Staffordshire Police launch campaign to shine spotlight on coercive control

Staffordshire Police has today launched a campaign to raise awareness around controlling an coercive behaviour in relationships to encourage victims to come forward.

The force say it is at the heart of domestic abuse featuring a deliberate and calculated pattern of behaviour and psychological abuse which is designed to isolate, manipulate and terrorise a victim into a complete fearful obedience.

Signs include taking control over aspects of someone’s everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what they can wear and when they can sleep.

Pressure tactics can include monitoring someone’s time, controlling someone’s ability to go to work, taking money, taking away someone’s phone, tablet or laptop.

While forms of stalking can include monitoring online communication, following someone, going through someone’s mobile, tablet or laptop.

The perpetrators can also make threats about their children, pets or family.

Since the end of 2015 a charge can now be brought for controlling and coercive behaviour, which imposes a maximum penalty of five years as well as a fine.

Staffordshire Police's campaign entitled 'We're on your side' features partnership working with Staffordshire Women's Aid, the Crown Prosecution Service as well as criminology expert Dr Jane Monckton-Smith.

DCI Simon Brownsword said: "Often abuse goes on over long periods of time.

"It is not about a single incident but involves systematic abusive behaviour.

"While not all of this abuse is violent the result is often that the victim will live in fear.

"We know this as research shows victims will often endure abuse on many occasions before asking for help and we are recognising and recording this more often.

"We continue to take a victim-focused approach and officers have been trained to take the time to understand what is really going on, listen to victims and look for signs of coercion or control.

"We recognise the effect, not only on the victim, but the wider families of those involved, such as children who grow up within violent or controlling environments."

Dickie James, Staffordshire Women’s Aid said: "Coercive control is central to domestic abuse, whether or not there is physical violence.

"It is an abuse of power which can operate 24-hours-a-day, so that victims may live in fear and anxiety for years.

"Often, it is invisible to other agencies and those outside of the dynamics of the relationship.

"It can also lead the victim to feel that they are somehow responsible for the abuse.

"Recovering after such a relationship can be complex, and regaining self-esteem and trust is key to this process.

"We understand the damage this can cause and we work to help increase safety and rebuild confidence, as well as helping victims to understand their rights within the criminal justice system."

Sarah Hammond, senior district crown prosecutor, CPS West Midlands, said: "The police and CPS now work together to gather evidence and build robust cases which focus on the wider pattern of behaviour.

"Certain behaviours can sometimes be dismissed as insignificant by complainants themselves, friends and family so it is essential that the cumulative impact on a person is considered.

"Controlling or coercive behaviour can incorporate acts which amount to criminal offences in their own right, or acts which fall short of criminal proceedings but nevertheless have a ‘serious effect’ on someone."

Visit www.staffordshire.police.uk/coercivecontrol for more information and keep an eye on the force's Facebook and Twitter pages this week.

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