People Experiencing Domestic Abuse

Coercion and Control

‘There are no black-eyes with coercive control. No bruises or broken bones. It’s so hard to spot that often people in controlling relationships don’t recognise that it’s happening to them.’

Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour. Coercive behaviour is defined as an act or a pattern of acts of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.

In 2015, a new criminal offence of coercive or controlling behaviour against an intimate partner or family member came into force. It carries a maximum penalty for someone found guilty of five years imprisonment.

The types of coercive control being used will differ from person to person. Some examples might include:

Support and help for adults, young people and children impacted by coercive control:

If you are in danger, please call the Police on 999 immediately or 101 in a non-emergency.  If you ring 999 but can’t talk, make sure the Police know you are there by coughing or tapping the handset, or by dialling 55.

Safety planning for you and your family if you are living with domestic abuse or sexual violence

The current restrictions we are living under mean that some people are living in abusive households and feel unable to access support.

We know that domestic abuse and sexual violence are very complicated issues and there is no easy fix for everyone. Sometimes our abusers are the people we love most in the world and the thought of leaving them is unbearable. Sometimes the thought of gathering our children and leaving is overwhelming and feels completely out of our reach. Sometimes we are forced to live in isolation with our abuser and can see no clear way out, without angering them further and causing more danger for ourselves and our children.

We want to give you some brief and easy to follow tips on how to increase your safety at home, as we know that under the current social distancing there is a substantial risk that you are now living in a much more pressured environment with your abuser.

Firstly, we want you to know that:

  1. You are not alone
  2. You will not be judged or punished for leaving your home to flee abuse or access safety or support
  3. Our domestic abuse and sexual violence services are still running.
  4. For support, advice, safety planning and recovery relating to domestic abuse and sexual violence, please contact: – 0300 777 4777

Cornwall Refuge Trust 24hr helpline: 01827 225629

If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, please contact:

We have emergency accommodation should you need to leave your home

The police will still attend if you are at risk of harm and call 999.

If you are unable to speak on the phone you can press 55 and the operator will know you need help and transfer you straight the police

You can use these safety apps, discreetly and safely to access support

There are a lot of tips here for you to consider, some will be suitable for your situation and some will not. The most important thing you can do at this time is trust your instincts and do not take chances.

You know the pattern of behaviour that your abuser follows, and you will be able to tell if things are going to escalate. Follow your instincts and trust yourself and know that you are not overacting, no matter what your abuser tells you.

Get out and get help!

Remember that you do not deserve to be in this situation and you do not have to tolerate it. You will be believed and supported.

If you are at home with your abuser and you want to take some steps to help you feel safer and be prepared, we have created a safety plan that you might find useful:


If you feel that the abuse is about to escalate to a physical incident:

If you are unable to escape:

No matter whether you choose to stay with your abuser, leave them or report them to the police there is something that you can start doing now, to help you in the future.

Keep a log/journal/diary about the abuse you are experiencing. Include dates, times, type of abuse, witness details and any photos you can take of bruises to yourself or others and damage to property. Keep all text messages saved and try and record any phone calls. All of this can be used when/if you do decide to end the relationship, report to the police, apply for a civil protection order or in any future divorce or child contact proceedings.

If you are going to do this, make sure that you are storing this somewhere safe and hidden.

Refuge for people experiencing Domestic Abuse in Cornwall

Our local refuges and other domestic abuse accommodation can offer safe, secure, comfortable and well-equipped accommodation where women, men and children can access emotional and practical support from specialised staff and a range of other partner agencies, while safely recovering from the trauma and abuse they have experienced at the hands of partners, ex-partners and/or family members. The support provided is centred around the individual and their children, where applicable, to empower, and to build on their strengths and resilience, towards a life free from abuse. This includes accessing appropriate and safe move-on accommodation and resettling into the community.

Cornwall has 2 refuges for women and children and 1 refuge for men and children fleeing domestic abuse and/or sexual violence.  We also have dispersed units of domestic abuse accommodation and a Vulnerable Female Unit for those fleeing domestic abuse who have more complex needs.

Domestic Abuse Accommodation in Cornwall can accommodate up to approx. 37 women and 34 children, and 5 men and 10 children at any one time; although this figure can vary depending on the specific needs and vulnerabilities that residents may be faced with.

Cornwall’s refuge provision for women and children is delivered by West Cornwall Women’s Aid and Cornwall Refuge Trust who also provide refuge to men and children in a separate house. Live West provide the New Horizon’s dispersed accommodation, which is self-contained accommodation within local communities with specialist support for women with or without children, who have additional complex needs.  Harbour Housing provide the EVA project Vulnerable Female Unit which provides supported accommodation in shared and self-contained units to women fleeing domestic abuse with complex needs such as substance misuse, alcohol dependency and street homelessness.

