Domestic abuse isn’t always physical. Coercive control is 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. 

Coercive control creates invisible chains and a sense of fear that pervades all elements of a victim’s life. It works to limit their human rights by depriving them of their liberty and reducing their ability for action.

Here are a few signs of coercive control that might suggest someone has a controlling personality.

A person may exert control by deciding what someone wears, where they go, who they socialize with, what they eat and drink, and what activities they take part in. The controlling person may also demand or gain access to the partner’s computer, cell phone, or email account.

The perpetrator may also try to convince their partner that they want to check up on them because they love them. However, this behavior is not part of a healthy or loving relationship.

One misconception about coercive control is that it's always aggressive. Sometimes, your partner can control you through reliance, instead, which includes acting as if they are incapable of taking care of themselves.

Your partner might not physically assault you, but if they are doing enough to frighten you, they are committing an offense. That could include using their size to intimidate or breaking things around the house.

A controlling person often won’t accept healthy boundaries and will try to persuade or pressure you into changing your mind.

If you’ve said you can’t meet up this weekend, they’ll show up uninvited to your house. Or they’ll refuse to let you leave a party early even after saying you feel sick.

Someone who's exerting coercive control is often trying to make you believe that your world is so terrible it's about to fall apart — unless they have total control of it.

While it may seem like your partner is just a bit pessimistic, it's important to keep an eye on this type of behavior, and read between the lines. Their goal could be to scare you into relying on them, or thinking that you need them more than you really do.

If you find yourself relating to the above signs, take a moment, to be honest with yourself about the situation and assess whether these controlling patterns have become abusive.

60% to 80% of abused women experience coercive control beyond physical and emotional abuse.

Men possess “gender-based privilege” because they are male. While all forms of abuse are about “power and control,” women are vulnerable to coercive control because of unequal political status and because men can take advantage of pervasive sexual inequalities in ways women cannot.

While control involves everything from survival resources like money, to what television shows women watch, male abusers, exploit and regulate women’s sexuality (e.g., how they dress, wear their hair, make love, etc.) and how they perform traditional gender roles as housewives and mothers.