November 3, 2023

14 Point Checklist Coercive Control

Kris B. Harmony, OTR/L, LNHA, MBA

Kris B. Harmony, OTR/L, LNHA, MBA

1. Violent Threats

  • In a coercive relationship the abuser will often use violent threats to get their own way.
  • This is to intimidate and instill fear, so the victim does whatever the abuser states to ensure the victim and the victim's family is safe. 
  • Once the abuser knows this tactic works, they will use this tactic.

2. Blackmailing

  • If the victim revealed private information or shared photos with a partner, the coercive controller threatens to expose
  • Abusers go to extreme lengths to get what they want. A victim at the beginning of the relationship shares private and intimate information with the abuser. The abuser encourages this by making out that they can be trusted and are generally interested.
    • This is a clever tactic coercive controllers use to obtain private information to later use against them or to blackmail victims if they do not comply with requests and rules.
3. Jealous Accusations

  • Constantly accusing the survivor of untrue actions.
    • Incredibly damaging to the survivor's sense of self.
    • Another way for abusers to exert control.
  • Not uncommon for the abuser to accuse victims of things the abuser is doing themselves.
  • Jealousy stems from ownership
    • Abusers believe they own their victims and
    • If the victim receives attention or admiration from others, the coercive controller is unhappy and turns the situation onto them.
4. Isolating Family, Friends, Support Systems
  • Isolating Friends and Family:
    • The first step to gaining control is to divide and conquer
    • Abusers will often attempt to isolate victim from:
      • Friends
      • Family
      • Support Systems To Achieve Total Power

- Coercive controllers say negative things about the victim's family, initiates conflict but approaches as they are the victim

- Coercive controllers turn the victim against their family and friends, so the victim loses support and is trapped.

Isolating Friends and Family

  • Abusers will often make things difficult between the victim and the victim’s family or friends
  • Abusers make comments about the victim’s family or friends and create an issue around seeing them
  • “Your brother is not allowed in our house for any event because he built a new home and did not buy the carpet from my floor-covering company. Can you believe that? He went to someone else and took food off our table.”
  • Abusers play the part of the victim
  • Abusers insinuate that it’s the victim’s friends and the victim's family who have a problem with the abuser
  • Abusers manipulate the victim into feeling like they need to stand up for the abuser and portray the victim is on the abuser’s side
  • The abuser wants the victim alone
  • The abuser does not want outsiders commenting or giving opinions on the relationship
  • The outsider is a threat and may influence and bring awareness to the victim
  • Metaphor:
    • When a lion hunts, they segregate prey from the herd, because it is much easier to attack the prey when they are vulnerable, alone, and in fear

The abuser confuses the victim into believing everyone is against them and the victim makes the decision themselves that they do not want anything to do with family or friends, to make their abuser happy.

5. Closely Monitoring Activity

Abusers want to be always in control and do this by tracking the victim’s activity:

  • Abusers monitor where victims are going
  • Abusers monitor who victims are going out with
  • Abusers monitor how long victims are out
  • Abusers monitor the victim's social media activity
  • Abusers monitor who the victim is talking to on the phone
  • Abusers, in extreme circumstances, install cameras in the house and put tracking devices on the victim’s car
  • Abusers monitor victims to isolate them and to ensure that the victim has nobody else in their life apart from the abuser
  • The victim feels intimidated and often on edge, resulting in the victim not wanting to do and see anyone in case it causes a problem with the abuser

6. Denying Freedom

Denying Freedom is Control:

  • The abuser starts controlling the victim by denying freedom
  • The abuser wants to break the victim’s identity
  • The victim no longer sees the people that make them happy
  • The victim no longer does the things that make them happy
  • The abuser wants the victim’s world to become very small, so the abuser becomes big and powerful.
  • But why would a so-called loving partner behave in this way? 'An abuser thrives off power and control as it makes them feel good, and the more control they have over you the better,' says Davey.
  • The abuser thrives off power and control as it makes them feel good
  • The more control the abuser’s gains, the more control they have over the victim

7. Gaslighting

Have you started to second guess yourself? Gaslighting is a very subtle but insidious form of domestic abuse and manipulation that causes a victim to question their own feelings, judgements and even their sanity.

Gaslighting is one of the most dangerous forms of emotional abuse,' explains Davey. 'An abuser will use many gaslighting techniques to make the victim feel like it’s all their fault – like they are the ones who are crazy. The abuser convinces the victim that they have said things they didn’t or find things that weren’t really there.'

