For the longest time, coercive control didn’t exist and, as such, couldn’t be spoken of or discussed. When attempts were made to do so, it was batted away or not believed or incurred contempt. No-one was willing to Listen.
But then something happened.
Was it enlargement of understanding, by which we mean a willingness to understand: in short, empathy? Or mebbie it was wider exhaustion with maintaining the pretence that a human being lashes out for no reason? We’re told at school, are we not, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction?
Lamentably, it not trivializing to mention the Helen Archer/Rob Titchener storyline The Archers ran in contributing to public awareness of this grim cancer in relationships. It played a crucial role in projecting it to the forefront of public consciousness.
Let me be clear: if you have not been the object of a coercive controller’s brutality, you will have to work hard to grasp the extent of its annihilating impact.
Today, Harriet Wistrich successfully argued Sally Challen’s conviction for murder was ill-conceived. Lady Justice Heather Hallett stated this appeal was not about coercive control but “conditions which were undiagnosed at the time [of the trial]” and ordered a retrial. So shifts the balance in justice.
The invisible damage this kind of brutal abuse wreaks gnaws at the core of one’s resilience. It excavates confidence and autonomy and freedom. It creeps with inexorable menace to shroud one from the world and if lucky enough to escape, it is only with considerable hindsight that the unending litany of coercive acts come into sharper focus. When in their midst, it is impossible to grasp that anyone might actually intend such harm. Invidiously corrosive, the nature of controlling behaviour invades to the very marrow of hope.
If minded to uphold the Challen family in your heart and all families struggling for survival from within a cauldron of emotional abuse, then remember that treating others as you’d wish to be treated is a fine start to blotting out this blight.