My ex-husband, Seth,
had gone off the deep end, my children were suffering, and I
was in survival mode. As difficult as it was being married to a
narcissist, I had discovered a new nightmare which was the
family court system.
One day, I was on the phone feeling incredibly desperate and
venting to my dad that my daughters were not safe in my exhusband’s
care. I had become increasingly concerned about
Seth’s state of mind and no one in the court system seemed
to be listening to me. My dad said to me, “You march into that
court house and tell the judge that you are not putting those
kids in the car with this guy next weekend!” I didn’t know
whether to laugh at the thought of marching into the court
and giving the judge a piece of my mind or to cry at the
thought that even the well-meaning people in my life didn’t
get the reality of what I was facing.
My dad was also frustrated and worried. I was exhausted
and the mere thought of trying to explain the brokenness of
the family court system to my dad was enough to push me
over the edge.
The next day, I decided to start a blog called, One Mom’s
Battle ( www.onemomsbattle.com ). I truly felt like the only
mom in the world living the nightmare of divorcing a
narcissist. There were no books on the topic, no support
groups and no online resources. It was a lonely and isolating
journey. My goal was to allow my closest friends and family
members to follow and to spare myself from having to
explain things or to respond to questions that lacked
Writing became my therapy. Through my blog I began to
reflect on my abusive marriage. It was through my blog that I
admitted to myself that I was in an abusive marriage. I had
never been physically harmed in the way most would define
domestic violence. Sure, he had blocked doorways and
squeezed my wrists to gain my compliance, but it was the
other forms of abuse that truly packed the biggest punch and
inflicted the deepest wounds and scars.
In the public eye, he was the doting husband and father but
behind closed doors, he was cruel and abusive in ways that
no one could see. He was a master gaslighter, causing me to
doubt my memories, perceptions and sanity. Verbally, his
words cut me to my core daily. Emotionally, he was cruel and
critical. He was my worthiness barometer and I didn’t even
recognize myself when I looked in the mirror. When people
were around, I put on a happy face but behind closed doors,
I was broken and had never felt more alone in my life.
My blog gave me a vantage point which allowed me to sift,
sort and process what could only be described as a
nightmare. I didn’t know that anyone outside of my close
circle was reading my blog until I was “discovered” by
supermodel, Christie Brinkley, who was suffering through her
own divorce and child custody battle with narcissist, Peter
Making The Invisible Visible
That was the day my life changed. My blog went from about
40 views per month to 35,000 views overnight as Christie
Brinkley began sharing my blog as a resource for others
enduring high-conflict divorces. My email inbox was
stretched beyond capacity and I realized that I wasn’t alone
and that this was a worldwide issue.
Weeks later, I was invited to Los Angeles to meet Christie
personally and it was there that my wheels began to turn and
I started writing my book, “Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s
Battle.” My book was published in December of 2011.
What shocked me, when reading the book, was the
willingness of people to believe Seth. I now understand,
much better, how easy it is for people who don’t
understand the tactics, to fall for the facade. How many
who believed Seth came to see him in his true light and
what did it take for that to happen?
To unpack this question and properly address it, I think it’s
important to understand projection. When we are discussing
dysfunctional or toxic people, we learn that they project their
negative qualities and thoughts onto us. Essentially,
projection is thought to be a psychological defense
mechanism. We see projection play out in relationships when
a spouse is cheating and suddenly, they become suspicious
that their partner is cheating.
These individuals are known to inflict mental torment on their
innocent partner only to be committing the very acts they are
accusing their partners of engaging in. Something that is not
talked about as much is that projection works both ways.
Healthy people often project their own traits of honesty,
integrity and sincerity onto those around them even though
many people are not worthy or deserving of those labels.
I think this is what happens when innocent bystanders get
caught up in a toxic person’s web of dishonesty or
dysfunction. They tend to see others in a truthful, positive
light and until they have directly experienced the wrath of this
person, they accept their word at face value.
That is what I watched play out with Seth and his victims time
and time again. In the beginning, there were many people
who believed Seth with some even testifying on his behalf in
court. I chose to stand in my truth, hoping and praying that
eventually, they would see these people would see the light.