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in their victim's mind.

Typically, gas lighters are seeking to gain power and control over the other person, by distorting reality and forcing them to question their own judgment and intuition.

Gaslighting leads to serious implications - Victims are left feeling:

  • Confused
  • Ashamed
  • Terrified
  • Hurt
  • Lost

Abusers will leave the victim for short and long periods of time with no contact leaving the victim feeling so alone and longing for their abuser to come back or for any attention whatsoever.

Long periods of gaslighting have a very damaging effect on the victim leaving many to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

8. Constantly Criticizing

  • Abusers often like to criticize and put down their victims either directly or indirectly.
  • The goal is to make the victim lose confidence and doubt their abilities so that they look to their abuser to give them the validation they need
  • The abuser feels good about themselves when they are putting others down.

9. Controlling Finances

  • Abusers like to control finances, forcing the victim to depend on their abuser for money.
  • Abusers want to have so much control over you and to know everything you are doing to the point of the victim needing to ask for money to buy a coffee
  • Abusers do this to isolate the victim and ensure they have nowhere else to go and the victim has no means of doing so
  • Abusers trap their victims so that they feel they have no way out and they feel they must stay with the abuser no matter what

10. Forcing to Live By Their Rules

  • Abusers play by their rulebook and victims are afraid of the reaction if the rules are broken
  • Abusers want it all their own way and nothing but.
  • The victim feels like they are walking around on eggshells making sure they do everything they can to make their abuser happy
11. Parental Alienation
  • Abusers convince children to reject the victim
  • Abusers threaten the victim if they disobey, they will sabotage the victim’s relationship with the kids. This tactic also reinforces the abuser's hierarchical position in the family
  • Parental alienation is a smear campaign where the abuser turns others (including the children) against the victim, so the victim feels even more isolated
  • This will also make the victim feel that they are the problem
12. Policing Lifestyle

Abusers direct the victims on day-to-day tasks, such as what they can and cannot wear

  • Victims become conditioned to what the abuser wants such as how much they eat, sleep and wear
  • The victim loses their identity and the capacity to decide on their own
  • This type of manipulation can break the victim down, until they are no longer capable of thinking for themselves
  • They victim ultimately feels they must keep their abuser in their life as they no longer know how to live life without the abuser. 
13. Depriving Access to Help
  • Abusers likes to see their victims in pain
  • Abusers see their victim’s weakness as their power
  • Abusers want to see their victims suffer as much as possible.

14. Regulating Sexual Relationship

  • Abusers seek to control everything in the victim’s life which includes the sexual side of the relationship
  • Abusers dictate when, where and how. This relates back to power and control
  • Abusers do not consider if the victim is consenting or not
  • Abusers believe they have the right to do whatever they please



1. Stark, Evan. (2007). Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. Oxford University Press. 

2. Dobash, R. Emerson, and Dobash, Russell P. (2015). When Men Murder Women: Interpersonal Violence. Oxford University Press. 

3. Johnson, Michael P. (2008). A Typology of Domestic Violence: Intimate Terrorism, Violent Resistance, and Situational Couple Violence. Northeastern University Press. 

4. Hester, Marianne, and Westmarland, Nicole. (2005). Tackling Domestic Violence: Effective Interventions and Approaches. The Policy Press. 

5. Myhill, Andy. (2015). Measuring coercive control: What can we learn from national population surveys? Violence Against Women, 21(3), 355-375. 

6. Kelly, Liz. (2003). The continuum of sexual violence. In: Bohmer, Carol, and Sheppard, Dawn (eds.), Rape: Challenging Contemporary Thinking. Willan Publishing. 

7. Stark, Evan. (2012). Coercive Control: The Entrapment of Women in Personal Life. Oxford University Press. 

8. Kelly, Liz, and Westmarland, Nicole. (2015). Domestic violence perpetrator programs: Steps towards change. Project Mirabal Final Report. 

9. Regan, Linda, and Kelly, Liz. (2003). Categorising the experience of the non-consenting sex object. In: Bohmer, Carol, and Sheppard, Dawn (eds.), Rape: Challenging Contemporary Thinking. Willan Publishing. 

10. Walby, Sylvia. (2009). The Cost of Domestic Violence: Up-date 2009. Lancaster University, Department of Sociology

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