Coercive Control within relationships, highlighted in a key Coronation Street storyline.

Corrie is currently featuring a harrowing storyline involving one of their main characters, Yasmeen, and her relationship with her manipulative and controlling partner, Goeff. 

Because the teaching profession involves coming into contact with a vast array of people – be it young adult students, colleagues or parents – it can be helpful to be aware of any noticeable changes in behaviour, especially if something doesn’t feel right.

As Corrie is currently featuring a storyline involving coercive control, we thought it would be useful to highlight some of the signs that might indicate emotional abuse could be taking place.

Yasmeen had always been a feisty, independent woman, having survived the death of her son and grandson’s wife, and also struggled with her husband’s infidelity which resulted in divorce. She has, however, always benefitted from having a strong social and family support network around her.

What the writers of Coronation Street are now cleverly showing, is how her new partner, Geoff, gradually makes himself seemingly indispensable to Yasmeen in a number of ways.

In reality, his aim is to be in full control of her, finding ways to leave her feeling vulnerable, and therefore more in need of him.

Geoff’s behaviour is a type of psychological abuse which is often played out in the form of coercive control. Women’s Aid gives the following examples of coercive behaviour;
  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Depriving you of basic needs, such as food
  • Monitoring your time
  • Monitoring you via online communication tools or spyware
  • Taking control over aspects of your everyday life, such as where you can go, who you can see, what you wear and when you can sleep
  • Depriving you access to support services such as medical services
  • Repeatedly putting you down, such as saying your worthless
  • Humiliating, degrading or dehumanising you
  • Controlling your finances
  • Making threats or intimidating you
Katie Gosh, chief executive of Women’s Aid describes it like this:

“If your partner is constantly chipping away at your self esteem and rubbishing you.

If they are monitoring who you see, what you wear, where you go and taking away your ability to see your friends and family.

Financial abuse, controlling and monitoring what you spend can also be a warning sign.”

A prominent storyline in the Archers in 2015, and the case of Sally Challen have also both helped to bring the issue of this form of psychological abuse to the forefront.

Sally Challen was jailed for life in 2010 for the murder of her husband, following decades of emotional abuse and coercive control. She has only recently walked free from court after nearly 10 years behind bars, and is doing work inside prisons to support women in similar positions to her own. You can read her full story here.

The domestic abuse storyline on The Archers in 2015, depicted the gradually unfolding abuse of Helen Titchener by her controlling husband, Rob. The storyline encouraged many other victims to seek help, and was praised for its realism by domestic violence charities.

 The charities even credited it with fuelling a rise in calls to the national domestic violence helpline by almost a fifth. This shows just how impactful storylines can be when they are run within popular soaps.

Coronation Street is now showing how this sinister but subtle behaviour can be played out. Here are some examples of Geoff’s unpalatable behaviour towards Yasmeen, recently shown on Corrie.

Relatively early in the relationship, Yasmeen got mugged, leaving her feeling vulnerable. This gave Geoff the opportunity to sweep in and take control, but actually allowing him to be more in control. 

Wanting to increase her sense of vulnerability, Geoff faked a burglary when Yasmeen’s granddaughter, Alya, had friends round to the house late one night (which Geoff didn’t like). 

The friends were blamed for the burglary, leaving Alya feeling guilty, and later deciding that it was time for her to move out. This also gives Geoff the opportunity to install CCTV in Yasmeen’s house, meaning he could now check on her every move. 

Alya moving out also means he has more time and space to manipulate the relationship further, without worried relatives picking up on it. Alya has an uncomfortable gut feeling about Geoff, but finds it hard to put her finger on why. This is often the case in these types of manipulative relationships.

Geoff told Yasmeen he had saved money on her insurance, but ‘by accident’ gave the bank his details instead of hers for the refund. This made him appear ‘the hero’ but is in fact another way of him gaining control, as he is now in charge of her finances.

Geoff had also suggested that perhaps she shouldn’t still have photos of her dead son on display in her house. This understandably upset Yasmeen, so Geoff then took the opportunity to put a very large picture up of her son on the wall, getting him back into the good books. 

Geoff’s behaviour has become more extreme quite rapidly. He blames Yasmeen for apparent ‘slights’ towards him, leaving Yasmeen bewildered, and blaming herself.

Because he is so ‘hurt’ by her ‘lack of sensitivity’, he leaves and moves out, leaving one of the CCTV cameras hidden in the house. That way he can continue to keep an eye on her.

His behaviour plummets even further when he tells her he is suffering from a terminal illness, in order to keep where he wants her – hanging on to his every word, and feeling frantic whilst he seemingly savours the impact his words and actions are having on her.

Statistics on Coercive Control

  • The Crown Prosecution Service Case information system recorded 960 offences of coercive and controlling behaviour where a prosecution commenced at magistrates’ courts in the year ending March 2018. This is a three-fold increase from 309 in the year ending March 2017 (ONS, 2018). 97% of defendants prosecuted for coercive and controlling behaviour in the year ending December 2017 were male (ONS, 2018).
  • Analysis of Merseyside Police domestic abuse data found that 95% of coercive control victims were women and 74% of perpetrators were men. 76% of coercive control cases happened within an intimate partner context.  The study found that common abusive behaviours used in coercive control included “…use of technology (such as phone trackers, controlling social media usage, barrage of text messages or monitoring phone usage), sexual coercion, monitoring behaviours, isolation, threats, financial abuse, deprivation (depriving access to support) and physical violence (63% of coercive control cases featured reports of physical violence).” (Barlow et al, 2018)
  • One study found that 95 out of 100 domestic abuse survivors reported experiencing coercive control. (Kelly et al, 2014)
  • Another study found that women are far more likely than men to be victims of abuse that involves ongoing degradation and frightening threats – two key elements of coercive control. (Myhill, 2015)
These storylines effectively highlight the many different ways someone can have their natural defences and self-esteem gradually broken down over time, in order to meet the other person’s unhealthy needs.

The following organisations can provide support and further information and support on Coercive Control;

Laura Griffiths

Counsellor

Laura holds a Masters Degree in Counselling, and offers a wealth of experience of counselling both staff and private clients, and believes passionately in the positive difference that counselling can make to people’s lives, both personally and professionally.

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