I decided early on that no matter how painful it was to take
the high road and let things play out naturally, I would remain
grounded in my truth. Over the years, each person who had
originally sided with Seth had their own personal but negative
experience with him. One by one, they distanced themselves
from him and many have even reached out to me to express
It is my belief that the truth always prevails even when it is
really slow to arrive!
Making The Invisible Visible
• Words vs Actions:
If a person’s words and actions are not in alignment, that
should pose as a huge red flag to the court. In my case and
most of the cases that I follow, this is a glaring issue.
• Perjury in Court:
Perjury should be taken seriously and punished to the full
extent of the law. Liars thrive in the court system because
there is no recourse or punishment. In my ten years of
advocacy, I have never seen a person held accountable for
lying in court.
• Accountability for Family Court Professionals:
When family court professionals face personal accountability
(civil and legal) for their rulings and decisions, I believe they
will take their roles much more seriously. Currently, there is
no oversight in family court nor is their accountability for
professionals who are tasked with making decisions that
affect the life of a child.
What, do you think, made the family court process so
difficult and what, in your opinion, could be changed?
Oh boy, that’s a complex question with many variables and
many layers. For starters, a parent should not have rights
just because they have the ability to procreate. I hear about
judges who are biased towards moms, or judges who are
biased towards dads. This infuriates me; it should be about a
child’s right to be safe, healthy and happy and not about
mother’s rights or father’s rights.
You’ve been incredibly active in campaigning and
awareness raising. Apart from writing the books, what
else do you do?
I have a full-time consulting business where I help survivors
to navigate the family court system and strategize ways they
can be empowered, while protecting their children. Each
month, I host webinars where I teach people how to organize
their documentation, and how to properly communicate in a
court-approved way- which can be challenging. It’s
especially challenging to maintain boundaries with a person
who has no regard for boundaries and, to do it in a way that
does not compromise your family court case.
"He was my worthiness barometer and I didn’t even recognize
myself when I looked in the mirror."
The term, “in the child’s best interest” is sadly laughable
because nothing about our present-day court system is in the
child’s best interest. Children are treated like property and
talked about in percentages.
Some problem areas that I see in the courtroom:
• Education on Post-Separation Abuse:
Every high-conflict divorce or child custody case can be
explained by the abuser’s need to win, the abuser’s need to
control and, the abuser’s desire to hurt their former
partner. Education on this topic is sorely needed. Lives are
depending on it.
The sad reality is that until the courts make the determination
that the other party is incapable of co-parenting, most are
forced to co-parent with their abusers which can be triggering
and it opens up a new avenue of abuse.
I also host retreats annually called, “The Lemonade Power
Retreat,” where those who find themselves in the trenches of
family court can come together for a weekend reprieve from
the chaos and find a sisterhood to support them through this
difficult journey. Its one of my favorite weekends of the year.
Making The Invisible Visible
What advice would you give to someone who is about to
divorce a narcissist?
Pace yourself: this is a marathon. Educate yourself on this
topic and build a team of qualified people such as a skilled
therapist, and a strong attorney. Learn your local court
system like the back of your hand. Document everything.
Learn to compartmentalize this battle, so that you don’t
become consumed by it. Practice self-care and make it a
priority. You can’t afford not to practice self-care, especially if
you have children because they need you to be strong,
centered and most of all, present.
How are things now with your case?
My battle began in August of 2009 and lasted a total of ten
years. We secured peace in 2019, when we successfully
terminated Seth’s parental rights and my husband was able
to adopt the girls. When my battle began, I was told that 50/
50 was standard and I would never get more time than that
with my girls. I proved them wrong. I was told I would never
get supervised visits ordered. I proved them wrong. When I
received supervised visits, I was told it would not be
permanent. I proved them wrong again. I was told that
termination of parental rights was impossible in California.
Guess what? I proved them wrong.
