Psychological violence is hard to define and hard to police. That’s exactly why those experiencing it need the law to be changed
It’s 5am and I can’t sleep. A quiet dawn is bringing the colour back to the world outside, but in here it’s still dark. I’m worried about my friend, who is beautiful, kind, smart (it feels important to note that she’s smart – some people still think “women like her” aren’t), and trying to extricate herself from an abusive relationship. He is out of the house, but not her head. This second eviction isn’t the most urgent, but until it is complete she won’t be free.
The French have already criminalised “psychological violence”. British ministers – who are considering making “coercive control” within intimate relationships a crime should do the same. Coercive control is sometimes described as if it is a mild form of domestic abuse, but this is a mistake. It is, in fact, the foundation stone on which abusive relationships are built. If a stranger hit you, you wouldn’t go home with them, much less deny it happened later – often the very modus operandi of domestic violence. Coercive control creates the psychological conditions that allow abusive relationships to exist and to escalate, often with fatal consequences – an average of seven women and two men are killed by their current or ex-partners every month in England and Wales. Coercive control is increasingly being acknowledged as a significant predictor of future violence and murder by domestic violence charities and the police (for more on warning signs visit refuge.org.uk).