A leading expert in family law has warned about the increased reports of cases of coercive control.
Mary McMorland, is advising people on the signs of coercive control and how to access help personally or for a loved one.
Section 39 of the Domestic Violence Act 2018 created the offence of coercive control and states that a person commits the offence where he or she knowingly and persistently engages in behaviours that are controlling or coercive and have a serious effect on another person.
Controlling or coercive behaviour is designed to put the victim in fear of violence being perpetrated against them or another loved one.
It is psychological and emotional abuse. The victim may not have any physical scars, but their mental, emotional and social lives will be very damaged.
It can be quite difficult to spot signs of coercive control. However, there are some patterns or examples which victims and victims’ families may observe including:
Isolating the victim from their families or friends
Financial control - taking the victims bank cards, limiting their financial security by making them leave work
Controlling their means of communication. For example, monitoring their text messages or social media
Being overly critical of the victim’s appearance and telling them what to wear
Being overly vigilant and following the victims’ movements going to and from work, college or dropping children to school
The perpetrator may make false or vexatious claims against the victim
Being critical of their parenting or calling them an unfit parent.
Mary McMorland said:
“The victim may begin to doubt their own abilities to function and think rationally. They may believe that they are losing their own mental capabilities.
A lot of perpetrators use “Gaslighting” or psychological manipulation. This is all designed to reduce the victim’s confidence and make them feel they are at fault.”
Coercive control is a crime which the Gardai and the courts are taking very seriously. You are advising people to contact the Gardai if they or a loved one have been a victim of coercive control.
“I would advise anyone who believes they are a victim of domestic abuse, to do the following to help assist the Court: keep a diary of incidences and a record of actions and situations that put you in fear or distress.
Keep track of bank statements or telephone bills, social media posts that give examples of the controlling behaviour and have family or friends that may be able to provide evidence or witness accounts of actions by the perpetrator. All of this can help assist the Court.”
A solicitor can advise on local organisations and counsellors who can help victims deal with the emotional and psychological trauma, as well as offering legal advice.
They can make an application under the domestic violence legislation for a barring order, safety order or protection order.
If there are children involved, solicitors can help to set up an arrangement regarding maintenance and/or access for the children.
If something does not feel right and you are feeling isolated from your friends and family or you feel that you are becoming increasingly reliant or submissive to your partner, you should seek help."
Mary McMorland is a Solicitor at Callan Tansey Solicitors
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