Coercive control is how the cycle of domestic abuse first begins and it is also how the cycle ends too, it’s the invisible scars that do the most damage.
For me, the physical abuse was the easiest form of abuse to deal with because it didn’t last long, whenever I got a black eye, it felt like my pride was hurt more so than my eye and when he knocked me out on one occasion, after coming round, as quick was done, it was over.
However, the coercive control he had over me, I won’t lie, still lives with me today. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t take over my life on a day-to-day basis, but some things are still there and triggers can bring back certain memories. It has almost been 10 years since I became a survivor of physical and psychological abuse and I am stronger than when I was a victim but yet, I don’t feel as confident as I was before domestic abuse.
I remember when I first left the relationship of 3 years, I was in the car with my Father and I was about to get out of the car and go to the shop but suddenly I caught sight of my ex perpetrator and simply froze. I just couldn’t move. I just could not get out of the car and yet I was with my Father!
Another occasion when I was collecting some of my belonging from a family member, my ex partner approached me and I did nothing but shake and in the 5 minute walk to be my parents home, I was shaking like a leaf and by the time my mom had opened the front door, I had weed myself. On the short journey to my moms, I was constantly looking over my shoulder and wondering what he would do next.
That is just the tip of the iceberg of the impact that coercive control can have on you, even though you have actually left the relationship. Society may think that the abuse simply ends when the victim finds the courage to leave, but in reality, it is just the physical abuse that stops. A perpetrator doesn’t know how to react to rejection and will do all they can to gain and maintain that power and control over the victim and that is done by using coercive control.
The same way as coercive control is easily disguised at the beginning of the relationship, it’s just the same at the end of the relationship. Society will feel that the perpetrator is showing their caring side when they harass and stalk the victim they won’t see the controlling perpetrator for what they are really doing; controlling and still trying to maintain that power.
Harassment and stalking is the perfect opportunity for perpetrators to give more false promises of changing, that it won’t happen again and how they really love them, but it’s a cruel way to get the victim to go back to them so they can start the cycle of control all over again.
Focus on the abuse we can’t see is paramount for the safety of any victim of domestic abuse. Perpetrators realise how we live in a society that simply associates domestic abuse with physical abuse so they know they can get away with coercive control because it’s easily confused with care. Awareness and education of the complex cycle would make such a different to the world of domestic abuse. Isolation is the one key ingredient that begins in all abusive relationships.
Coercive control can be a huge barrier for all survivors of domestic abuse too, even when they have left the relationship because it’s the type of control that wears you down mentally, it drains you or who you once were, you exist rather than live.
A perpetrator will take away all your self-confidence, esteem and worth and sometimes that can be quiet difficult to get back, difficult but not impossible. If you have been constantly put down by your perpetrator for wearing make up or wearing “the wrong type of aftershave” for example, the next time you go to put make up on or wear that particular type of aftershave, in the back of your mind, subconsciously your perpetrator will be there and those cruel words will come flooding back again. Victims need to find a way to over come that barrier and learn to deal with negativity of domestic abuse in a more positive way. Put that make up on and wear that aftershave that *you* like because you are the one who is the most important person in your world.
Coercive control can still take away your freedom, you feel frightened about going out because you fear you might bump into your ex perpetrator and you fear what they might say or do to you. You are scared that you might feel vulnerable when they ask you to go back, then you start over thinking things how maybe things could have been your fault, you start questioning and doubting yourself about things; that is the perpetrator gaining and maintaining power and control over you, even your thoughts.
Many victims can deal with the physical side of domestic abuse but they feel they can’t cope with the coercive control because it’s subconsciously in your mind and it can prevent you from moving forward with your life, so it feels as though your perpetrator is always controlling you.
Coercive control is powerful and needs recognition to help keep victims safe. Without awareness it is not only making victims feel vulnerable but also putting them in danger. Early warning signs need to become mandatory in sex education because without awareness victims don’t even know they are a victim.
Coercive control, controls your mind, brainwashes you, manipulates you, silates you, changes you from who you were into someone you don’t want to be. It breaks you into tiny little pieces that you feel can’t ever be fixed together again.
It makes your mind overthink situations, put stress on you to blame yourself and therefore you carry on regardless, accepting this behaviour because you don’t know any different, it’s what you are made to believe, feel and think by your perpetrator.