What are the impacts of coercive control?

Coercive control is serious. It can cause immediate and long-term harm. The effects often get worse over time and can continue after the relationship has ended.

Coercive control can affect every part of a person’s life including their mental and physical health, relationships, employment and financial security.  

The abuse can also affect a person’s sense of safety, their independence, and self-esteem - making them feel trapped, powerless and alone.  

Coercive control is strongly linked to intimate partner homicide

A history of coercive and controlling behaviours in a relationship is a known precursor for intimate partner homicide. This can include both physical and non-physical violence.

The NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team found about 97% of intimate partner domestic violence homicides in NSW between 2000 and 2018 were preceded by the perpetrator using emotional and psychological abuse as a form of coercive control towards the victim.1

In about 27% of intimate partner homicides that occurred between 2000 and 2018, there was no known history of physical violence before the victim was killed, according to the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team.2

The work of the NSW Domestic Violence Death Review Team shows that any intimate relationship where there is coercive control, be it physical or non-physical abuse, can become fatal.

Two children playing

Coercive control hurts children and young people

Living with abuse is distressing for children and young people. Even if the abuse isn’t directed at them, they may still witness and experience it.

The effects can be traumatising, ongoing and long lasting. They can build up over time and impact on every aspect of children's lives, including safety, health, development and wellbeing.

Find more information about the impacts of domestic and family violence on children and young people.

If you are a child or young person, or you’re worried about a child or young person, find out how to get help.

The impacts of coercive control can make it hard to leave

There is help available.

Leaving an abusive relationship can be difficult. Contact 1800RESPECT for advice and support to safely leave an abusive relationship. 

Coercive control has been compared to being held hostage because the abuser’s behaviour can make it feel like it’s impossible to leave. 

For some people, leaving feels more dangerous than staying. The abuse can continue or get worse when a person tries to leave. 

For others, there are too many barriers to leaving – they might not have anywhere else to go, or access to money. 

And some people don’t want to leave, they just want the abuse to stop. 

No matter what your situation, there’s support available.

Find out how to get help or contact 1800RESPECT at 1800 737 732 for advice and support to safely leave an abusive relationship.

A mother and a child experiencing coercive control stand in a window

“The most distressing thing I lost was me, my (self-worth). Couldn’t think straight, even to the point I couldn’t write out a shopping list, I couldn’t concentrate. I was always worried that I may do or say the wrong thing. It is so hard to describe to you the mental torment, always questioning yourself. Never being able to comprehend that this person who is supposed to love me can hurt you so badly".3

– Victim-survivor

He would come in to work all the time, if I was 10 minutes late from work he would ask why. I had to eventually leave my employment, was sick all the time and mentally exhausted. I wasn’t allowed to have my own opinion, everything I said was wrong or stupid."4

– Victim-survivor

"I suffer from PTSD since I left him, I have trouble sleeping, and experience nightmares nearly every night. I have severe anxiety attacks, almost constant headaches, and tiredness. I have trouble concentrating and focusing."5

– Victim-survivor

Quick exit

Call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for 24/7 support

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