Are you in a coercive relationship? 9 signs to look out for

18-year-old Chlo tells her story

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If you're not familiar with the term 'coercive control', you're not alone. It was revealed earlier this week that only 1 in 3 women understand that it's a form of domestic abuse - despite over a third of young women having been involved in a controlling relationship.

Abuse doesn't have to take the form of physical violence. Domestic abuse isn't specifically about being punched, raped or hit - but can take the shape of an emotional onslaught too. 

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Chlo, now 18, was in an abusive relationship which made her the victim to coercive control for almost four years - and here she outlines 10 tell tale signs that you might be too.

Chlo has teamed up with Avon and Women's Aid to tell her story
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1. Abuse doesn't necessarily mean physical 

"It started with [my ex-boyfriend] calling me names and getting angry and shouting. He was making out that I had completely ruined his life and he blamed me for all of his problems. I felt more and more like it was my fault, and so he got more and more extreme. He started threatening to kill himself and threatening to hurt me and the worse it got, the more I felt like 'I must be doing something wrong.'

2. Any behaviour that is manipulative classes as coercive control

Anything where someone is being controlling
towards their boyfriend or girlfriend. Any behavior that is controlling or
manipulating, that makes their life more difficult. Behaviour that makes others
feel bad or restricting them."

3. Early signs include name calling or checking up on you all the time

"It could be things like calling them names,
stopping them from seeing friends or family. 
Not wanting them to go to school
or work, checking up on someone constantly. Mental, emotional and psychological
abuse. Mind games to make someone feel really bad and like it's their fault.
Putting someone more and more under someone else's control is coercive control.

4. Incredibly intense messages of affection might not always be a good thing

"I think what really was an early sign which
I didn't know is that when we first were talking, he was
always sending me eight page word documents saying how much he loved me. It was very intense. It's not really normal when it's
taking up your entire life talking to someone and they don't want you to talk
to anyone else. Especially when it's your first relationship, it can seem like
that's the way it's actually meant to be."

5. If you're trying to change your behaviour to make someone happy

I think if you're trying to change your behavior to make someone happy. If you're thinking 'I better not do that because it's going to really upset them' or 'they're gonna lose their temper'. You shouldn't have to control what you do in an attempt to not upset someone."

6. So is your partner getting furious over unimportant things

"A lot of my life was restricted
because of how he was. I would not want to go out or see friends because I
wanted to be able to respond to his messages all the time. He'd get quite angry
if he thought I was seeing other people, friends rather than messaging him"

7. A relationship may involve coercive control if it stops you doing what you want to do

"It stopped me going to school and meant in
the end I was prioritizing him over school. I was staying up all night with him
being really angry on the phone, saying he was going to hurt himself and I
would be trying to talk him out of it and then I was too emotionally exhausted
from everything that was happening with him.


8. Watch out for short tempers and extreme anger

"We lived two hours drive away from each
other so we didn't meet that often, more sort of at weekends every couple of
weeks. He'd be really nice when we met, and then afterwards he'd go away and
say it was all a pretence. He could flip every day, every couple of days and
then he might be really angry for like a week or something and then we'd meet
again and he'd sort of change his mind and be nice."

9.Extreme jealousy over friends and family is a tell tale sign

" If they're getting jealous and not wanting you to talk to other people. Very intense texting ALL THE TIME and expecting you to reply instantly. Checking up on you, who you're with, where you are ALL THE TIME. Obviously it's not always, but they definitely are warning signs."

Avon and Women's Aid have launched Love Don't Feel Bad, which aims to help young women recognise coercively controlling behaviour and spark discussion about what is acceptable in relationships, raising awareness of what healthy relationships and love really look like.

What do you think?

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