There were incredible lows in this battle but each time, I
dusted myself off and refused to give up. Through this battle,
I acted as my own attorney because I had been the victim of
severe financial abuse at the hands of my ex-husband. It
wasn’t by choice; I truly couldn’t afford an attorney. While it
was terrifying and daunting, over time I accepted that this
was my path and that I was the best voice and advocate for
my daughters. If you have an attorney, make sure it is the
right one. Your attorney is your voice, and the voice for your
Tina, thank you so much for telling your story. I am so in
awe of your strength and pesistence but also your
willingness to help others. Thank you so much for this
interview and also for everything you do.
Tina Swithin's website is: www.onemomsbattle.com
All of Tina's books are available on Amazon
Making The Invisible Visible
On Why She Wrote a Book
Rachel Horman is a Solicitor
and Head of the Domestic
Abuse, Stalking and Forced
Marriage Department at a
Lancashire based law firm,
but her practice extends
beyond the firm’s base
She has represented several
high profile stalking victims.
and regularly advises clients
on how to increase the
chances of obtaining a
successful prosecution for
stalking as well as advising in
relation to civil options.
Rachel was highly
commended in the Female
Lawyer of the Year Category
at the Law Society
Excellence Awards 2016,
won the Eva Business Award
2016, the Jordans Family
Law Partner of the Year
Award in 2014 and the
National Family Legal Aid
Lawyer of the Year Award in
2012 as recognition of her
work in these areas.
Rachel is also the Chair of
the charity Paladin, the
National Stalking Advocacy
Service and was personally
involved in changing the law
to create a criminal
offence of coercive control
which came into force
in December 2015.
For more information on
Rachel Horman and to also
read her blog, please visit:
week I receive dozens of enquiries from
victims representing themselves or victims who are
unhappy with their representation in family court
cases where coercive control is a feature. Coercive
control is still not understood by the family courts in
my view and victims quite rightly feel let down.
As a solicitor working within the family court system I too feel frustrated
by the system and the sometimes blinkered view taken by cafcass and
the judiciary around issues of coercive control and narcissism.
Unfortunately I do not have a magic wand and can only work within the
current system although I do campaign for change along with many
When I was asked to write a book about coercive control for lawyers
my first thought was for the many women who are forced to go through
the court system alone and so I decided that I wanted my book to be of
use to them as well as lawyers. I have tried to highlight some of the
issues that victims need to consider and preparation for the family
court process and also to try to help show how some victims of
coercive control may be able to access legal aid.
My biggest criticism of the family courts is that many of those within it
do not understand the subtleties of coercive control and are still stuck
in a “why didn’t she just leave if it was so bad” frame of mind and there
is very little understanding of the links between coercive control and
homicide. Until this issue is properly understood findings of facts
hearings (if you are lucky enough to get one) will continue to be
conducted from a position of scepticism and sometimes disbelief
leading to victims being labelled as attempting to frustrate contact and
alienate the children.
I hope that victims find my book helpful but what they deserve is a
system that understands and protects women and children from this
insidious and devastating form of abuse.
Now read Chapter 2 of Rachel Horman's book:
‘A Practical Guide to Coercive Control for Legal Practitioners and
Victims’ for FREE:
Making The Invisible Visible
WHAT IS COERCIVE CONTROL?
This is the million dollar question and could be a very large
book in itself. Many books have been written about what
coercive control is so this chapter is only intended to give the
reader a flavour of the nature of coercive control and I would
urge you to read on about this elsewhere.
Once you see coercive control you can’t un-see it and you
realise that it is far more common than you ever thought
possible. You will read it in-between the lines of newspaper
articles – usually about another woman murdered by her expartner.
Some recent TV and radio programmes have done a
good job in trying to demonstrate this form of abuse such as
the Archers on Radio 4, although often the words coercive
control are often never used.
Coercive control is not a new phenomenon – it has been
around for thousands of years and yet it only became a
criminal offence in 2015 in England and Wales. Coercive
control is, in my view, the essence of domestic abuse and is
a targeted pattern of abuse against a partner. It is what
allows a perpetrator to get away with terrorising his victim
often for many years and seemingly often without the victim
making concerted efforts to leave the relationship.
