Coercive control could become a criminal offence

The pattern of behaviour is designed to dominate a partner

Coercive control could become a criminal offence

File photo [Pixabay]

Coercive control has recently been discussed in the Seanad in relation to the Domestic Violence Bill 2017.

The Government has expressed reservations about legislating for it as a specific offence.

Meanwhile, coercive control has been recognised by the UK as a serious offence since 2015.

Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour designed to dominate a partner, usually by making them unable or too afraid to resist demands that a partner makes.

Professor Evan Stark is a sociologist and expert on coercive control.

He told Pat Kenny: "The essence of coercive control is the installation of fear - and that can be done primarily, but not exclusively, through a pattern of physical violence.

"Also through patterns of intimidation, such as stalking or threats".

"Or in many cases, forms of intimidation that may look like love".

Prof Stark explains it could be "a gesture that lets you know what happens when you get home."

"In one of my cases, a woman who played on a football team... when he got jealous, he would simply come out on to the field during a break and tell her: 'Here's your sweatshirt, darling you're cold'.

"And the message that she got was that when you got home tonight, I'm going to have to cover up".

"It's taken nearly six years"

There are also patterns that isolate a partner - such as friends, family and co-workers.

"Probably at the heart of coercive control, and the most difficult element for many folks to understand, is what the Council of Europe has called arbitrary violations of liberty.

"And by that I mean setting rules and regulations about how a partner carries out the daily activities of living: how they dress, how they cook, how they clean, their access to money, even their access to the car, how long they spend on the telephone".

Caitriona Gleeson, programme and communications manager with Safe Ireland, says it could become a criminal offence.

"We're delighted to be at the stage now where debate is happening in the Seanad, we're frustrated that it's taken nearly six years to get there."

"In the Seanad last Tuesday we had certainly all parties recognising that there was a need to recognise coercive control in our practice.

"But across all of the opposition groupings, there was huge support and a number of amendments to put forward to define coercive control - both in civil law but also as a criminal offence".

Anyone affected by any issues raised in this article can contact SAFE Ireland National Freephone Helpline on 1800-341-900, or get more information here