City Research Online

Defining Coercive Control in Law: Problems and Possibilities

Wiener, C. ORCID: 0000-0003-0347-209X (2024). Defining Coercive Control in Law: Problems and Possibilities. In: Bettinson, V. & Burton, M. J. (Eds.), The Edward Elgar Handbook of Domestic Abuse. . Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.


The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 introduced a legal definition of domestic abuse into law for the first time in England and Wales. Coercive control is itemised as one item in a list of offending behaviours, alongside other bullet points such as ‘physical or sexual abuse’ and ‘violent or threatening behaviour’. This chapter presents an exploration of how coercive control is used by men to entrap women, drawing on data from interviews and focus groups with survivors and their closest advisors, and on early reports of the controlling or coercive behaviour offending coming before the Court of Appeal. It concludes that the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 definition represents a fundamental misunderstanding of coercive control. All of the offending behaviours listed by the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 need to be understood as part of the domination strategy that is coercive control. In other words, it is not one of five bullet points, but rather a framework that brings meaning to all of the bullet points. Without this paradigm shift the ability of police and prosecutors to keep vulnerable women safe is severely compromised.

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This is a draft chapter. The final version will be available in The Edward Elgar Handbook of Domestic Abuse edited by Bettinson, V. & Burton, M. J., forthcoming 2024, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd. The material cannot be used for any other purpose without further permission of the publisher, and is for private use only.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
K Law
Departments: The City Law School > Academic Programmes
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