The recent Channel 4 drama, ‘I am Nicola’, has highlighted the fact that controlling and coercive behaviour is a form of domestic abuse.

It centres around a couple, Adam & Nicola and becomes apparent that their relationship is not a healthy one.

The programme shows Adam’s jealousy at Nicola’s social life and the manipulation as he convinces Nicola to cancel plans to go out for her friends birthday.

It goes on to show Adam ‘gaslighting’ Nicola.  This is a form of psychological manipulation of information which causes an individual to question their own perception of events, memory and even sanity.

The writers of this drama shows the viewers that domestic abuse is not always as obvious as a bruise or broken bone.

If a partner causes you to feel isolated or scared, you are a victim of domestic abuse.

If you feel emotionally or financially dependent on your partner due to their behaviour, you are a victim of domestic abuse.

If your partner seeks to control what you wear, who you see or where you go, you are a victim of domestic abuse.

Controlling and coercive behaviour is a criminal offence, but it is also often seen within family court proceedings. The victim may be too scared to pursue criminal charges against a former partner. It may be that criminal proceedings are running concurrently with family proceedings. For example, an individual may have reported controlling and coercive behaviour to the police, and this could be the reason given for their divorce proceedings.

The attitudes of professionals, including the judiciary are changing, as they accept that there is a range of abusive behaviours, but more work still needs to be done. Often an individual will not realise they are in an abusive relationship, as the controlling behaviour escalates gradually, or because their partner ‘loves them too much’. It is often only when the individual is out of the relationship and looks back they can see they were a victim of domestic abuse.


The family courts can offer remedies seeking to protect a victim of controlling and coercive behaviour. These include Non-molestation Orders and Occupation Orders. Remember that Domestic abuse is not always physical and protection is available for victims of all forms of abuse.

There are also a number of organisations that can offer support and advice.

If you feel you are a victim of any type of abusive relationship Ringrose Law has a dedicated Domestic Abuse team, headed by Nicola Skayman.

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