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March 26, 2024

Warning Signs.

Here in the UK, just lately, there has been a lot of discussion on the television around coercive control. There is also a storyline on one of the UK’s best loved soap opera’s, Emmerdale, which is focusing on a coercively abusive relationship between two of the show’s characters. It got me thinking, it may be a good idea to revisit here, on my blog, the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Ok, I have cheated! I have taken the following from my website, and just brought it up to date a bit. Which reminds me, I need to do that with all of my website, but anyway………..

If we have been in an abusive relationship, we may feel that we would know the warning signs straight away, if a new partner was also abusive.  But everyone is different, and we may not know!  For example, if our previous relationship was categorised by physical abuse, we may not recognise the signs of a coercively controlling person, and vice versa.

Some of the women who have completed my Freedom Programmes have told me that when they met a new partner, they went to the police station and asked to make a Claire’s Law application.  This can be a good way of finding out if your new boyfriend/girlfriend has ever been reported to the police for abusive behaviour.  It may also be easier to end a relationship early on if we have the knowledge of previous abusive behaviour, rather than later on when other factors and/or emotions may make it more difficult to end the relationship.

However, it is important to note that we know that many victims and survivors never report the abuse. Through my work with NCDV, I know that up to 80% of incidents of domestic abuse are never reported, to anyone.  That being the case, a Claire’s Law application would come back clear!  So let’s take a look below at some early warning signs you may see in an abusive person.

Early Bully

They may go quiet for a while if we disagree with something they say or do.  They may use the body language of The Bully.  Watch out for tapping fingers, folded arms and swinging feet!  They may tell us very early on in the relationship that they would never hit a partner.  Ask yourself – why would they need to tell us this at all?

Early Jailer

This is a difficult one to see unless you have done The Freedom Programme or read the book.  A lot of the warning signs for the Jailor may be seen as being romantic or loving.  We may feel that they are just so in love with us, they can’t bear to be apart.  More recently, this has also been called ‘love bombing’. For example, we may say we are going to see a friend and they may insist that they drop us off and pick us up.  They may genuinely be trying to be helpful and caring.  BUT they may be making sure we are going where we say we are.  They will say they don’t want us to work because “you don’t have to.  I will provide for you”.  They may want to see us every day and come round at times when we are not expecting them.

Early Headworker

The Headworker is coercively controlling.  So subtle that it is difficult to see it until it is too late!  The Headworker may put us down in front of other people but will always use humour to do it.  They may make insulting comments about our appearance under the guise of a compliment.  For example – “You would look so much prettier if you lost a little weight”!  They may make sexist, racist or homophobic jokes. The Headworker ‘gaslights’. In other words, they will make us think we are going mad! They will manipulate everything we say and cause an argument, and then somehow, we always end up thinking it is our fault.

Early Persuader

They will make us feel sorry for them.  The Persuader will try to persuade us to do something they knows we don’t like and don’t want to do.  They could buy food that they know we don’t like and try to persuade us to eat it.  They may say they would kill himself rather than not be in a relationship with us!

Early Liar

The Liar may tell us their previous partner was abusive to them and will now not let them see the children.  *Warning – if someone tells you they have children but they aren’t allowed to see them, there is usually a very good reason why!!*  They will use minimisation and use the only word.  For example, they may say something hurtful to us then say “It was only a joke!” or “I did hit them once but it was only a slap and it was their fault because they were drunk!”

Early Bad father

The bad father may not have contact with his own children.  He may be overly attentive and friendly with our children, buying them presents and treats.  He may, very quickly, make himself indispensable.  He may provide us with financial support and practical help.  This is very hard to resist if we have been struggling to manage time and/or finances on our own.  But equally as quickly, he may start dispensing discipline.  He may tell our children off or take things from them if they are naughty.

Early Kind of the Castle

They may start leaving their clothes and other belongings at our house.  They will begin to choose our clothes but in very subtly ways.  For example, they may say “You look great in that outfit but don’t you think it would look even better if it were a bit longer?”  They may offer to do household chores for us but do them so badly that we don’t actually want them to do them, so we do them ourselves.

Early Sexual Controller

The sexual controller will want to have sex very early on in the relationship and get upset or sulk if we say No.  When we do have sex with them, they may only have regard in satisfying themselves and not care about how we feel.  They won’t communicate with us whilst having sex.  They will refuse to use protection.

These warning signs will not be obvious or happen all at once and there are many, many more, that haven’t been listed here.  They will come in clusters.  They will not exhibit one sign, but several at a time.  We may not be sure how we feel about it.  We may feel uncomfortable and choose to ignore our uneasiness.  However, women who have done the Freedom Programme have said that after doing the programme, they take these uneasy feelings very seriously.

Good luck!  Trust your instincts but remember – not everyone is abusive!

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  • I first met Sharon back in 2000 when I went into a refuge she worked in after fleeing a violent relationship. I had two babies and virtually just a bag of clothes and a few toys with us. She helped me with appointments with the police, solicitors and..

    A survivor of domestic abuse.
  • I was fortunate enough to meet and work with Sharon when she was the Advocacy Manager at Woman’s Trust and I was working for Westminster City Council. During this time Sharon developed and managed the Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy Service..

    Ainslie O’Connor – Principal Advisor for the Department of the Premier and Cabinet – Adelaide, Australia.
  • Thank you so much for all the support you have given me. You really have been amazing, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have been able to cope with Child Protection without you. The amount of strength you have given me is totally priceless, even with..

    A survivor of domestic abuse.
  • I knew Sharon as a work colleague over ten years ago. At the time, she was supporting vulnerable people, some of them were homeless due to domestic abuse and substance misuse. For me, assisting such people was what anyone in her role would be expect..

    Ted Chanza, Head of Market Operations, Airtel Malawi Ltd, Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa.
  • I have known Sharon for 6 years and have had the pleasure of working alongside her when I chaired the Westminster MARAC. Sharon is a committed, empathetic supporter of women who are or have experienced domestic abuse. She regularly goes the extra m..

    Former Chair of The Westminster MARAC.
  • I was fortunate to have had Sharon as my support worker after 17 years of domestic violence and 4 children that had witnessed and gone through it with me. I was finally strong enough to stand up and protect myself and my children. Without Sharon’s ..

    A survivor of domestic violence.
  • Without the support and constant reassurance of Sharon, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am forever grateful to her. She is extremely dedicated and knowledgeable, having her on my side when dealing with someone as persistent..

    Anonymous survivor of Domestic Abuse.
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