Coercive control includes many different types of abuse and
may or may not include violence and sexual abuse. Coercive
control is said to be one of the most dangerous types of
abuse and a more reliable indicator of homicide than physical
abuse which unfortunately is something that is still not
understood by most agencies. It is often described as
’limiting a victim’s space for action.’
Many perpetrators never need to utilise physical violence as
the psychological terrorism that they inflict on their victim
means that physical violence is simply not necessary,
although physical violence may be utilised as a punishment
for the victim’s non-compliance.
It is the fear caused by the coercive control, and the implicit
threat of what will happen if she fails to comply, rather than
the physical violence itself which makes victims feel unable
to escape as the minutiae of their whole life and sanity is
totally ruled by their perpetrator. Coercive control is designed
to obtain the total submission of the victim to the perpetrator.
Making The Invisible Visible
I have had clients complain that their partner removes the
fuses from the heating system when they go out so that they
can’t use it, timed when they go to the shops, locked into the
house each time their partner leaves the house with even the
Behind all of this is the threat of, and often the use of,
physical violence and rape, threats of physical violence and
rape against the women’s family, friends and children, threats
to kill their children or have them removed by social services.
The threats and violence are increased in intensity and
frequency if the perpetrator thinks he is losing control in any
way and particularly if he thinks she is preparing to leave.
Indeed separating from a coercively controlling partner is far
and away the most dangerous time and the point at which
women tend to be murdered by their partners. Many liken
coercive control to tactics to those used against prisoners of
war – such as sleep deprivation, withholding food, drink and
money, not being permitted to escape, constant questioning
with punishment for the “wrong” answer, isolation, repetitive
acts designed to cause fear, gaslighting and a destruction of
the victim’s own identity and belief system.
It may be the enforcement of petty rules and preferences of
the perpetrator and the creation of a series of ever-changing
“rules” in compliance of which the victim is forced to live her
life. The victim can never fully know these rules as they are
forever changing to suit the perpetrator and he may
sometimes want her to break the rules on occasion so that
he can remind her what the consequences are for breaking
his rules and thereby increasing the fear and helplessness of
the victim. The film “Sleeping with the Enemy” is often quoted
to me by clients as being what it’s like to live in a coercively
controlling relationship with the petty requirements such as
having to have the towels on the towel rail hanging totally
level and all of the tins in the cupboard in groups with their
labels facing to the front.
This is not just someone suffering with a case of obsessive
compulsive disorder, it is used to keep the victim controlled
and there will be severe consequences for breach of these
rules. Many clients tell me that they have to do excessive
amounts of cleaning whilst the perpetrator is out so that she
has no time for herself at all. This will then be checked by the
perpetrator daily, and I’ve had dozens of clients tell me that
the perpetrator will use a white glove to check for dust in
hard to reach or remember places such as on the top of
doors or on skirting boards.
Clients tell me that their mobile phone is tracked by their
partner so that he knows where she is, have their vaginas
“checked” by the perpetrator when they return from the
shops or visiting a family member to “check” whether they
have had sexual relations with other men or women even
when they have gone out with a child in a pram.
The term coercive control was popularised by Dr Evan Stark
in his book Coercive Control, How Men Entrap Women in
Personal Life  although Dr Evan Stark does accept that
the phrase was first used by unnamed feminist psychologists
who described their abused clients as living in hostage-like
situations. “Not only is coercive control the most common
context in which [women] are abused, it is also the most
dangerous” – Evan Stark (2007) Coercive Control. How Men
Entrap Women in Personal Life. New York: Oxford University
Stark states that “coercive control targets a victim’s
autonomy, equality, liberty, social supports and dignity in
ways that compromise the capacity for independent, selfinterested,
decision making, vital to escape and effective
resistance to abuse. Coercive control often exploits and
reinforces sexual inequalities in society which make it far
more devastating for victims than when women are
Coercive control contains a myriad of different behaviours
targeted to be most devastating and debilitating to that
particular victim. Some describe it as domestic terrorism or
akin to being stalked or held hostage in your own home
during a relationship by the person who is supposed to love
and care for you.
