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Partners raise awareness of coercive control


Wednesday, 16 June, 2021

Not all abuse is physical. This is the message partners are working together to get across during Domestic Abuse Awareness Week (14 to 20 June 2021). 

Common traits of 'coercive control' can include checking a person's phone, making them dress or look a certain way, wanting to know where they are and who they are seeing, restricting their money or cutting them off from others.

Coercive control is a crime and Woking Borough Council has teamed up with Your Sanctuary, to help residents spot the signs and highlight the support available.

Cllr Debbie Harlow, Woking Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Wellbeing, said: “One in three women, one in six men and one in five children will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives. 

“Coercive control typically involves one person in a personal relationship, whether it be a partner, spouse or family member, exerting control over the other in ways that go largely unnoticed by friends and family. 

“Over a period of time this control causes a great deal of harm which is why we’re working with Your Sanctuary to make people more aware of the tactics used by perpetrators. We want everyone to be able to recognise the signs of an unhealthy relationship, whether it’s their own or someone else’s, and know how to access help.”

The council is using social media to highlight common forms of control and has installed an eye-catching window display along Mercia Walk in Woking Town Centre promoting the Your Sanctuary domestic abuse helpline number – 01483 776822.

Watch the time lapse of the window display being installed

Your Sanctuary offers refuge, support and empowerment to anyone affected by domestic abuse. As part of the effort to make more people aware of coercive control and the harmful effects of domestic abuse on adult and child survivors, Your Sanctuary Chief Executive, Fiamma Pather, has been running awareness raising sessions with council officers.

Fiamma explains: “Last year we supported over 600 residents from across the borough. The majority of these referrals into our outreach service came from the police following an incident. A smaller percentage came from other agencies and/or self-referrals which is why it’s important for us to work with organisations like the council to get the word out there about our services.

“Many of the survivors referred to us haven’t heard of coercive control and therefore do not recognise what was happening to them. We use various tools including the ‘Duluth Power and Control Wheel’, to enable survivors to see the perpetrator’s abusive and controlling behaviour. We then provide survivors with the practical and emotional support they need to rebuild their lives. This could involve helping a survivor to find somewhere safe to live or helping them to regain their financial independence.”

If you think you may be in a controlling relationship or know someone who is, call the Your Sanctuary helpline on 01483 776822 (available 9am to 9pm, seven day a week). Alternatively you can use the Your Sanctuary confidential online chat to get advice, signposting and information just as you would over the phone. Go to

In an emergency you should always call 999.

Young people are also being encouraged to spot the signs of unhealthy relationships. The LoveRespect websiteincludes lots of helpful information for young people including a quiz to learn more about how healthy their relationship is, and advice on how to help a friend who might be spending time with someone who doesn’t treat them well.