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Coercive Control and the Burden of Proof

Updated: Sep 3, 2023

In the shadows of reported crimes, a distressing truth persists: convictions for the insidious crime of coercive control remain alarmingly low. Building upon the insights shared in my previous blogs, it's time to delve deeper into this unsettling reality. Brace yourself for an exploration of another critical issue that plagues the pursuit of justice while leaving lingering questions to provoke our collective understanding of the complexities surrounding Coercive Control.

Key issue effecting convictions:

Appropriate evidence or information sharing and the effects on the victim. Having worked with many clients who have been subjected to coercive control, it has become extremely apparent that evidence or information that is gathered has, on occasion, had the tendency to have been shared incorrectly or not at all, which makes the process of proving coercive and controlling behaviour extremely difficult for all involved. There are inconsistencies as to whether or not ‘the evidence’ that is gathered and shared is even valid in the pursuit of getting a coercive and controlling conviction.

Further difficulties arise when clients are unable to function mentally, physically, and emotionally due to the issues surrounding the gathering of evidence; this, coupled with the stress of post-separation abuse and having to constantly try to perform daily duties with a sound mind, is regularly a reason why victims feel unable to continue on with getting a conviction for Coercive and Controlling behaviour. Further to this, the Parental Alienation Claims against (mainly) mothers open up another form of heartbreak when trying to safeguard their children. This happens regularly as a counterclaim or defence to a Coercive and Controlling behaviour allegation, usually and mainly put forward by fathers.

Mothers drop charges for the sake of their mental health, especially if they are mothers still having the responsibility of being the main carer for their children. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that this is true in all cases of coercive control, but it is certainly a major issue of concern.

A question for us should be, Do we not need to be consistent in terms of what is valid evidence for proving coercive and controlling behaviour, considering that at this stage, many victims have exhausted themselves mentally and physically to gather this evidence, having had to re-traumatise themselves in doing so, to then be confronted with the devastating confirmation that this evidence or information is incorrect and not valid in proving Coercive and Controlling behaviour.

What I can say is this: every single time this happens in these situations, the children are victims of coercive control and domestic abuse in their rights due to the suffering of their main carer, usually their mother, at this extremely challenging time. Returning back to such an abusive relationship is a consideration and does happen, while there are many other reasons why victims go back to abusive relationships, for example, trauma bonding and co-dependency. The fact remains that the fight to prove coercive and controlling behaviour can sometimes feel too great, too diminishing, and all too exhausting. To give up the battle and to try to provide some relief (though this is only a temporary feeling) from the insidious nature of post-separate abuse. Entering back into these types of relationships can feel as though it is the only option.

This is why it is extremely important to support victims of coercive control at this stage, as unfortunately the system fails to do so.

Until next time, I will leave you with my message: ‘Make choices and decisions that will create peace in your heart’.

Much love, Lis

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