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Shining a bright light on the psychology of relationship abuse


Paddy Tipping with Steve Smith and Chris Cutland

Police and criminal justice experts joined academics and charity leaders for a high-profile national conference examining the role of coercive control in domestic abuse.

The Chance for Change conference, hosted by Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Paddy Tipping, was held in the Albert Hall in Nottingham on Wednesday 9th March and saw a host of national and international domestic abuse specialists sharing their knowledge and expertise on the range of tactics used by perpetrators to control their victims.

During the conference, Commissioner Tipping and Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Chris Cutland spoke about the work taking place locally to expand support for survivors and empower their freedom from control.

Coercive control is a term coined by Professor Evan Stark that has been developed to explain the patterns of behaviour that lie at the root of most domestic abuse cases, stripping victims of their freedom, liberty and self-confidence.

This concept widens the definition of domestic abuse, beyond one-off incidents of violence, to understand it as on-going and encompassing a range of behaviours that includes psychological, emotional, sexual and financial manipulation.  The coercive control model has been used by the Home Office to provide the basis for the new coercive control offence.  Nottinghamshire Police have been the first to bring a prosecution under this legislation.

Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, shared research on coercive control after survivors have separated from their partners, while award-winning author and international coercive control lecturer Professor Evan Stark delivered a speech about the coercive control model and its impact on support intervention.

Presentations were also delivered by Dr Julie McGarry, Associate Professor of the University of Nottingham; Dr Kim Watts, Senior Lecturer at Kings College in London; Dr Rebecca Barnes and Dr Clare Gunby, from the University of Leicester; Professor Liz Kelly CBE, London Metropolitan University; DCI Leigh Sanders from Nottinghamshire Police; and Christian Papaleontiou, from the Home Office.

Meanwhile, Steve Smith, General Manager of Nottingham Rugby Club, told delegates of the work the club is doing locally to challenge and change perceptions about domestic abuse among its supporters and their families. As an official White Ribbon Campaign supporter, the club believes professional rugby players are a good role model and vehicle for the anti-violence message and has held numerous family events to raise awareness. 

Commenting on the conference, Commissioner Tipping said: “This conference brought together the collective experience of a number of national and international experts and helped us to better understand the complex psychology behind domestic abuse in all its forms.

“I’m pleased that coercive control is receiving such wide attention and top level analysis and I’m convinced that it will help many more people understand the unhealthy behavioural patterns that constitute abuse.  If we are not clear about how coercive control works then how can we effectively support survivors and prevent abuse?

“Tackling domestic abuse remains a top priority in Nottinghamshire and this has been demonstrated by the £3m I’ve invested in support provision since my election. These services will empower survivors to recover from harm.”

Deputy PCC Chris Cutland added: “For too long, domestic abuse has focused on incidents of physical violence and ignored the fact that most survivors are subjected to an ongoing, purposeful campaign of psychological manipulation and control regardless of whether it ever culminates in a physical attack.

“Coercive control doesn’t end at separation and often intensifies. This is when many women are at greatest risk of harm.”

“By understanding the nature of this type of offending we can better commission services which not only help to educate people of healthy relationship behaviour but also build self-esteem and confidence among those at risk of repeat victimisation to reject control tactics in future.

During the conference, delegates discussed the multitude of ways perpetrators tried to intimidate their ex-partner during family court proceedings and heard that 90% of victims reported post-separation abuse. They also heard how the right support was vital to help women make small steps towards being free from an abusive relationship.

A number of workshops were also held including interventions for medium risk repeat survivors, working with women with multiple perpetrators, identification and referral to improve safety and safer teenage intimate relationships.    

More information on the presentations can be found HERE



Posted on Thursday 10th March 2016
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