'Third of women' in coercive relationships, suggests data from Women's Aid


A woman using her phone

Almost a third of women aged between 16 and 24 say they've been in a controlling relationship.

That's according to Avon and Women's Aid, who talked to 2,000 people.

The study also suggests that many women don't realise they're in a coercive relationship until they break up.

A new law was introduced in December which means domestic abusers who control victims via social media or spy on them online could face up to five years in prison.

The legislation, brought into force in England and Wales, targets people who put their partners or family members through psychological and emotional torment but stop short of violence.

Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexual orientation
Government definition of domestic violence and abuse

Stats from the study suggest 21% of women only knew they'd been in a controlling relationship after it had ended and 9% when friends and family pointed it out.

The survey also revealed that...

• 1 in 20 women say being scared of their partner is normal and acceptable.

• 10% of women regard their partner repeatedly checking their phone as a normal and acceptable part of a relationship.

• 5% of women regard being told what they can and cannot wear as normal and acceptable.

A woman sitting on her bed

Chlo, who's 18 and from Brixton, south London, was a victim of domestic violence.

She says she was too young to realise that she'd been in a controlling relationship.

"My ex was my first boyfriend, and I think it's often the case that young people don't have the experience of healthy relationships to know that what's happening isn't normal.

"It's so easy just to think 'all couples argue', especially when someone is telling you that you provoked them all the time.

"And once they start wearing down your self-esteem and isolating you, it spirals to a point that you can't see a way out."

In 2014, Newsbeat talked to Mark Kirkpatrick.

His former girlfriend, Gemma Hollings, almost killed him after a row in May that year.

"She was alright in the first few weeks," he said.

"I thought it was a passing thing when she became controlling.

"She started telling me not to wear shorts. She wouldn't let me have my hair shaved even though that's how it was when she first met me.

"It got violent after a few weeks of living at hers. She pushed me, tried strangling me."

The government says coercive behaviour can take any number of forms, including:

* isolating a person from their friends and family

* depriving them of their basic needs

* monitoring their time

* monitoring a person via online communication tools or using spyware

* taking control over aspects of their everyday life, such as where they can go, who they can see, what to wear and when they can sleep

* depriving them of access to support services, such as specialist support or medical services

* repeatedly putting them down such as telling them they are worthless

* enforcing rules and activity which humiliate, degrade or dehumanise the victim

* forcing the victim to take part in criminal activity such as shoplifting, neglect or abuse of children to encourage self-blame and prevent disclosure to authorities

* financial abuse including control of finances

* threats to hurt or kill

* threats to a child

* threats to reveal or publish private information (e.g. threatening to 'out' someone)

* assault

* criminal damage (such as destroying household goods)

* rape

* preventing a person from having access to transport or from working

The survey is part of Women's Aid and Avon's Love Don't Feel Bad campaign.

There are also links to advice and help on the BBC Advice pages or call Women's Aid on call 0808 2000 247.

For more stories like this one you can now download the BBC Newsbeat app straight to your device. For iOS go here. For Android go here