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    10 signs of a controlling relationship

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    10 signs of a controlling relationship


    Controlling behaviours usually begin gradually, so gradually they can creep into our relationships without us noticing. We might look back later and wonder how we failed to spot the signs, but when we’re on the inside it’s hard to see the big picture. It’s like being lost in the woods – from above the path is easy to see, but down in the tangle of trees, it’s impossible to find a way out.

    Controlling people can be experts in their field; highly skilled at grooming and manipulating us. They lie, confuse and keep us off balance. That’s why we can’t see the wood from the trees. It’s hard enough to cope with controlling friends, a parent, maybe a boss, but when it’s coming from our intimate partner it can be especially difficult to manage.

    Here are 10 pointers that you might be in a controlling relationship. You don’t have to be experiencing all of them. They are called red flags, and as any of us can be groomed and controlled whatever our age or gender, we should be able to recognise the signs.

    1. Your partner puts you down or criticises you. This might be disguised as humour such as making constant wisecracks at your expense. When you complain, you’re made to feel that you’re being overly sensitive or can’t take a joke. The problem is, it isn’t funny. This behaviour lowers your self-esteem.

    2. You find yourself ‘treading on eggshells’ trying to keep the peace, or you feel anxious about saying or doing the wrong thing. You should be able to fully relax in your partner’s company without the need to watch what you say or do.

    3. You frequently apologise even if deep down you know you’ve done nothing wrong. You might be doing this just to keep the peace, but if you’re not careful you will soon be apologising for your very existence. In a healthy relationship, both parties take responsibility when they make a mistake.

    4. You put off telling your partner about arrangements to see friends or family because you know they will sulk or make you feel guilty. It’s important to have time to yourself and to have your own hobbies and interests. If your partner doesn’t like this, you should see it as a big red flag.

    5. Your partner uses emotional blackmail as a weapon. When they don’t get their way they might threaten to end the relationship, harm themselves, even disappear for hours on end causing you to worry about their safety. They become so distressed that you end up giving in or apologising.

    6. You often feel you are being punished but you have no idea why. Your partner should never give you the silent treatment without telling you what is wrong. If this happens a lot, take it as a sign of emotional manipulation.

    7. Your partner gets upset when you don’t answer calls or messages promptly. This is usually disguised as concern. You might regularly excuse yourself from meetings or other events so you can go and calm them down. This is a common sign of control.

    8. Your partner is irrationally jealous, accusing you of flirting or cheating. They might tell you they’ve been betrayed before and find it hard to trust – which may or may not be true. It is your right to talk to anyone you like and if your partner has trust issues that’s their problem to manage, not yours.

    9. They don’t respect your boundaries. They will persuade and wheedle to get their own way, and when that doesn’t work they will sulk and blame you for spoiling their lives. They may resort to tears, emotional blackmail or threats.

    10. They rush you. Controlling relationships often begin as whirlwind romances. You are rushed into living together, marriage or having a child together, all before you get a chance to see their real behaviour. It might feel flattering but you should allow yourself time to get to know someone before taking any big step. If they won’t wait for you, you need to ask yourself why?

    Controlling behaviours rarely just stop but tend to get worse over time. You don’t have to be hit or hurt – coercive control is a crime in the same way that physical assault is a crime. If you recognise any of these red flags please break the silence and talk to someone you trust. If you need us, NCDV can help you take out a legal court order to protect you from further harm. You can find other forms of support on our resources page by following the link below:

    Charlotte Woodward

    National Training Manager

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    By Fiona Bawden, Times Online (8th May 2007)

    “Steve Connor, a student at City Law School, is a man on a mission. Six years ago he was a fairly directionless 27-year-old. Today, as well as taking the Bar Vocational Course, he is chairman of the National Centre for Domestic Violence, a ground-breaking organisation that he dragged into existence after a friend could not get legal help to protect her from an abusive partner.

    Connor’s route to the Bar has been circuitous. In 2001 he returned from a year in Australia (he says that he would not dignify describing it as a gap year), and took a job as a process server in South London. The job (“I just saw it advertised in the paper”) was not quite as dull as it sounds. On one occasion he was threatened with a machete, on another, he was nearly stabbed by a man he had arranged to meet on Clapham Common to serve with a non-molestation order: “He’d seemed really friendly on the phone…”

    The turning point in his life came when a friend, who was being abused by her partner, turned to him for support. Connor went with her to the police. She did not want to press criminal charges so the police suggested that she visit a solicitor to take out a civil injunction. “We must have seen 12 solicitors in a morning. We just went from one to the next to the next to the next. Everyone was very eager to help until we sat down to fill in the forms for the legal aid means test,” he says. The woman, who had a small child, did not qualify for public funding. But, Connor says, her financial situation as it appeared on paper did not bear any relation to her financial situation in reality. “She had a part-time job and she and her partner owned their home. Yet she didn’t have any money. Her boyfriend was very controlling and controlled all the money; he kept the chequebooks and didn’t let her have access to the bank account.”

    The injustice of the situation got under Connor’s skin. “I just couldn’t believe that there was no help available to people who did not qualify for public funds but could not afford to pay.

    I just kept feeling that this must be able to be sorted if only someone would address it.”That “someone” turned out to be him.

    In 2002, thanks entirely to Connor’s doggedness, the London Centre for Domestic Violence was formed. It started out with him and a friend, but is now a national organisation, covering 27 counties, and has helped approximately 10,000 victims last year to take out injunctions against their partners.

    NCDV now has nine full-time staff, 12 permanent volunteers and has trained over 5000 law and other students as McKenzie Friends to accompany unrepresented victims into court. We have also trained over 8000 police officers in civil remedies available regarding domestic violence. The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) has branches in London, Guildford and Manchester and is on track to have branches in 16 areas within the next two years.

    NCDV specialises exclusively in domestic violence work and could be characterised as a cross between McDonald’s and Claims Direct. The high degree of specialisation means that its processes are streamlined: clients can be seen quickly and the work is done speedily and cheaply. “Sometimes, we will have one of our trained McKenzie Friends at a court doing 10 applications in one day,” Connor says.

    Clients are not charged for the service. NCDV staff take an initial statement: clients who qualify for legal aid are referred to a local firm; those that don’t get free help from the centre itself. It runs on a shoestring, heavily reliant on volunteers and capping staff salaries at £18,000 a year.

    Steve expects to qualify as a barrister this summer and hopes that having a formal legal qualification will give the centre added clout. “We are already acknowledged as experts and consulted at a high level, so I thought it would be helpful if I could back that up by being able to say I’m a barrister,” he says. He is just about to complete a one-year full-time BVC course at the City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court Law School) and, all being well, should be called to the Bar in July. Although Connor sees his long-term future as a barrister, he says that he has no immediate plans to practise. “I want to get NCDV running on a fully national level. Then I may take a step back and have a career at the Bar.”