That person will know you better than anyone and will know
all of your secrets, what scares you, what your phobias are,
what you hold most dear and how to hurt you. That person
may even be your carer and the perpetrator may be using
the victim’s disability against them or withholding care or
Making The Invisible Visible
As I said above, perpetrators will target what is held dear by
a victim or what makes them vulnerable so each case will
involve behaviour targeted specifically at that particular
victim, and so it would be impossible to attempt to list all of
the different examples of behaviour used against a victim of
Gaslighting is a very common tactic used by a perpetrator of
coercive control and involves the perpetrator repeatedly
trying to convince the victim that they are wrong about
something even when they aren’t. It can lead to victims
starting to believe that they are wrong and doubting their own
sanity. Examples can include a perpetrator hiding her car
keys and pretending that she must have left them in the
fridge, turning off the oven so that she thinks she must have
done it and forgotten, denying that they have said things or
even had whole conversations. Examples of coercive control
given within the guidance framework for the law include:
Coercive control may include financial abuse, whereby a
perpetrator withholds money from a victim totally, or allows
them access to small pots of money which they then have to
account to him for each penny, with consequences if she is
unable to account fully or if he disagrees with what she spent
money on, even though by rights the money actually belongs
I have known several cases where victims have been forced
to steal sanitary products or food for their children and rather
than being treated as a victim are simply prosecuted as
criminals without anyone asking why she was doing this.
Other victims may be financially controlled by being forced to
take out debt on behalf of the perpetrator in their own name
so that they are forced to spend all of their income on
servicing the debt whilst the perpetrator retains access to all
of “his” income in addition to the money she was forced to
borrow. This means that often she would not be able to afford
to rent anywhere on her own or even afford a train ticket to
Coercive control is often the micro management of every
aspect of your life including, in some cases, when you are
allowed to go to the toilet. I have spoken to many clients who
have been forced to ask permission to go to the toilet which
is often refused forcing them to suffer the humiliation of
having to wet themselves.
The Home Office published a Statutory Guidance Framework
in relation to the new offence of coercive control which
helpfully sets out the law and gives examples of the type of
behaviour that might be used as a pattern of behaviour by a
perpetrator but the guide makes it clear that the list is not
isolating a person from their friends and family;
depriving them of their basic needs;
monitoring their time;
monitoring a person via online communication tools or
taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as
where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and
when they can sleep;
depriving them of access to support services, such as
specialist support or medical services;
repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they
enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or
dehumanise the victim;
forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as
neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and
prevent disclosure to authorities;
financial abuse including control of finances, such as only
allowing a person a punitive allowance;
threats to hurt or kill;
threats to a child;
threats to reveal or publish private information (e.g.
threatening to ‘out’ someone).
criminal damage (such as destruction of household
preventing a person from having access to transport or
monitoring someone online
Taken in isolation some of the examples may seem trivial
however, taken as a whole with multiple examples day in day
out, the behaviour becomes unbearable and has a
devastating effect on the victim. Many victims of prolonged
coercive control suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Making The Invisible Visible
Imagine for a moment living in a relationship where a handful
of the above tactics were being constantly employed against
you. You might think that you wouldn’t put up with it but
coercive control will not be immediately apparent and
happens by degree.
Often a perpetrator will start by “love-bombing” a victim –
also known as grooming. A victim will feel special and
overwhelmed by love and devotion. He may “surprise” you by
turning up unannounced so that you feel as though you can’t
say no and you then cancel your plans to be with others.
This gives the perpetrator power as the victim starts to feel
as though they can’t imagine being without this wonderful
person. Then the “drip, drip” starts with subtle criticisms –
‘you look better in this… I miss you when I’m away from you
– let’s not go out with friends… your mum puts you down, I’m
only defending you as I think you should be treated better by
your friends and family… No one will love you like I do, why
are you talking to him? I only get angry because I love you so
much and can’t stand the thought of losing you…‘ and so it
Leaving may also lead to their death as the vast majority of
women murdered by their partners are murdered on or
shortly after separation. It is vital that agencies such as the
police, social services, health and the family courts not only
recognise this behaviour but are aware of the severe risks of
it and the impact on the victim and children.
It is also important that agencies ask the right questions so
that they can help victims even if they themselves do not
realise that they are victims.
