I recently attended a conference in Glasgow called ‘Tackling Coercive Control’ hosted by a wonderful organisation for women in Glasgow called the Womens Support Project. The speakers included representatives from ASSIST, Glasgow University and The Lead Procurator Fiscal for Domestic Violence in Scotland. All the representatives were speaking about the new Coercive Control legislation that was passed by the Scottish Government in February 2018 and is due to be implemented in early 2019.
What is coercive control? Women’s Aid describe it as follows:
Isolating you from friends and family
Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
Monitoring your time
Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware
Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you can wear and when you can sleep
Depriving you access to support services, such as medical services
Repeatedly putting you down, such as saying you’re worthless
Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you
Controlling your finances
Making threats or intimidating you
The Freedom Programme course describes, in detail, the different tactics as described above that the abusers use towards their victims to keep the victim under their control. Within the programme The Jailer, The Controller, The Persuader, The Liar, The Headworker, The Bully and King of the Castle are categorised in to different persona’s to help easily explain and portray the different facets of coercive control and abuse that will be used to control a victim.
The new Act is a complex and detailed piece of Legislation consisting of 58 pages, however, it is a hugely positive step forward in holding perpetrators that emotionally and psychologically abuse partners and children to account. . In the past the current legal framework has only focussed on violence; including sexual violence or tangible violent acts; however, the new act seeks to acknowledge, describe and include the emotional and psychological aspects of domestic abuse when a perpetrator is brought to court, in the hope the legal system can hold perpetrators more fully to account.
One very promising change in the new Act includes the ability for the courts to include an additional offense relating to children victims of domestic abuse called Child Aggravation. This addition in the new legislation will include how the offense involved children and the resulting impact on them that will go on record and should affect sentencing. We know many of the women that have attended our programmes have long highlighted this missing part of legislation and it is promising that this will now be addressed through new legislation.
Police Scotland are currently rolling out training on Coercive Control for its 14,000 staff and officers and have this to say about the new legislation; ‘we recognise that domestic abuse is more than the physical assaults, its about abusers who exert control over their victims by using a range of debilitating tactics. Survivors have long told us that whilst physical assaults are often part of that abuse, it is commonly the punishing psychological abuse that victims suffer and allows us to bring the full weight of the law against those who commit abuse, whatever its form’. (Police Scotland. 2018)
‘With the 60 percent of battering cases that comprise domestic violence I think we need a law that punishes offenders at the same level that we would punish people that take hostages, or kidnap people, because that’s what we’re really dealing with, although the analogy is by no means perfect, is a kind of domestic terrorism. A kind of domestic hostage taking in which the victim has no outside to escape to, because the supposed safe place, the relationship, the home, the family network, has been identified as the point of imprisonment and entrapment’. (Stark. 2018)
Congratulations to all the organisations and agencies in Scotland that have worked hard to implement these legal changes that will help transform the legal framework to offer more protection and justice for victims of domestic abuse. And to all the victims that have shared their tragic stories describing coercive control so others have a fuller understanding of this crime, when it was often seemingly disregarded by those in positions of power and left unpunished by the legal system - your voices have finally been heard and will improve the outcomes for other victims. You are amazing.
Women’s Aid. 2015. What is Coercive Control? [online]. [Accessed 28 November 2018]. Available from https://www.womensaid.org.uk/information-support/what-is-domestic-abuse/coercive-control/
Stark, E. 2018. The Academics: Causes and Prevention of Domestic Violence. [online]. [Accessed 28 November 2018]. Available from https://www.powerandcontrolfilm.com/the-topics/academics/evan-stark/
Police Scotland. 2018. Police Scotland Welcomes New Domestic Abuse Legislation. [online’. [Accessed 28 November 2018]. Available from http://www.scotland.police.uk/whats-happening/news/2018/february/new-domestic-abuse-legislation