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Wednesday 21 July 2021

New research highlights impact of coercive control on UK men

UCLan professor collaborates with ManKind on new report

A report published by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and ManKind, a charity which supports male victims of domestic abuse, has exposed the severe and longstanding negative effects of coercive control on men.

Coercive control is defined as an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

The analysis of responses to a survey of 538 men revealed that male victims had significant physical and mental reactions to coercion. Almost eight out of ten male victims had scores indicating that PTSD was a concern. Additionally, 43% of male victims had distress scores high enough to suppress the immune system.

Respondents frequently described the severe impact of this abuse, including depression and feelings of helplessness, anxiety, stress and feeling trapped, rather than fear. Many participants felt that the lack of awareness among social services had left them vulnerable. One man stated: “Services are near non-existent for men and again, I reiterate, men are not believed.”

"Only by understanding the ways that this abuse is inflicted on and impacts men, can we develop effective support measures for victims"

Nicola Graham-Kevan, UCLan Professor of Criminal Justice Psychology and Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice Research and Partnership

Despite the Office for National Statistics reporting that one in three victims of domestic abuse is a man, previous research in the main has been focused on the experiences of female victims. Through this research, UCLan’s Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan, Professor of Criminal Justice Psychology and Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice Research and Partnership, sought to challenge this, and create a space to explore the impact of coercive control on men.

A recent government review of the controlling or coercive behaviour offence also identified a need for improvement in understanding, identifying and evidencing controlling or coercive behaviour (CCB), as it was found to be likely that only a small proportion of all CCB comes to the attention of the police or is recorded as CCB, and charge rates remain relatively low.

The UCLan report calls for a large-scale national study of both victims and non-victims to thoroughly understand the impacts of coercive control. While the respondents in this survey were predominantly white men in heterosexual relationships, researchers have highlighted the need for more research into the impacts of coercive control on Black and Minority Ethnic men and those in same sex relationships.

It asks for better understanding within public services and related professionals (police officers, judiciary, general practitioners and social services) that men are victims of coercive control and share many of the same experiences that women do. However, there appears to also be typically more male-specific patterns of abuse, such as abusers’ use of the legal and administration system against victims, as well as damaging their relationships with their children.

"It can feel hard for some people, particularly men, to report domestic abuse. But my situation shows that you will be taken seriously and given the right support"

Victim Paul Chivers

Professor Graham-Kevan said: “Our research has revealed the necessity for greater awareness among the government and the criminal justice system about how men experience coercive control. Only by understanding the ways that this abuse is inflicted on and impacts men, can we develop effective support measures for victims.

“We are continually inspired by the work of charities like ManKind, who are providing valuable and practical information, support and signposting for men suffering domestic abuse, and we are grateful to the men who were willing to share their experiences to support this research and drive greater awareness and long-lasting change.”

Case study – Paul Chivers

“My former wife abused me, both physically and mentally, for over a decade. Our relationship began like any other. We were both teachers working at the same school, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. At first she was caring, but then things started to change.

“My wife would lock me out of the house or leave me on the side of the road, miles from home with no money; I was locked out of the house around 60 times over the course of almost 10 years. She’d take my wallet and keys so I had no way of getting home. I found myself walking on eggshells, being coerced into situations I really didn’t want to be in. She often told me I would never see my daughter again if I didn’t do what she wanted. Despite all of this, I felt I couldn’t leave the family home for the sake of our daughter.

“The time came to leave her when she split my head open after smashing a hair dryer over my head. At this point I realised I had to take action.

“My colleagues at the school where I worked knew about the issues I was facing and were very supportive. After the attack, the school offered me paid time off to recover and paid for my counselling, followed by further time off to appear in court. This allowed me to give vital evidence of the abuse I had been suffering for nearly a decade.

“It’s important to remember that many people experiencing abuse feel ashamed of their situation and don’t want to draw attention to it. This can be particularly true for male survivors.

“It can feel hard for some people, particularly men, to report domestic abuse. But my situation shows that you will be taken seriously and given the right support. I would encourage any other victims to contact helplines, local organisations and the police, who can help put a stop to the abuse.”