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CCChat Magazine


The Magazine on and around Coercive Control

February 2020






The Family Court Issue


Editor's Notes

3 For 2020:

Nothing less than 20:20 vision will do.

Freedom’s Flowers

4 Continuing our serialisation of Freedom’s

Flowers by Freedom Programme founder,

Pat Craven

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' .

Rachel Horman

20 Read a free chapter of Rachel's new book

on coercive control for legal practitioners

and victims.

Making The Invisible Visible

Editor's Notes

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

stages, identifying

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


For 2020

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,

Min x

Making The Invisible Visible

Freedom’s Flowers

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

was done.

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

doting dad.

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

tense atmosphere.

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

alive again."

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

was heaven!

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

homesick easily.


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

becomes hysterical.

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

rights reserved.


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

responding emotionally.

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

Lucy Reed.

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



"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

their support.

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

Rachel Horman

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

throughout England

and Wales.

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



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

windows locked.

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 [2007] 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

coercive control.

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

to her.

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

using spyware;

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

are worthless;

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

from working.

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

to www.lawbriefpublishing.com

Also available on Amazon.co.uk with optional Prime


Making The Invisible Visible

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