Coercive control is a form of hidden abuse that can often go unnoticed due to the fact it is not physical. It is a form of domestic abuse that extends beyond physical violence, manifesting in subtle yet insidious ways to exert dominance and manipulate a victim's life. According to Biderman's Chart of Coercion, this harmful pattern often unfolds in four stages: Isolation, Exhaustion, Degradation, and Threats. 

How do I know if I am experiencing coercive control?

Below we will talk more about the four stages of coercive control and offer some examples of behaviour.


The initial stage of coercive control involves isolating the victim from friends, family, and support networks. By severing ties with external relationships, the victim becomes increasingly reliant on the abuser, facilitating a power dynamic that sets the stage for further manipulation.

This can include:

  • Lots of calls and texts
  • Love bombing
  • Discouraging seeing friends/testing loyalties
  • Turning up places without being invited
  • Moving in together quite quickly
  • Suggesting and acting on moving to a joint bank account
  • Suggesting there is no need for two cars
  • Checking up on you
  • Going everywhere with you
  • Emotional blackmail


Once isolation is established, the abuser often employs tactics to mentally, emotionally, and physically exhaust the victim. Exhaustion serves to break down the victim's mental resilience, making them more susceptible to manipulation and literally too tired to deal with it.

This can include:

  • Holding you alone responsible for their happiness
  • Their needs dominate yours
  • Sexual demands
  • Housework - to excess
  • Jealousy
  • Comparison to others
  • Unpredictable behaviour
  • You may start feeling anxious and depressed
  • You may start to feel ashamed of yourself/your relationship and start hiding things from friends and family
  • You may start to feel ill or under the weather more often 


The degradation stage involves systematically eroding the victim's self-esteem and confidence.

This can include:

  • Dehumanisation
  • Made to sleep on the floor
  • Rejection of food offered
  • Withholding of money
  • Withholding of sex/affection
  • Permission to do basic things
  • Withholding of basic needs like sanitary products


The final stage of coercive control involves the use of threats to maintain dominance and control over the victim. These threats can take various forms, including physical harm, harm to loved ones, or even legal consequences.

This can include:

  • 'If you leave, I'll find you.'
  • 'If you leave, I'll kill you/myself'
  • 'You are crazy, no one will believe you.'
  • 'I'll beat up x y or z'
  • Silent treatment
  • Attacking pets
  • Taking children away
  • Withholding money, medication, drugs

What to do if you are experiencing coercive control

Options, our domestic abuse service can help by offering emotional and practical support to adult victims of domestic abuse who reside in South Tyneside and who are over the age of eighteen years.

If you are experiencing any kind of domestic abuse and live in South Tyneside – please call us in confidence on 07375 788 835 (opening hours Mon-Fri 9am-5pm), or email us at [email protected]

Alternatively if you do not reside in South Tyneside, you can call the following numbers:

  • National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
  • The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
  • National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
  • Action on Elder Abuse helpline: 0808 808 8141