The 2018 Domestic Violence Act created the new offence of coercive control in Ireland.
Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse characterised by emotional, psychological and verbal abuse and control by one domestic spouse over another. Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse, although it is not characterised by physical violence.
In practice, coercive control is characterised by a set of behaviours by the perpetrator, who will have a particular psychological profile, and manifests in a pattern of behaviour in the victim, who will in turn have a particular psychological profile. Many definitions of coercive control abound, however the charity Womens Aid has listed a number of behavioural patterns that will be present in a coercively controlling relationship:
- Isolation of the victim from friends and family.
- Deprivation of basic everyday needs such as food, electricity and heating.
- Monitoring of online activity.
- Controlling of aspects of everyday life, e.g. who the victim sees, where they go, what to wear, when to be home and when to sleep.
- Preventing the victim from accessing support services.
- Incidents of repeated “putting down” of the victim, such as telling them they are worthless.
- Enforcement of rules and activity in the household that humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim.
- Forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity.
- Controlling of the couples’ finances and preventing the victim from working and having their own money.
- Threatening to reveal public or private information about the victim, such as private photos or videos online.
The offence was most famously described by the author Evan Stark as a pattern of on-going intentional domineering tactics employed by (usually) male perpetrators with the intent of governing their female victim’s thoughts, beliefs or conduct and/or to punish them for resisting their regulation.
In addition to the negative outcomes suffered by children from witnessing coercive control in the home, research suggests the profile of a coercively controlling parent means they are also likely to use similarly abusive tactics against their children. Coercively controlling men are more likely to have a tendency towards verbally abusive and manipulative parenting such as lying, providing false promises, drawing children in as agents of abuse against their mothers, such as asking children to give the mother threatening messages, demanding they report on her whereabouts, who she talks to and what she does.
The 2018 Domestic Violence Act created the new offence of coercive control in Ireland. Coercive control relates to such control of a spouse, civil partner or intimate partner and is defined as a pattern of intimidation, humiliation and controlling behaviour that causes fear of violence or serious distress that has a substantial impact on the victim’s day-to-day activities.
A person who commits an offence under S. 38 of the 2018 Act is liable on summary conviction to a term of imprisonment of up to 12 months or on conviction on indictment to term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years.
If you or someone you know is a victim of coercive control you should contact An Garda Síochána immediately. We offer a range of legal services at O’Donoghue & Associates to include family law and we have experience in successfully applying for protection, security and barring orders for victims of domestic abuse.