How to access refuge:

If you or someone you know needs to access a safe and secure place, to stay and recover while you flee or leave an abusive partner, ex-partner or family member, contact Cornwall and the Isle of Scilly’s Integrated Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Service, Safer Futures. Safer Futures works with all of the local domestic abuse and sexual violence services and will assist you in accessing refuge and other services:

Helpline: 0300 777 4777

Email[email protected]


‘Digital stalking: a guide to technology risks for victims’ This is an important resource for all stalking victims, including the many survivors of domestic violence who are being stalked by an ex-partner.

Stalking is not just something that happens to famous people , it can happen to anyone and is particularly prevalent in abusive relationships and after they have ended.

Stalking is often confused with harassment, as the two are similar in terms of the type of behaviours that they cover. The big difference between the two is the frequency of the behaviour.

Harassing behaviours are persistent, distressing and unwanted forms of attention/contact/incidents, for example:

If you are experiencing this type of attention/contact/behaviour and it has  happened two or more times, is directed at or towards you by another person and you feel alarmed, distressed, afraid, threatened or at risk of violence, then you are being stalked and you should report it to the police and seek support:

Although the police will work with you to keep you safe, there are things you can do yourself as well, for example:

You can access more information about stalking from:

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

The term FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. (WHO 2010)

What is Female Genital Mutilation? (FGM)

Female Genital Mutilation, also referred to, in English, as female circumcision or cutting, is a procedure where the female genitals are cut, changed or injured. FGM is illegal in this country and is perpetrated without informed consent,  against girls ranging from infancy to approximately 15 years of age.

Female Genital Mutilation is performed as part of certain communities cultural belief systems, there is no medical reason for the procedure and the effects are long lasting; it often results in constant pain, incontinence, trauma related mental ill health, pain during sex, difficulties during labour and childbirth that can lead to fatalities of mothers and babies, repeated infections causing bleeding, cysts and abscesses and various other physical and mental health related difficulties. In the worst cases, young girls are killed during or following the procedure, due to severe blood loss or infection.

There is a common misconception that FGM does not happen in our community, but rather it is a foreign issue that happens in far away foreign countries and is associated with religious belief systems, this is not the case. FGM is happening all over the world, including Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and is rooted in cultural norms, not religion.  As such, it is absolutely imperative that all professionals are aware that FGM is happening near them, which indicators and signs to look for and where to get help for someone they think may be at risk of FGM or someone that may have already undergone FGM.

The cultural beliefs that perpetuate and promote FGM are prevalent in communities with origins in:

There are many British families, whose heritage determines that young girls in their families need to undergo FGM. There are also families that will travel to the UK to perform FGM, for example a family living in Europe, of Ethiopian descent, may have a family member or friend who performs the procedure, living in the UK.

The Summer holidays are often a dangerous time for young girls at risk of FGM, as the 6 week holiday provides time to recover. Safer Cornwall is keen to ensure that all professionals are confident in identifying and responding to FGM, as we are aware that our county may be used as a location to perform the procedure, undetected.

Help and Support

If you have experienced FGM, are at risk of FGM or know someone that has experienced or is at risk of FGM you can:

All of the agencies listed above will be able to provide you with information and guidance and support you into safety and recovery.


If you are a health, social care of education professional, you have a mandatory duty to report FGM cases to the Police. For more information follow this link:

Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation: procedural information

For further information and advice contact Anna MacGregor on 07483409171 or email [email protected]

Honour Based Abuse

Honour based Violence can include physical, emotional and psychological abuse and in the extreme can lead to murder.

Honour Based Abuse has nothing to do with honour and everything to do with control, abuse, discrimination and inequality; committed within the family and, often, the wider community.

Incidents of Honour Based Abuse occur when a family member/s and/or community members believe that an individual has brought shame to said family or community. The abusers believe that they been shamed or dishonoured by a family member disobeying the rules laid out for them, more often in relation to their intimate relationships, sexuality, gender identity or religious choices. The most common example involves a young person choosing to date someone outside of  characteristics permitted by their family or refusing to agree to a forced marriage.

Honour Based Abuse is not isolated to specific ethnic groups or faith based communities; it can be committed by men and women, towards men and women, anywhere in the country. Cornwall is not immune to this type of abuse and Safer Cornwall are dedicated to ensuring that all of its employees are trained in identifying potential incidents of Honour Based Abuse and responding safely and appropriately to all cases.

If you , or someone you know is experiencing Honour Based Abuse there are a variety of dedicated support services that you can contact for support, both nationally and locally, as well as the Police.

Safer Futures, the integrated Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Service, in Cornwall will support you in accessing safety, away from your abusers.

If you have experienced sexual violence or abuse, you can also contact the SARC (Sexual Abuse Referral Centre) for specialist support.

Devon and Cornwall Police can refer you to the above services, whether you choose to proceed with a criminal case or just call them for help.

Honour Based Abuse is often shrouded in family loyalty and can be very difficult for the person experiencing the abuse, to identify and disclose. If you need further information for yourself or someone else you can contact Karma Nirvana; an award-winning national charity supporting people impacted by Honour Based Abuse.

You can contact them via their website or on their national helpline: 0800 5999 247