Most victims will not say that they are being coercively
controlled whilst it is happening to them. It is only when they
are out of it, and even then often only when they have had a
domestic abuse support worker, that they will say the words
“coercive control” so it is up to others to recognise this for
them and call the behaviour what it is.
“Many victims – particularly young victims – confuse
romance with coercive control"
Many victims – particularly young victims – confuse romance
with coercive control. Being picked up from everywhere at
the door by your partner might be romantic and considerate;
or is it being done so that he knows where you are and so
that you can’t spend time with other men on the way home?
Everyone likes to receive text messages from their partner
especially in a new relationship but is he doing it to be
romantic or because he wants to keep tabs on you. Is he
asking you to send him a picture of the bar you are in
because he’s genuinely interested in its decor or because he
wants proof you are where you say you are? The same
behaviour can be acceptable in one relationship and tactics
of abuse in another.
The motivation of the behaviour is key, as are the
consequences for failure to comply. By the time a victim
realises what is happening it is usually too late and they are
already deep into being coercively controlled and will find it
difficult to get themselves out of it.
The guideline framework also emphasises the fact that whilst
the legislation can be used against either sex coercive
control is a “gendered” crime – i.e. that it is more likely to
affect women as victims by male perpetrators than the other
way around as women are disproportionately affected by
domestic abuse. It states: “In 2014/15, 92.4% of defendants
in domestic abuse flagged cases were male. Where
recorded, the proportion of female victims has remained
steady at 84%, since 2010–11 (CPS Violence Against
Women and Girls Crime Report 2014/15).”
The guidelines go on to explain that “Controlling or coercive
behaviour is primarily a form of violence against women and
girls and is underpinned by wider societal gender inequality.
This can contribute to the ability of the offender to retain
power and control, and ultimately the ability of the victim to
access support and leave safely. It is, therefore, important to
consider the role of gender in the context of power and
control within a relationship when identifying controlling or
coercive behaviour in heterosexual relationships.” This is
important as too often this point is missed or ignored leading
to the “why doesn’t she just leave” type of view which
minimises the impact of coercive control and the inherent
difficulties and risks in leaving.
Making The Invisible Visible
Coercive control is a repeat crime as domestic abuse is a
pattern of behaviour rather than a one off incident between
two adults. The fact that women are overwhelmingly its prime
victims is found in study after study and is certainly backed
up by my own professional experience. 89% of all those who
had experienced 4 or more incidents of domestic violence
were women (Domestic violence, sexual assault and
stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey, Sylvia
Walby and Jonathan Allen, 2004).
The charity Refuge remind us that: “The intensity and
severity of violence used by men is more extreme, with men
being more likely to use physical violence, threats, and
harassment” – (Hester, M. Who Does What to Whom?
Gender and Domestic Violence Perpetrators, 2009)
Although 1 in 6 men report experiencing violence from a
female partner or ex-partner each year, women are:
4 times as likely to experience the most serious and
potentially lethal violence, such as threats, assault with a gun
or knife, choking and sexual assault
3 times more likely to report suffering a physical injury
Twice as likely to report chronic on going assaults, defined as
more than 10 separate incidents
5 times as likely to report that they feared for their lives
(Jaffe, P.G, Lemon N.K.D, Poisson, S.E, 2003)
In a significant majority of cases where a man reports abuse,
he has also perpetrated violence towards his partner (Final
report of the ad-hoc Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working
Group reviewing spousal abuse policies and legislation.
Canada, 2003).¬ Men are less likely to have been repeat
victims of domestic assault, less likely to be seriously injured
and less likely to report feeling fearful in their own homes
(Scottish Executive Central Research Unit, 2002).
This is why I make no apology for referring in this publication
to women being victims and men being perpetrators and if
you think that this chapter sounds extreme or like a film script
think again – these examples are what fills my day, and those
of my department, every single day of the week.
Reproduced with kind permission of Rachel Horman.
To buy ‘A Practical Guide to Coercive Control for Legal
Practitioners and Victims’ by Rachel Horman, please go
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Making The Invisible Visible